Jul 13, 2012

Mario Lopez: Three Things Men Talk About

Mario Lopez knows that gay people exist; he played gay athlete Greg Louganis. So why does his official website (spring 2004) insist that he " brings the man's view every woman wants to know more about" to his talk show The Other Half"? To add insult to injury, he then pipes up, "There's three things men always talk about - women, sports, and cars." So Greg Louganis always talks about women?

Jul 12, 2012

Shipwrecked: Jens Builds a Family

Blue Lagoon, Paradise, and the various  Swiss Family Robinson adaptions of the 1980s and 1990s were heterosexist fables, with the shipwreck on a tropical island just an excuse to get a girl out of her clothes and into a boy's arms.

At first glance, the 1990 Håkon Håkonsen (released in the U.S. as Shipwrecked) is no different.  Haakon (14 year old Stian Smestad), cabin boy on a ship in the 1850s, meets a young stowaway, who turns out to be a girl named Mary (Louisa Millwood-Haight).

But the romance between the two stars is minimal; they behave more like best friends than boyfriend and girlfriend.

Meanwhile hunky sailor Jens (Trond Peter Stamsø Munch) expresses no interest in women and takes a big-buddy interest in Haakon.  Although he doesn't express any romantic interest, he does acknowledge the boy's erotic desirability.  When they are on shore leave, Jens steers Haakon away from the ladies of the evening, admonishing him to “protect his valuables."

Although Jens steps aside to permit alone time with Mary, the result is not so much a romance as a familial connection.  At the end of the movie, all three return to Norway together.

The lack of a heterosexist fade-out-kiss can be attributed to the original 1878 novel Haakon Haakonsen: A Norwegian Robinson, which minimized the girl, as was common in juvenile fiction of the era (I can't read Norwegian, but she seems to disappear for large passages).   Or to director Nils Gaup, who also directed the Sami drama Pathfinder.

Trond Peter Munch has not acted outside of Norway.  Stian Smested is currently a director, specializing in documentaries.

Jul 11, 2012

The Cat Who Was Straight

Lilian Jackson Braun’s Cat Who. . . books (The Cat Who Could Read Backwards, The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern, etc.) are about cats who “solve” the murder: they knock over a vase containing a secret message, curl up on a book with the killer’s identity hidden in the title, yowl to draw attention to a vital clue, and so on.  They are pleasantly written, as charming and cozy as an English high tea, with nothing harsh or troubling, not even the murders (the victim is always an outsider, no one you cared about, and the culprit is always thoroughly reprehensible, about to foreclose on an orphanage or open a fast-food franchise).  Braun describes Moose County, “400 miles north of everywhere,” with precision, consistency, and wit.
            However, Braun also introduces every character with the matchmaking fervor of a male flight attendant, as someone’s heterosexual husband or wife, girlfriend or boyfriend, as married, engaged, divorced, widowed, or “single and available.” Those who are single invariably embarked on a heterosexual romance before the cats yowled at the third clue.  Not only are there no gay people, there are no significant same-sex friendships at all; all human association in Moose County, from the most casual to the most intimate, occurs exclusively between men and women.
The only potentially gay character is protagonist Jim Qwilleran, formerly a crime reporter in the Big City, who inherited a billion-dollar fortune and moved north to bankroll civic improvement projects and solve murders.  A “confirmed bachelor,” he dates but never tries to kiss his “lady friend,” librarian Polly Duncan.  He is a devotee of the theater and the arts.  He named his Siamese cats Koko and Yum-Yum, after characters from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado.  Sounds like a 1950s gay stereotype – you can’t even say his name without lisping.  But no fan seems to have ever considered the possibility that Qwilleran could be gay.  He is a “nice boy,” a gentleman, a cat lover.  Besides, any evidence of gayness is eliminated by the sight of Polly Duncan on his arm.  Having a Lady Friend allows us to forget that gay people exist.

Jul 10, 2012

Gay Teens in the Summer of Love

In Island of the Lost (1967), South Pacific Islander Tupana (Jose De Vega ) befriends a shipwrecked anthropologist and his clan. He grins at hula-dancing castaway Judy, and kisses her, and holds her hand.  When the rescue boat arrives, he says goodbye, but at the last minute he decides to forsake his homeland and swims out to join her.  At least, that is how the scene can be read.

But Tupana also befriends another castaway, Stu (Luke Halpin of Flipper); they go fishing, and learn to dance, and touch each other's shoulders, smiling.  It is Stu who actually pulls Tupana aboard the rescue boat.  We are not absolutely certain, amid the fade-out hugs, which one Tupana has decided to followed.

In 1966 and 1967, as the first of the Baby Boomers was driving off to college, or flying off to Viet Nam,  teenage boys gazing at girls were as common as tie-dye t-shirts and patchouli incense.  But, within their quest for The Girl who would give their life meaning, gay kids and teenagers often noticed them grinning at boys.

In The Fighting Prince of Donegal (1966), Renaissance Irish prince Peter McEnery rescues a princess, but he also spends an inordinate amount of time being rescued by an older man (Tom Adams).

In C'Mon, Let's Live a Little (1967), college freshman Jesse (Bobby Vee) woos the Dean’s daughter, but he also gleams at his grinning, redheaded boy friend Eddie (Eddie Hodges).  And while Jesse is off wooing a girl, Eddie sits alone in the dorm room, despondent, singing about lost love.

In It's a Bikini World (1967), teenage casanova Mike Samson (Tommy Kirk) trolls the beach in search of babes, but he also has a remarkably expressive bond with his best friend, Woody (Bobby Pickett).

In the comics, Robin and Jimmy Olsen date girls, but they are heartbroken when they believe that their superhero pals have found someone else.   Korak Son of Tarzan rescues a young African diplomat and introduces him to a girl, but not before the duo spends many panels gazing at each other with unparalleled delight

During the Summer of Love, nearly every teenage boy, whether star, buddy, or villain, was portrayed as aggressively and unequivocally girl-crazy.  Yet they often, perhaps usually, desired each other or fell in love with each other.

Their bonds were exclusive and permanent, yet always submerged beneath a girl-crazy façade.  They would gaze at each other while discussing how much they liked girls, or while competing over the same girl, or while consoling each other when their attempts at getting girls faltered.

Their bonds were intense and passionate, yet always tentative, fragile, easily disrupted.  They would express their desire through hints and innuendos, through subtexts and double-entendres, through ambiguities in spectacle or plot, through moments stolen from the “main” story, lest anyone notice. Lest anyone realize that two boys or two men could walk into fade-out sunsets together.

See also: Fighting Prince of Donegal

Jul 9, 2012

The Cheerios Kid

From the mid-1950s to the late 1970s, the Cheerios Kid, a cute black-haired boy about twelve years old, was one of the beefcake-heavy breakfast cereal icons.  In a series of "damsel in distress" commercials.  His companion Sue would be grabbed by a monster, pirate, space alien, or mad scientist, and yell "Help, Kid!" in a weird Southern accent.  The Kid would then eat Cheerios, flex a gigantic o-shaped bicep, and pound the bad guy.  Sue would gasp "My hero!"

Extremely heterosexist plotlines -- that is, if Sue was his girlfriend, not a gal pal or sister -- the nature of their relationship was never specified.  No matter, the gigantic o-shaped muscles were nice to look at, and gay boys often removed Sue from the scenario and imagined that they were the ones being rescued and gasping "My hero!"

By the 1970s, Sue was an equal partner, eating the cereal with the Kid, flexing muscles of her own, and helping pound the bad guy.


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