Apr 11, 2015

Ren and Stimpy: Nickelodeon's Disgusting Gay Couple


In the early 1990s, everyone in West Hollywood was watching the Nickelodeon cartoon series Ren and Stimpy (1991-1995), a parody of the idiotic animated cartoons of the 1960s.

Including the puerile commercials, like "Log" and "Powdered Toast."  Powdered Toast Man became a cultural icon of his own.











The main stars were Ren the viciously psychotic chihuahua and Stimpy the excessively stupid cat, who parodied cartoon duos like Ruff and Reddy and Yogi Bear and Boo Boo,

Except they were entirely obsessed with farting, nose-picking, and body fluids, often drawn in nauseatingly grotesque detail.

It was rather hard to watch, but we watched anyway, for the obvious gay subtexts.

 Ren and Stimpy are presented as an overtly romantic couple. They share a house and a bed; they reminisce about their wedding, and Stimpy gives birth to a sentient fart, a product of their sexual union.

In some episodes, Stimpy is a stereotypical 1950's wife, passive and nurturing, responsible for cooking, cleaning, and ironing Ren's underwear.

Ren is socially and sexually the aggressor; in "Son of Stimpy", he tries to seduce Stimpy into the bedroom, but is rebuffed with "is that all you ever think about?"


Sexual activity is also implied when Ren's cousin Sven Hoek visits, and Stimpy is instantly attracted to him.

 But there was something off about subtexts.

It took awhile to realize that they were deliberate, and vicious.

The hints of same-sex activity and same-sex romance are presented as gross, disgusting, hard to watch.  Like sentient farts and "magic nose goblins."

Expected to elicit an uncomfortable laugh.
"Two dudes banging each other!  Sick!"


Stories about animator John Kricfalusi's homophobia began to emerge.  He made homophobic jokes and slurs constantly, and refused Robin Williams as a voice artist because "he's a fag."

After two seasons, he was fired -- not due to homophobia, due to his horrible working relationship with Nickelodeon.

In the summer of 2003, the Ren and Stimpy Adult Party appeared briefly on MTV.  This time there was no question: the duo was presented as a gay couple.

In cartoons that were unwatchable, unfailing grotesque and disturbing.  Ren and Stimpy live in a homeless man's mouth and then in a spittoon.

Apr 7, 2015

Maxwell Caulfield: Responding to Gay Rumors with Homophobia

Have you heard of Maxwell Caulfield?  During my senior year in college, he was being hailed the Next Big Thing.

Born in Scotland, Caulfield moved to London at age 15 and became a nude dancer at the infamous Windmill Cinema.  At age 18, he came to the U.S., and quickly got cast in the gay-themed stage farce Hotrock Hotel (1978), then the gay-themed Entertaining Mr. Sloane (1981), by Joe Orton.

In 1982, he won out over thousands of hopefuls to star in the sequel to Grease, the most popular movie musical of all time.

Grease 2 premiered in June 1982 to a huge hype campaign.

The box office wasn't exactly miserable, but it didn't match expectations by a long shot.


Singing "Rock-a-Hula Luau" was not exactly helpful to Caulfield's career.

In the homophobic 1980s, the gay rumors didn't help, either.

He starred in a few horrible-sounding tv movies, such as Electric Dreams (1984), about a guy and a computer both in love with the same woman, and The Supernaturals (1986), about an army of dead Confederate soldiers still fighting the Civil War.









And The Boys Next Door (1985), an intensely homphobic movie in which a straight guy (Caulfield) is lured into a mass-murder spree by his closeted-gay friend (future jerk Charlie Sheen) go on a killing spree because, of course, gay people are all psycho killers waiting to happen.

It could also be read as a commentary on Caulfield's career: "Look, I was lured into playing those gay roles by evil gay producers.  It's not my fault."




He spent two years playing Miles Colby in the Dynasty spin-off The Colbys (1985-87).

Then it was back to bad, ridiculous, or homophobic movies.

Mind Games (1989): a couple goes camping, and encounters a psycho (Colby) who has sinister designs on their son.

Dance with Death (1992); Murders at a strip club.

Animal Instincts (1992): Porn.

He's been more successful on stage, with starring roles in Joe Orton's Loot, Tryst, Cactus Flower, female impersonator Charles Busch's Our Leading Lady, and Chicago.

Richard Simmons: Fitness Guru Who Has Never Said the Word "Gay"

The Liberace of the 1980s was Richard Simmons, a fey elf in an Afro who led millions of overweight middle-aged women in energetic dance-style aerobics.

Growing up obese, Richard was dissatisfied with the diet and exercise regiments available: he believed that exercise should be fun and uplifting, and diets should be a joyful celebration, not dreary deprivation.  So he opened his own exercise studio, Slimmons, in Beverly Hills in 1969. He still teaches aerobics classes there every morning.

You can buy many of his Sweating to the Oldies DVDs, and about a dozen books, including Never Say Diet (you should say "live it!").


