Dec 12, 2015

Drake and Josh and Craig and Eric

Drake and Josh (2004-2007) was a Nickelodeon teencom about two high school stepbrothers.

The scheming underachiever, Drake (Drake Bell).

And the shy intellectual, Josh (Josh Peck).  He only started getting buff in the last season.

Like The Wizards of Waverly Place and The Suite of Life of Zack and Cody, the program was not shy about subtexts.  While both dated girls, Drake and Josh shared a physicality, an emotional connection, and an exclusivity that would elsewhere mark them definitively as romantic partners.

And there was an even more overt gay couple.

Network censorship forbade the nerds Craig and Eric (Alec Medlock, Scott Halberstadt) from being explicitly identified as a gay couple -- not on a program aimed at a teenage audience -- but they were as open as they could be without actually Wearing a Sign.

They danced together at a wedding.
They went on a double date with a heterosexual couple.
They bemoaned the loss of their pictures taken at Niagara Falls (a stereotypic honeymoon destination).
They broke up, realized how much they care for each other, and reconciled (while Drake sang “Beautiful Dreamer").
 In the series finale, the tv-movie Merry Christmas, Drake and Josh (2008), they were shown holding hands.

In a 2007 episode, Drake comes very close to saying the word "gay."   In a feeble, half-hearted attempt to Be Discreet, Eric tells Drake, “Girls are nothing but trouble.  That’s why we don’t have girlfriends.”

Drake stares at him for a long moment, a curious self-satisfied grin on his face.  He is obviously dying to Say  the Word.  The studio audience goes crazy with excitement.  Will they finally hear it spoken aloud?

It looks for all the world like the actor is trying to decide whether he should stick to the script or say something like "You don't have girlfriends because you're gay," and risk a reshoot.

But, in the end, he sticks to the script:  “There are a lot of reasons why you two don’t have girlfriends,” leaving the viewer the option of pretending not to know what those reasons are.

Juvenile tv programs are often loaded down with hints and innuendos -- Even Stevens, Hannah Montana, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, and The Wizards of Waverly Place come to mind.

But we're still waiting for a program aimed at teenagers or children to break the silence.

Dec 10, 2015

Gay Neighbors in Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood

The toddler tv show Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood (1966-2001) arrived in Rock Island when we got PBS in 1971 or 1972.  I was too old for it, but my sister Tammy watched, and sometimes I caught a glimpse while waiting for Cartoon Showboat.

The live-action segments I could do without: Mr. Rogers visits a nursery school or a bakery, or tries to put things together.  But I liked the Neighborhood of Make Believe, a medieval kingdom with both puppet and real-life residents who weren't entirely maudlin.

The pompous King Friday XIII, whose rendition of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" became "Propel, Propel, Propel Your Craft," was the only resident to engage in heterosexual behavior, at least in the episodes I watched.  He fell in love with a Southern-accented commoner named Sarah, married her, and sired a son, Prince Tuesday.

The other residents didn't display any heterosexual interest, and many had gender-atypical traits which allow for a gay reading.

The feisty Lady Elaine Fairchilde, who runs a revolving museum, flies in a spaceship to Jupiter, and calls everyone "toots."

X the Owl, with a Southern drawl and an affinity for Benjamin Franklin.

Daniel Striped Tiger, a tame tiger of French ancestry, neat, tidy, fashion-conscious, who carefully points out that his middle name has two syllables.

Not a lot of beefcake, but Joe Negri was cute (early photo, left), and Chuck Aber (top photo) had a muscular physique.

A Presbyterian minister before entering show biz, Fred Rogers was apparently tolerant of gay people but an opponent of gay marriage.

In 2012, an animated sequel, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, premiered on PBS.  Set entirely in the Neighborhood of Make Believe (which has somehow become a tropical jungle), it stars the children of the original cast.  Apparently Lady Elaine Fairchild and Daniel Striped Tiger were heterosexual after all.

But not X the Owl -- he's raising his young nephew, O the Owl.  So maybe there's still a gay neighbor in  Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.

