Jun 23, 2017

Bob Morley and His Posse

While looking for "Bob Marley" on google, I came across this photo of Bob Morley and his posse frolicking in the sun.

I never heard of any of them before, but it turns out that they're mostly starring in The 100 (2014-2018), about juvenile delinquents sent to a dead Earth to repopulate it

And they all either play gay characters, or are gay in real life, or both.

Bob Morley, in the middle, is a 32-year old Australian actor who has starred in Home and Away and Neighbours.(where he played a gay character).

In Lost in the White City (2014), he plays Avi, an Israeli soldier who has a 3-way relationship with artists Kyle and Eva.

He doesn't like appearing shirtless on screen or otherwise being treated like "a piece of meat."

English model turned actor Rick Whittle, age 35, played gay characters on Holby City and The 100.   He is currently starring as Shadow Moon in the series American Gods.

Straight in real life, but at least he doesn't mind being treated like a piece of meat.

32-year old Sachin Sahel and 25-year old Richard Harmon play a gay couple on The 100.  They neither confirm nor deny that they're dating in real life, but they're definitely bromantic partners.

Toby Levin is from Illinois, and majored in drama and Spanish from Bennington College.  He isn't on The 100, but he had a recurring role as a gay guy on Empire, and in 2012 he was passing out Empire swag in the New York Gay Pride Parade.  He likes guys with beards

The Homophobic Small-Town Manhattan of "Friends"

Friends (1994-2004) was set in the same intimate, "small town" Manhattan as Seinfeld.  But it lacked the New York color -- it could have been set in any big city -- not to mention the witty dialogue, interesting minor characters, and intricately connected plotlines.

And while Seinfeld was mostly heterosexist, assuming that gay people did not exist (except for a few homophobic episodes), Friends knew about the existence of gay people.  And was scared stiff.

It was about six heterosexual young adults who hung out together to commiserate over their terrible jobs -- though they still managed to afford huge apartments in Manhattan -- and terrible love lives -- though the women still managed to date a never-ending stream of chiseled hunks, including Adam Baldwin, Tom Selleck, and Brad Pitt.

The friends differed in personality, class background, socioeconomic status.

Upper class:
Neurotic, easily-befuddled Chandler (Matthew Perry), who worked as a statistician.
Former spoiled rich kid Rachel (Jennifer Anniston), who lost her silver spoon and worked as a waitress.

Middle class:
Nebbish paleontologist Ross (David Schwimmer, left), who had a crush on Rachel in high school.
His sister Monica (Courtney Cox), formerly fat and unpopular, now a control freak caterer.

Lower class:
Italian-American stereotype Joey (Matt Leblanc, top photo), a muscular but dimwitted aspiring actor.
Ditsy Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow), who worked as a masseuse, and had an equally ditsy brother (Giovanni Ribisi).

Eventually they paired off into Chandler-Monica and Rachel-Ross.  Joey and Phoebe stayed unattached.

Gay people intrude in a number of episodes, as problems to be solved:

Chandler is horribly embarrassed by the fact that his Dad is a drag queen.
Ross's ex-wife is "now" a lesbian, and actually intends to "marry" her girlfriend.
Ross is horrified when his male student comes on to him.

But more common, in nearly every episode, is the men's homophobia -- a literal fear of gay people.

Tijara Mamula has uploaded a remix, "Homophobic Friends," with the highlights of the homophobic and transphobic jokes that form a constant undertow to the series.

Turns out that friendship itself is problematic.

If a guy has male friends, people think "he likes guys, he's gay."
If he has female friends, people think "he's like a woman, he's gay."

Chandler, Ross, and Joey are each mistaken for gay at various points in the series.  To gales of audience laughter.  To be thought gay is second worst humiliation possible.

The worst humiliation: to really be gay.  So the guys often criticize each other, and the other male characters, for acting "too gay."  They police the slightest gender-atypical behavior, horrified that signifies some inner gayness that must be stopped before it grows like a malignant tumor and destroys them.

Ross didn't know that his wife was a lesbian!  He must be gay!

Joey and Chandler hug!  They must be gay!

While on a ride-along, Ross refers to himself as the cop's "partner."  He must be gay!

So much for the cozy, small-town Manhattan of Friends.

But it gets worse: An incredibly homophobic joke in the first season turned a million gay fans away from the series forever.

See also: Homophobia on "Friends": This Time It's Serious.; and Giovanni Ribisi

Jun 22, 2017

Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin

On winter afternoons in fourth or fifth grade, I was stuck in the house listening to my kid brother's Disney record.

