Aug 30, 2014

Trailer Park Boys: Gay Characters in the Hood

Trailer Park Boys is a Canadian pop culture sensation.  It started as a movie (1999), then spun off into an immensely popular sitcom (2001-2014), three more movies (2006, 2009, 2014), and a live stage show.  The characters have appeared as themselves in other series and on stage.  There is a vast array of tie-in products, including music cds, clothing, and books.

It's a mockumentary set in run-down trailer park in Nova Scotia, starring petty crooks, drunks, and various eccentrics.

1. The "moral center," if there is one, is Julian (John Paul Tremblay), an ex-con who wants to "go straight," by which he means selling so much marijuana or stolen merchandise that he can retire.  He always has a drink in his hand.

2. Ricky (Robb Wells, right), a dimwit with an Elvis Presley hairstyle, lives in Julian's car.  He is known for his ridiculously wild schemes and odd moral sense.  He disapproves of his daughter stealing: "That's my job."

3. Bubbles (Mike Smith), who has a hoarse, wheezing voice, lives in a shed, and collects stray cats.  

4.-5. Jim Lahey (John Dunsworth), a disgraced former cop who now works as the trailer park manager, and is constantly trying to evict Julian and Ricky.  When he's not immersed in a role-playing game with his boyfriend, Randy (Patrick Roach), a former hustler who never wears a shirt, even though he has rather a portly physique.

6.-7. J-Roc (Jonathan Torrens), a wannabe rapper who thinks that he's black and ends every sentence with "you know what I'm sayin'?" In later seasons, he and his partner T (Tyrone Parsons) raise two children together.

Jonathan Torrens starred in the gay-themed Beefcake in 1998.

8.-9. Cory (Cory Bowles), a muscular young hood, and his partner Trevor (Michael Jackson), sometimes work for Ricky. They display an interest in girls, but they are also portrayed as a gay-subtext couple, and they occasionally engage in same-sex acts as part of one of Ricky's wild schemes.

As you can see, there is quite a lot of gay content in the series, including characters who are gay and bisexual without fanfare.  Although Bubbles' favorite expletive is a gay slur, he displays no other homophobic bias.

And there's significant beefcake. Shirtless and underwear scenes are common, and several of the actors have impressive physiques.

See also: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia; and Corner Gas.

Mikey Likes It

The blog "Mikey Likes It" is maintained by a gay college student who wasn't even born when the enduring catch phrase was created.

It was the fall of 1972, and Quaker Oats was trying to expand out from oatmeal to the cold cereal market with a cereal called "Life."

And a commercial that showed two young boys staring dubiously at a bowl of Life Cereal, "supposed to be good for us."  They foist it off onto their brother, Mikey.  "He'll eat it -- he eats everything."  Sure enough, Mikey enjoys the cereal, and we hear in a voiceover. "He likes it!  Hey, Mikey!"

After a few months, somebody at the advertising agency realized that it was not high praise to have the cereal eaten by a boy who eats everything, so they changed the line to: "He won't eat it -- he hates everything."  Except Life Cereal, of course.

The ads continued for years, giving Baby Boomer kids with dirty minds a never ending source of dirty jokes. Mikey will eat anything.  And so on.

As the years passed, an urban legend developed that Mikey had died from a combination of Pop Rocks (a carbonated candy) and soda.  That was untrue, of course.  Actor John Gilchrist  returned in the early 1990s as a hunky college student to demonstrate that, once again, "Mikey likes it."

Today Gilchrist is in charge of media sales for the MSG Networks, married with children, so probably heterosexual. No word on the other boys in the commercial, his older brothers Tommy and Mike.

See also: Breakfast of Champions.

Aug 29, 2014

Robert Redford on Gay Rights

When I was in high school, the heterosexual girls and gay boys swooned over a trio of adult actors who epitomized cool: Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Robert Redford.

Redford, who was already in his 40s, didn't have a particularly buffed physique, but he made up for it with a mischievous smile, a gleam in his eye, and the hint of superheroic sexual prowess.  

He came to Hollywood in 1960, and did the rounds of tv guest spots before getting his big break as a morally-dubious movie star in Inside Daisy Clover (1965).

Barefoot in the Park (1967) was the standard "uptight guy meets free spirit girl" romance that we've seen a billion times before, but for some reason it resonated with 1960s audiences, proving that Redford could play a hetero-romantic lead.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1968) was the standard "cowboys in love" romance that we've seen a billion times before, but it also resonated with 1960s audiences, proving that Redford could play gay-subtext buddy-bonding.

