Jul 29, 2016

Homophobia and Gay Subtexts in Horrible Bosses

Last night I watched Horrible Bosses (2011) on Netflix.  I resisted when it originally appeared due to its reputation for extreme homophobia, but, strangely enough, I didn't find it particularly homophobic.

The premise, obviously, is that three best buds have horrible bosses.

Nick (Jason Bateman) works for David Harken (Kevin Spacey), who calls him a liar for saying he came to work on time when he was actually two seconds late, tricks him into drinking whiskey, then calls him a drunk, and holds a promotion over his head, only to give it to himself.

Dale (Charlie Day of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) works as a dental hygienist for Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston), who sexually harasses him (and sexually assaults her unconscious patients), and tries to blackmail him into having sex with her.

Kurt (Jason Sudeikis, left) likes his boss (Donald Sutherland), but then the old man dies, leaving the company to his bigoted cokehead son Bobby Pellitt (Colin Farrell) who wants to make as much money as possible by cutting corners and ignoring environmental guidelines.

For reasons that weren't entirely satisfactory, they can't quit, or file complaints with regulatory boards, so they decide to kill their bosses.

First they answer an ad on Craigslist, but the "hit man" turns out to be a hustler who specializes in urinating on men.

They hire a man named "Motherf___ Jones," who eventually explains that he's never actually killed anyone.  He did jail time for illegally filming a movie.

Then David Harken, suspecting that Bobby Pellitt has been having an affair with his wife, shoots him.  The gang witnesses the murder, but how can they implicate Harken without getting in trouble themselves?

There are only two homophobic statements:
1. Dr. Harris calls Dale a "fag" for refusing to sleep with him.  But she's a horrible person.
2. Bobby Pellitt thinks that Kurt's relationship with his father was "a little gay."  But he's a horrible person, too.

In fact, Dale is engaged to a woman, and Kurt tries to pick up every woman in sight with lame come-ons (which always work), but Nick doesn't express any heterosexual interests.  He specifies that, due to a heavy work load, he hasn't "had sex with someone other than myself" for months.  He can certainly be read as gay.

Jul 28, 2016

How Proust Can Bore You to Death

I have a confession to make: I have a B.A. in Modern Languages, a M.A. in English, and almost a doctorate in Comparative Literature, and I've never made it through more than a few pages of Proust's  Remembrance of Things Past.

I know I should.  It's an essential work of French literature, and an essential part of the gay literary heritage.  A gay writer, with gay characters, published during the 1920s.

I used to own the hefty Motcrieff translation, plus the first volume in French. Now I have it on an ebook.

Seven volumes, 4,200 pages, and you have to read each page several times because your mind keeps wandering.

The narrator as a young boy is in his bedroom, waiting for his mother to come upstairs and kiss him goodnight.  Then, as an adult, he eats a madeleine pastry, and memories come rushing back.  He used to live in a town named Combray...

 And I thrust the book aside.  Or, lately, I click it off my computer screen.

I've read books about it: How Proust Can Change Your Life, Proust's Library, Painting in Proust, Food in Proust.  

And I pick it up and start again.

2,000 characters, mostly divided into four camps:

The Swanns: An upper-class family.  Charles Swann marries the courtesan Odette.  The Narrator dates their daughter, Gilberte.

The Guermantes: Aristocrats that the Narrator envies. The flamboyant, decadent Baron de Charlus is the most important.

The Verdurins: mostly artists.

The Balbec Girls.  To my disappointment, Balbec does not refer to the ancient Middle Eastern city, but to yet another French provincial town, where the Narrator meets Albertine, the great love of his life.

Yawn.  Is there anything on tv?

I bought the graphic novel version, and still didn't make it past the first few pages.  So...so...sooooo...boring....

Can anyone claim to be knowledgeable about gay literature without having read Proust?

Probably.  There are thousands and thousands of pages of hetero-romance.  We don't get to the gay stuff until Volume 4, Sodom et Gomorrah, translated as The Cities of the Plain.when the Narrator discovers that Baron Charlus is gay and that some of the women he is attracted to are lesbians.  This upsets him, because it means that they are not sexually accessible.

Some critics think that the Narrator is gay, too, because he keeps falling in love with women who have masculine-sounding names: Albertine could be a closeted "Albert," and Gilberte could be "Gilbert."  But that sounds like grasping at straws.