He loved that darn thing, and played it over and over and over.  It was a small house, so there was no place to escape from the torture.

It begins with "From all of us to all of you, a very Merry Christmas," a song I've never heard anywhere else.  Then we get some non-Christmas stories:

1. Little Black Sambo, who has a New York accent: "All the tigahs have turned into buttah!"

2. Scrooge McDuck ships his money to the moon for safekeeping.

3. Winnie the Pooh, a fat, stupid bear with a chalkboard-grating voice, braves a natural disaster that floods his home.  Winnie is a girl's name, and "pooh" means feces, and it only goes downhill from there.  

Later I found that the nightmare-inducing hell-voice came from the evil Sterling Holloway (1904-1992), who also voiced the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland and Kaa the Snake (who hypnotizes and tries to eat Mowgli in The Jungle Book).

I've been blessedly spared the Disney movies, but in school I had the original books inflicted on me.  They are the diabolical work of A.A. Milne (1882-1956), who began his degradation and despair in poetry collected in When We Were Very Young (1924).

Little Boy kneels at the foot of the bed,
Droops on the little hands little gold head.
Hush! Hush! Whisper who dares!
Christopher Robin is saying his prayers.

The teacher expected 10 year olds raised on a diet of Lost in Space, Star Trek, and Magnus Robot Fighter to read this?  And like it?  Really?

But the main atrocity, the Pooh Demon, comes from stories originally published in St. Nicholas, Punch, and other magazines before settling down into two books, Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) and The House on Pooh Corner (1928).

 They star Milne's son,  Christopher Robin Milne, and his coterie of toy and real animals:  Rabbit; Owl (very creative names); Kanga and Roo (mother and child kangaroos); Piglet; Eeyore (a donkey), and the titular Winnie  (although Milne's teddy bear was actually named Edward).

The later book introduces Tigger (a tiger spelled wrong).

The short adventures generally involve Christopher Robin's demonic minions misunderstanding things.  For instance, when he writes a note explaining that he'll be back soon, his demonic minions misinterpret "Backson" as a person, conclude that he has been kidnapped, and mount a daring rescue operation.

Or Eeyore the clinically depressed donkey loses his tail in the woods. Owl finds it, thinks it's a doorbell, and takes it home.  Not to worry, he gives it up without a fuss, and Christopher Robin nails it on.

The beings all have separate houses in the 100 Acre Woods, based on the 500 Acre Wood in Ashdown Forest, East Sussex (100 acres is .15 miles, so about a block and a half square).  It's mostly not woods at all, but swampy fields and dreary sandpits, and a river full of boulders and "rox."   Nice.

The gender-bending "Winnie," with his rather obvious lack of sex organs, has raised the ire of the city council of Tuszyn, Poland, which banned him for being transgender or "a hermaphrodite."

Some internet pundits try to make Piglet into a gay character due to his sense of style and interest in flower arranging -- and desire to see Christopher Robin naked.

But I find no gay subtexts in the books.  Although the characters are all male, except for Kanga, and there is no hetero-romance, no one lives together.  They are isolated individuals, not domestic partners like Toad and Rat in The Wind in the Willows.

And there's no permanence.  Gay subtexts have partners walking off into the sunset together, but the Pooh books are informed by a disturbing transience.  This will all end.  Christopher Robin will learn to spell "rocks," not "rox," write "back soon," not "backson," and become too old for his relationships with imaginary beings.  The end of the second book has him going off to boarding school, leaving forever.

Same-sex bonds belong to childhood.  The cold, hard work of adulthood requires heterosexual marriage and reproduction.

In gay subtext stories, men don't leave!.

Besides...that grating, infuriating voice!

When Lane's mother was sick, he bought her a Winnie-the-Pooh figure, thinking it would cheer her up.  She threw the darn thing across the room.

Rosa and I didn't agree on much, but I have to applaud that act of resistance.

Christopher Robin Milne (1920-1996) was a fey little kid (by parental design: they liked to feminize their boys in those days).  When he left the bear to go to school, he was bullied mercilessly by his classmates, and took up boxing for relief.

  He served in World War II, married his cousin Lesley de Selincourt, and opened a bookshop in Dartmouth.  He wrote several autobiographies, but mostly tried to distance himself from Winnie the Pooh.

Wouldn't you?

The illustrations, by the way, are from actors who have played Christopher Robin during his 31 film and tv appearances, or others who are named Christopher Robin.

1. A model named Christopherobin
2. A costumed Christopher Robin character at Disneyland
3. Frankie Galasso
4. Alex Lawther
5. The real Christopher Robin, his dad, and his demonic hell-beast.
6. Tom Wheatley.