He spent the next decade doing both.

Hetero-romance: The Way We Were (1973), The Great Gatsby (1974), Three Days of the Condor (1975).

Gay subtext buddy-bonding: with Michael Pollard in Little Fauss and Big Halsey (1970), George Segal in The Hot Rock (1972),  Dustin Hoffman in All the President's Men (1976).

No explicit gay characters, and he claims he wasn't even aware of the gay subtexts at the time.

During the 1980s, Redford's roles became fewer, as he moved into production, fostering independent films.  He started the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, and the Sundance TV Channel.

Park City, Utah, north of Provo, the heart of Mormon homophobia?  Is

He hasn't made a lot of pro-gay statements, but in 2013 he spoke in favor of marriage equality at an event sponsored by Equality Utah.  "Utah is changing," he said.  

Maybe Redford is changing, too.

See also: Michael J. Pollard, Lost Boy

Aug 28, 2014

10 More Public Penises of Islam

In your quest for public penises in the Islamic world, don't forget that most Muslims live far from the Arabic-countries of the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa, in Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, South Asia, and Indonesia.
1. Turkey is the most secular Muslim country in the world, with a large percentage of the population "culturally Muslim" but not observant. I spent a semester there in the spring of 1989, and found it no more homophobic than Texas in the U.S.

 The first president of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, tried hard to Westernize the country, which included introducing public art.  There's a lot of it, including many statues commemorating Ataturk himself.  Like the Monument of Great Triumph in Afyonkarahisar, about 100 miles from Ankara.

It's a nude, muscular Ataturk jumping over the bodies of his enemies.

2. Eski┼čehir, a two-hour drive north of Afyonkarahisar, is called the "City of Sculptures."  There are napping commuters, soccer players, turtles -- and this brawny fisherman.

3. Antalya, on the Southern Coast, features several more statues, including another of Ataturk, and this neoclassical figure of Attalu, mythical founder of the town.

 There are lots of real Graeco-Roman relics in Turkey, too, such as "The Runner" in the Archaeological Museum in Izmir.

4. Ahmet Bedevi (1899-1963), called the "Manisa Tarzan" was an environmentalist and eccentric who planted thousands of trees around Manisa, plus walked around nearly naked.  There is a nearly-naked statue to commemorate his work.

5. In Mersin, the War of Independence memorial is a naked, muscular torso carved into the stone face of a mountain.

More after the break

Steve McQueen's Hunky Family Tree

When I was in high school in the 1970s, the heterosexual girls and gay boys agreed that Steve McQueen was the hunkiest movie star of all time.  We couldn't name any movie that we had actually seen him in -- his heyday was in the 1960s, when he starred in blockbusters like The Great Escape (1963), The Cincinnati Kid (1965), The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), and The Reivers (1969).  

But he had an aura of coolness about him that kept us reading movie magazines and pinning his posters to our bedroom walls up until his death in 1980, at the age of 50.

Steve had two children: a daughter, Terry (1959-1998), and a son, Chad (born 1960), who became a race car driver, martial artist, and actor.

Here he threatens Ralph Macchio in The Karate Kid (1984).

Chad has three children, Madison, Chase, and Terrence.  Chase, who just turned 19, is a professional soccer player in England.

Terrence renamed himself Steven R. McQueen in honor of his grandfather. He's a model and actor, with starring roles in Everwood, Minutemen, and CSI.

Now he's playing Jeremy Gilbert on The Vampire Diaries.

He played a gay character in Everwood, and he's been interviewed in gay magazines, so apparently he's an ally.

See also: The Gay Connection of Julio Iglesias.

Aug 27, 2014

Fall 2000: Breaking Every Rule of Gay Cruising

In the fall of 2000, I was depressed.    I was writing my doctoral dissertation, and my committee was making lots of unwelcome "suggestions":

Take out that section about gay people not being able to get married, and concentrate on the important issues.

Put in a section about the guilt and pain that all gay people feel.

But I followed each of the suggestions, worried that they would say "Sorry, your dissertation is on gay people, switch to something else," like my committee at USC did, the first time I tried getting a Ph.D.

Plus Yuri had moved to Florida, and my boyfriend Avi had just broken up with me.

So I wasn't thinking, and I didn't follow most of the rules of gay cruising.  Neither did my partner.