Dec 9, 2015

10 Snappy Comebacks to Your Crazy Fundamentalist Relatives

Summer is coming, which means you will probably be dragged out of the safe haven of your home and family, shoved onto an airplane, and forced to spend ten days "back home" in the Straight World.

Where, inevitably, one or more of your crazy fundamentalist relatives will spend the entire 10 days hitting you with a Bible and shrieking "God hates you!", presuming that you have never heard the message of hate before.

Or, if you are not out, walking around the house muttering "God hates gay people!"

When faced with such a relative, I suggest leaving.  Get out of the house.  Go to the gym or the park.  Maybe you'll see a cute guy lifting weights.

But if you can't get away, or you are tired of the homophobic diatribes, here are 10 facts guaranteed to have an impact.  Maybe not change their mind -- haters gonna hate -- but surprise them enough to shut them up.

1. "Gay people are more likely to be religious than straights." According to a recent survey, gay people are just as likely to be religious as heterosexuals.  In fact, gay men are more likely than straight men to think that going to church is "very important" in their lives.

2. "Most churches accept gay members."  About 40% of Protestants in the United States belong to denominations that accept LGBT members.

3. "There are some gay churches." There are five Protestant denominations with a mostly gay membership.  The largest, the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, has congregations in over 40 countries around the world.

4. "There are only five verses in the Bible used to claim that God is a bigot, and they aren't about gay people at all." 

5. "There was no word for gay people in ancient Hebrew or Greek."  The word "homosexual" in your Bible is a homophobic mistranslation of the Greek  arsenokoitai ("men who have sex"), and malakoi ("men who are soft").

6. " The Sodomites weren't gay." The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is about being inhospitable to strangers, a terrible sin in desert cultures.

7. "According to the Bible, eating shrimp is worse than being gay." That verse in Leviticus, "Thou shalt not lie with man as with woman," is a reference to temple prostitution, not a general prohibition.  Leviticus also states that anyone who eats shellfish, disobeys their parents, or engages in interracial marriage should be stoned to death.

8. "Most straight weddings have a celebration of a gay couple." The Bible verse often used in wedding ceremonies: "Where you go, I will go...your people will be my people," was spoken by Ruth to Naomi.  A same-sex couple.

9. "Jesus made a pro-gay statement." Jesus didn't mention gay people, but he did mention eunuchs, who often engaged in same-sex activity.  He liked them.

10.  "If God hates me so much, why didn't He say anything about it when I talked to Him this morning?"

Dec 8, 2015

Frank Finds What We're All Looking For

Since 1996, readers of independent comics have been treated to the adventures of Frank, a bipedal "funny animal" who looks like he escaped from a 1930s Max Fleischer cartoon. He inhabits a surreal, chaotic world called the Unifactor, surrounded by grotesque plants and animals, landforms that turn into people, monstrous god-like beings, monstrous demon-like beings, the spiritual emanations of real-world people, symbols, metaphors, and jivas (immortal essences shaped like gaudy tops).

The stories are wordless, except for an occasional cryptic remark. You are expected to find your own meanings.

It is crazy, weird, surreal fun, with lots of gay subtexts.

Frank's main nemesis is the Manhog, a naked, sweating, hedonistic hog-person,  The Manhog is often abused by his superiors in the Unifactor hierarchy, and, jealous of Frank's comfort and privilege, seeks revenge. But in one story he finds enlightenment through the ministrations of a caring friend or lover, and seeks out Frank to make amends.

One of the main sources of discord in the Unifactor is Whim, a demon-moon faced stick-being who conducts weird body-altering experiments and otherwise torments other beings.  But he, too, can be read with a gay subtext for his intensely physical interest in Frank.

So I thought.  But then I noticed some strong, almost Puritanical moralizing in Jim Woodring's comments.

Frank is "completely naive, capable of sinning by virtue of not knowing what he's really about."

Manhog is "an unholy hybrid of human ambivalence," who has sinned so much that he deserves all of the suffering he gets.

The beings in the Unifactor are inhabiting a spiritual realm, surrounded by myths and symbols, trying to find the ultimate reality that will explain their existence.

What is the ultimate reality?

In Congress of the Animals (2011), we find out.  Frank goes exploring, enters another realm of consciousness, and finds "what we all are looking for."  The ultimate reality.