By the way, the top photo is a bodybuilder because when you search for "Remembrance of Things Past" on Google Images, he pops up.

Someone must have decided to post a bodybuilder on their Proust page, to alleviate the boredom.

Jul 26, 2016

Doug McClure: From Physique Pictorial to The Simpsons

One of the supporting characters in the "my secret" teencom Out of This World (1987-91), about a teenage alien, was Kyle X. Applegate (Doug McClure): a bumbling, dimwitted has-been tv star.  In 1991, a bumbling, dimwitted has-been movie star began appearing on The Simpsons with the schtick "Hi, I'm Troy McClure.  You may remember me from such movies as..."

Who was this Doug McClure, and how did he get typecast as a bumbling, dimwitted has-been?

A little research reveals quite a different character:

A fitness model who appeared in the gay-vague Physique Pictorial in 1957 (here pinning Clint Eastwood).

Appearances in nearly 100 movies and tv shows, playing cowboys, detectives, and adventurers, usually in gay-subtext buddy pairs.

1. Jed Sills, partner of Don Corey (Anthony George) in the swnging 1960s detective series Checkmate (1960-62).

2. Engineering student Chuck Manning in The Lively Set (1964), who teams up with young mechanic Casey Owens (teen idol James Darren) to build a jet-powered car.  He's not interested in girls, but his sister hangs around to provide Casey with the fade-out kiss.

3. John, brother to Beau Geste (Guy Williams of Lost in Space) n the French foreign legion adventure (1966).

4. Trampas, head farm hand on the Shiloh Ranch in Wyoming run by The Virginian (James Drury) (1962-71).  This was his most famous role.  Apparently he knew how to fill out a cowboy suit, especially with a rifle handy.

5. Cash Conover, partner of 19th century secret agent Boomer Cable (William Shatner) on Barbary Coast (1975-76).

Doug continued to play cowboys, detectives, secret agents, and adventurers through the 1980s, but he never had another starring role. Maybe that's where he got the "has-been" image.

 All of that buddy-bonding fueled some substantial gay rumors, even though he was married to women five times.

See also: James Shigeta.

Jul 24, 2016

Don Johnson and the Gay Community

Don Johnson had a close relationship with the gay community from the start.  In 1968 he dropped out of the University of Kansas to enroll in the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, and immediately landed the starring role in Fortune and Men's Eyes, a play about a teenager who is sexually assaulted in prison.  He moved to Los Angeles to play the lead in the 1971 film version, directed by famous gay actor Sal Mineo (who became his roommate).

And lover (according to the rumor mill).  But then, if Sal Mineo really had relationships with everyone the rumor mill said he did, he would have been too tired to act.

Don also played the titular character, who grooves on both men and women in  The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart (1970) -- one of the songs, "Sweet Gingerbread Man," was covered by Bobby  Sherman.

And a boy at an experimental college, where he was naked and having sex all the time, in The Harrad Experiment (1973). Gregory Harrison played one of his classmates, also naked and having sex all the time.

And a boy traveling through a bleak postapocalyptic world in A Boy and His Dog (1975), who gets captured and used as a breeder in a crazy underground city where the men are mostly sterile.  It was re-envisioned in 2010 in Cartoon Network's Adventure Time. 

And so on through the 1970s, in vehicles that were sometimes gritty, sometimes surreal, but always emphasized Don's sexual desirability -- to both men and women.

As the counterculture waned, he found himself in conventional heterosexist roles in tv series like The Rookies, Streets of San Francisco, and Barnaby Jones, and tv movies like The Rebels, Revenge of the Stepford Wives, and Six Pack.  

He made something of a comeback in Miami Vice (1984-1990),about an odd-couple of vice cops making the scene with fast cars, stylish clothes, and lots of buddy-bonding.  Crockett (Don Johnson) was the good old boy who grew up in rural northern Florida and had a pet alligator named Elvis; Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas) was the streetwise New Yorker.

The buddy-bonding  is not nearly as intense as in Starsky and Hutch a decade before, and interspersed with lots of heterosexual hijinks.  But during the homophobic 1980s, it was about all you could expect.

There are nude photos of Don Johnson on Tales of West Hollywood.


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