His program seems to be all about aerobics, or just getting off the couch and moving around.  Not a lot of weight training.

His effervescent personality and success in reaching the middle-aged female crowd led to a story on Real People, followed by guest appearances on game shows and talk shows, a four-year stint playing himself on General Hospital, numerous tv commercials, and his own Richard Simmons Show.

Richard had a few male fans.  He helped the morbidly obese Michael Hebranko drop from 906 to 200 pounds in 19 months, a feat which got Hebranko listed in The Guiness Book of World Records (unfortunately, most of the weight came back; he died in 2013 at 550 pounds).

There are many parallels between Richard Simmons and Liberace:
1. Aggressively feminine mannerisms.
2. A penchant for flamboyant costumes.
3. A fanbase composed mostly of middle-aged and elderly women.
4. A loud, obnoxious refusal to identify as gay.

Liberace claimed to be straight, and sued anyone who implied different.  Richard merely refuses to use the word "gay" in public, anywhere, anytime.  He has never expressed any support of gay causes.  When he is asked about his sexual orientation, he drops pronouns: "I don't have time to date anyone," "I'm not really looking for a relationship with anyone," and so on.

The major difference is: Liberace was popular in the 1950s, when to come out openly would mean career suicide.  It's now 2015, 46 years after Stonewall.  Does Richard really believe that most of his middle-aged female fans think that he is straight?  And would abandon him en masse if he made a public statement?


Apr 6, 2015

My Fair Lady: A Gay Couple in Edwardian England

My Fair Lady (1956) is one of my all-time favorite musicals, but there is no beefcake, so I'll illustrate it with some nude shots of actors who have played Henry Higgins in their other roles..

It's about an elderly gay couple in London at the turn of the twentieth century, Henry Higgins and Colonel Pickering,

Henry, an instructor of elocution, claims that language is the key to social status; he bets Pickering that he can take anyone of the lower class, give them elocution lessons, and pass them off as nobility.

Ok, why not try Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle?






Henry doesn't have much use for women, even as friends.  He is definitely a man's man.

Henry: Would you be slighted if I didn't speak for hours?
Pickering: Of course not!
Henry: Would you be livid if I had a drink or two?
Pickering: Nonsense.
Henry: Would you be wounded if I never sent you flowers?
Pickering: Never.
Henry: Well, why can't a woman be like you?

But he agrees.  Eliza moves into their house, and the lessons begin.



Everyone thinks that Eliza and Henry have an amorous relationship.  Henry's mother, who has suspected him of being gay for years, is delighted.

Eliza soon becomes indispensable in the household, keeping track of Henry' appointments and performing secretarial tasks.  She even gets a little crush on him.  Though he doesn't share her romantic inclinations, Henry begins to think of her as a friend and confidant.  He expects that, when the contest is over, she will stay on.

I've grown accustomed to her face
She almost makes the day begin
I've grown accustomed to the tune
She whistles night and noon





Eliza wows London society at the contest, and is proclaimed "of noble birth."  Everyone congratulates Henry, not Eliza, who concludes that she was being used an experiment, and leaves in a huff.  But she is persuaded to return.

 Henry, never one for apologies, or hugs, says "Eliza, where the devil are my slippers?"  Curtain down.  The end.

That's right -- no fade out kiss.  There are hints that the two might become lovers, but they remain only hints, a heterosexual subtext in what is a rarity in musical theater, a plot about male-female friendship.

The 1964 movie adds a little more heterosexual subtext, but the original play, Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw, has substantially less.


Of course, heterosexual critics and audiences try their best to force the text into the trajectory of a heterosexual romance.  Sometimes they don't even notice that Henry and Pickering are a gay couple.

Henrys: Jack Gwillam, Reg Livermore, Ian Richardson, Rex Harrison.

See also: Sherlock Holmes, Gay Icon and The Gay Connection in The Sound of Music.

The King and I: Bare Chests and Shaved Heads


The King and I, the 1951 Rogers & Hammerstein musical, can be played as a heterosexual romance, like the 1956 movie version:

Young widow Anna Leonowens goes to Thailand in 1861 to tutor the many children of King Mongkut.  Their culture clash results in romantic sparks, and they fall in love.

Or, with barely any tweaking at all, it can be played as two strong-willed people developing a non-romantic friendship based on mutual respect.

Which, by the way, was the case in the original novel, Anna and the King of Siam (1944), based on the memoirs of the real Anna Leonowens: she became language secretary to King Mongkut, but didn't fall in love with the man 40 years her elder, and in fact found him unpleasant to work with.  She had quit her job and was on her way back to England when he died.


So it's worth checking out the nearest high school drama club, community theater, or summer stock production of The King and I, to see which direction they're taking it.

Also, the King and his son Chulalongkorn are usually portrayed shirtless, so they'll be looking to cast the actors with the most smooth, muscular chests they can find.













Sometimes the actors go for the full Yul Brynner effect and shave their heads, too.  Sometimes not.

L

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