A girl.

At first I thought I could still salvage Frank.  Maybe it wasn't a girl, maybe it was a boy, or a being of indeterminate gender.  Maybe "what we all are looking for" is a friend.

Nope, it's a girl named Fran.

Is the ultimate meaning of life creating art?  Helping people?  Exploring?  Finding God?

Nope, "what we are all looking for," is  heterosexual romance.

And erasing gay people from the world.

Dec 6, 2015

Shock-headed Peter: Castration and Gay Panic in a German Children's Story

When I was in Germany a few years ago, my friend Doc took me to a restaurant called the Struwwelpeter Apfelweinwirtschaft (The Slovenly Peter Apple Wine Tavern).

Its logo was a boy with wild blond hair and long sharp nails like Edward Scissorhands.

Nearby there was a statue of the same boy, along with some other children.

"You've never heard of Struwwelpeter?" Doc asked.  "He's a national hero, like Bart Simpson in America!"

Turns out that all German schoolchildren read Der Struwwelpeter, written and illustrated by Heinrich Hoffmann (1809-1894), about children who misbehave and get their comeuppance -- usually a violent retribution.

A girl who plays with matches burns to death.
Kaspar, who won't eat his soup, wastes away and dies.
Hans, whose "head is always in the clouds," falls into a river.
Robert, who goes outside in a storm, blows away.

Hoffmann was a psychiatrist, though he lived before Freud's discovery of the unconscious, and many of his stories have been analyzed for their psychosexual undertones

The most obvious gay connection is in the story of Konrad, der Daumenlutscher (the Thumb-Sucker).  

Though his mother warns him to not suck his thumb, Konrad persists in the bad habit.  Then he encounters the Tailor with the Scissors (in modern versions, the monstrous Scissor-Man), who cuts both of his thumbs off.  

Oral fixation, symbolic castration, gay anxiety, and a 19th-century Freddie Kruger!

The stories have been translated into several languages.  They were adapted into a 1955 movie (available on youtube), an operetta (1992) and a musical (1998).  

In 2010, Richard Mansfield filmed an explicitly homoerotic shadow-puppet version,  of the Daumenlutscher story, "Suck-a-Thumb." It made the rounds of the gay film festivals.

In an even more explicitly gay sequel, Konrad is sent to a psychiatric hospital for a brutal "cure."

Don't worry, that's a door handle, not what you're thinking.

Bible Beefcake

When I was a kid, our church forbade any books except the Bible.  My parents were more lenient, permitting comic books and Scholastic Book Club selections, but the Bible had an advantage -- you could read it anywhere, during choir practice or Sunday school or a screaming hellfire sermon, and the adults would pay no attention -- or they would think you were especially devout, as you got your quota of beefcake, bonding, and sex.  Not to mention violence.

1. Beefcake.  David looks like a veritable Conan the Barbarian, wearing only a loincloth, wielding a magic sword as he stands over the slain Goliath.  And who knew that Cain assaulted Abel by kicking him in the crotch while they were both naked?

2. Bonding.  David and Jonathan had a love "surpassing the love of women."  That is, their homoromance far surpassed hetero-romance.  If only David didn't insist on bring Goliath's head along on their dates.  And why did Joseph reject women's advances to spend all of his time schmoozing with the Pharaoh ? (Photo below is Donny Osmond in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat).

3. Sex.  After the Flood, Noah was lying around drunk when his son Ham "uncovered his nakedness."  But to "uncover" someone's "nakedness" means doing more than sneaking a quick peek, and God got so upset over the incest that He decreed that Ham and all of his descendants (the Africans) should be slaves.  The Biblical support of slavery caused the first chip in the edifice of my fundamentalism.

Fast-forward a few thousand years to the New Testament, and Philip the Apostle sees an Ethiopian eunuch on the road, invites him to spend the night in his tent, and in the morning baptizes him.  Eunuchs are castrated, unable to have sex with women.  So who do they have sex with?  Just ask Philip.  (In 1986, my roommate Alan used the story of the Ethiopian eunuch to try to get with my boyfriend.)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...