1. Select your cruising venue properly.  Check.  I met Jorge at the Eagle, the leather bar in Chelsea. He was shorter than me, in his mid-20s, dark-skinned, and very muscular.  Exactly my type.  Or so it would seem.

2. Cruise early.  No. It was nearly 2:00 am, and at last call people get desperate and weird.

3. Cruise with a buddy. No. I was by myself.

4. Do not drink while cruising. Check.

5. Gather information.  No. we only exchanged first names.

6. Don't discuss sizes or sexual acts.  No. We discussed in detail the sexual acts that we were interested in.

7. Word the invitation carefully.  No.  He just said "Let's go," and we went.

 8. Invite him to your place.  No. I followed him out into the cold New York autumn.

9. Take your own cars.  No. He drove us to New Jersey.  We had to drive around for about an hour to find a parking space on the street, and then walk about ten blocks through a desolate, scary neighborhood.  I was completely lost.  How would I ever find my way home again?

10. Make sure someone knows where you are. No.  I didn't even know where I was.

We walked into a row house, through the living room, and up the stairs.  "Be quiet, my mama and brother are asleep," Jorge said.

He lived with his parents!

11. Clean your apartment in advance.  No. His bedroom was a mess, unmade bed, dishes from a snack on his desk, the floor littered with bodybuilding magazines and gay porn.

12. Hide your valuables. No.

13. Bring condoms. Check.  But they weren't necessary.  We undressed and squeezed into his narrow single bed.  And Jorge promptly fell asleep.

I like cuddling with musclemen as much as the next guy.  But I couldn't sleep in such a cramped space, and Jorge did not respond to my attempts to wake him.

14. Don't kick him out afterwards.

We awoke to bright daylight that made his room look even messier, and a yell from downstairs, "Jorge, quieres desayuno?"  (Breakfast is ready!).

Jorge pushed me away and leapt to his feet.  "Dios mio, it's late!" he exclaimed.  "My girlfriend and her padres will be here soon, to go to Mass!"

He had a girlfriend!

"Quick, get dressed!"  He pulled on his briefs and started fumbling with his jeans.  "I'll sneak you out the back door."

"But...I don't know where I am."

"Go up to Clmumble-mumble and turn right, then turn left by the Dairy Queen, and go down West Side to the church, and you can catch the HBmumble-mumble.  It's only a couple of miles."

He led me downstairs, through a little foyer and into a laundry room.  I could hear a conversation in Spanish and clattering plates from a room nearby.

15. Don't pretend that you want a relationship.

He ushered me through to the back porch, and made the "call me" gesture before shutting the door.

Call him?  I never got his last name, email address, or telephone number.

See also: My date with the teen model; and How to decipher the code words in gay dating site profiles.

Aug 26, 2014

Wild Boy: The Gay Jungle Boy of 1950s Comics

There were many variations of the Tarzan mythos during the middle years of the 20th century, but one of the most fondly remembered by the first generation of Baby Boomers was Wild Boy, Prince of the Jungle.

He had a short run, appearing in 8 issues of a  Ziff-Davis series (1950-1952), which oddly starts with 10.  Then St. John took over the title, renamed it Wild Boy of the Congo, and published 6 issues (#9-#15), in 1953.  That's it.

But what he lacked in longevity, Wild Boy made up for in gay potential.

His origin story: the young American boy David Clyde goes to the Congo with his uncle, who hires evil native to kill him.  He escape and grows up in the jungle, but speaks a stilted "me, Tarzan" patois.

He has two animal companions, a panther (Daro) and a monkey (Kimba), and a native boyfriend, Keeto (who speaks the same patois.)

Artists vary in their interpretation of Wild Boy: should he be a little kid or nearly an adult?  And just how feminine should his wavy hair, lipstick, and eye liner get?

But he's definitely a gay icon. He displays no interest in women, but he rescues and hugs Keeto every five minutes.

The comics are hilarious today for their stereotypes of the white Western colonial master and the "childlike" natives.

Hint: the good ones wear Western-style clothes, and the bad ones wear loincloths.

Here he uses the old chestnut "I will make the sun disappear!" to avoid execution by an evil tribe.  How corny can you get?

But at least he's holding hands with Keeto.

Aliados: Argentine Teenagers Save the World

Lots of UFO contactees tell us that this is the final era of humanity.  We have only a short time to prove to the Galactic Overlords that we can do the right thing: end war, stop environmental degradation, switch to solar energy.  If we succeed, we will be invited to join the Federation.  If not, our planet will be "cleansed."

The Argentine sci-fi series Aliados (Allies) draws on that plot.  Six teenagers are chosen by the Feminine Energy Creator to save "the human project."  They have only 105 days.

Unfortunately, they have problems of their own, each with its own catch phrase.

1. Noah (Peter Lanzani, left), a hedonistic millionaire's son: "Self Satisfaction at Any Cost."

2. Anorexic pop star Azul (Oriana Sabatini): "Brilliance and Pop Destruction"

3. Maia (Mariel Percossi), a violent bully: "The Pleasure of Hurting."

4. Manuel (Agustin Bernasconi): a shy, insecure bullying victim: "The Voice of Suffering"

5. Homeless juvenile delinquent Franco (Julian Serrano, left): "Alienation in a Pure State"

6. Valentin (Joaquin Ochoa), an orphaned victim of child labor: "Prisoner of His Loneliness"

Seven "Beings of Light" have agreed to help them.  They have catch phrases, too:

Ian (Pablo Martinez, left), the leader, from a place beyond time and space: "Secrets of the Soul"

The others are connected to the teenagers:
1. Noah gets his "soul mate" Venecia (Jenny Marinez) from the Astral Plane: "Love in Action."

2. Azul is inhabited by Luz (Oriana Sabatini), from the Causal World: "The New Message'

3. Maia gets Ambar (Lola Moran), from the planet Sirius: "Peace Disguised in War"

4. Manuel gets Inti (Nicolas Francella), from the planet Upsilon Andromeda B: "Fire that Heals"

5. Franco gets Devi (Caroline Domenech), an enlightened human: "Between Heaven and Earth"

6. Valentin gets Gopal (Maximo Espindola), from the Land Beyond the Mirror: "Reflections of Friendship"

Complex stuff, full of New Age jargon, with some Hinduism thrown in, and the plotlines are even more complex, full of alliances, betrayals, hidden agendas, and people who aren't what they seem.

It's a major hit in Latin America.  There are both broadcast episodes and online webisodes, plus a music soundtrack, two video games, a theatrical performance, and a Club Aliados that countless thousands of kids and teens have joined.

Notice that some of the human-Light Being pairings are same-sex.  The episode I saw seemed to have a gay subtext between Valentin and Gopal (left), and others have found links between Noah and Ian.

However, there aren't any specifically gay characters.  Producer Cris Morena has been criticized for erasing gay people from the Cosmos.

You can see the episodes through the official website.

Aug 25, 2014

Where are the Gay-Themed Ballets?

There are two problems with looking for beefcake and bonding in contemporary ballet:

1. The ballet is not easy, so you won't see a lot of amateur productions, thus limiting the venues for your search.

2. The plotlines are aggressively heterosexist. Occasionally you find a piece with homoerotic subtexts, such as The Midsummer Night's DreamThe Afternoon of a Faun, or Proust, but usually it's boy meets girl, over and over and over again.

Take the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, one of the most famous theaters in the world, with the renowned Kirov Ballet Company (tickets run from $25 to $75, if you're interested).

This year they're doing:

1. Swan Lake: a prince falls in love with a woman who has been transformed into a swan.  There's been an all-male version, but not here.

2. La Sylphide: a male farmer falls in love with a sylph (a female forest spirit).

3. Sleeping Beauty:  based on the fairy tale about a woman who has been put under a spell, and can only be awakened by "true love's kiss." See Maleficent for a non-heterosexist interpretation.

4. The Nutcracker: a girl falls in love with a magic nutcracker.

5. Le Parc: four Cupids oversee men and women falling in love.  It could easily be revised to have some same-sex couples,

6. Anna Karenina: The married Anna has an an affair with Count Vronsky.

7. The Fountain of Bakhchisarai: The Khan is in love with two women.

8. Shurale: A forest monster kidnaps a woman, and a prince rescues her, in love...

9. Don Quixote: Don Quixote wins the heart of Dulcinea.  No buddy-bonding with Sancho Panza.

10. Cinderella: The fairy tale about a prince who falls in love with a girl wearing glass shoes.  Can you imagine anything more uncomfortable?

11. Spartacus: The homoerotic tale of the ancient Roman slave is turned into a hetero-romance.

12. Giselle: A nobleman falls in love with a peasant girl, who dies.  He's got a competitor, so there could be some triangulation,

Wow.  I guess we'll have to make do with beefcake.  Fortunately, ballet specializes in muscular male bodies in extra-revealing outfits.

See also: The Erik Bruhn Prize.