I COME BEARING GIFTS! AGAIN!
What can I say, I just hate arriving to a party empty-handed! (And I never linger in doorways, it’s a sign of poor breeding…)
Last time Michael ate too many bonbons and slipped into a sugar coma was gracious enough to give me the reins to the column, I tried to ingratiate myself by announcing an HBO giveaway related to the premiere of Little Britain USA. Well, first off, I’m proud to announce that I now have three new friends who are forever indebted to me and whose homes will of course be open to me and my clothing-optional musical saw orchestra when we go on tour this winter. (Right, winners?)
So congrats to Grand Prize Winner Carol R. from Florida (who got a bunch of DVDs and a Little Britain 1G Flash Drive) and runners-up James W. from Australia (ooh!) and Cole P. from Colorado, who both will receive Flash Drives and an unannounced visit from yours truly.
But enough of that … on to the next giveaway!
Chris Lilley as Mr. G on Summer Heights High
This time our friends at HBO are giving away some pretty awesome swag based on their new Australian comedy show Summer Heights High. We’ve written about the show on the blog before (so (be sure to check out our past coverage) but here’s the skinny: creator Chris Lilley plays three parts in this unhinged mockumentary set at a fictional public high school: Mr. G, the flamboyant and sadistic music teacher, Ja’mie King, a snotty girl transferred from her prep school, and Jonah, a delinquent who’s been expelled from several other schools in the last year.
Here’s a clip of Mr. G in action.
As you can see, the brand of comedy is of the "ouch I can’t believe they just said that …" variety (see also: The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm), but Lilley disappears into each character brilliantly. And we’re thrilled to be offering some pretty hot swag for giveaway: five limited-edition, custom Mimobots of Jai’me. These flash drives will make the lucky winners the belles of their respective balls, believe you me.
To enter to win one of these little gems, simply send an email to email@example.com telling us which gay or gay-seeming teacher or theater director said the following quotes (and the movie or show in which they appeared). The first five entrants to name four out of five characters (and their respective movies/shows) will win.
1. "And I’ll tell you why I can’t put up with you people: because you’re BASTARD people! "
2. "It’s not a cold sore! I bumped my lip on a biscuit!"
3. "I just came out! At my wedding!"
4. "Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy."
4. "Following his violent revolution, Gandhi was devoured by his followers."
5. "God knows why you’ve learnt Brief Encounter."
Next page: Sex Drive has a gay character … but he could use a tune-up.
SEX DRIVE: AND WE THOUGHT GAS PRICES WERE THE WORST THING TO HAPPEN TO ROAD TRIPS THIS YEAR
I thought I’d start out this week’s column by turning your attention to a movie opening across the country that very few of us probably have any intention of seeing: the teen gross-out sex comedy Sex Drive. Now, I wouldn’t discuss the movie at all if there weren’t good reason to, as it’s easily one of the worst I’ve seen in about a decade (and that counts Christmas with the Kranks and Because I Said So).
But as what I’m about to share technically qualifies as a spoiler, I’ll give ample warning here for those with actual interest in the film that I’m about to give away the hilarious twist that James Marsden’s homophobic character turns out to be gay.
Wait, did I mess that up? Oops!
See, I feel about as guilty for ruining the movie’s twist (which you can see coming from about a mile away without glasses and underwater) as the filmmakers likely feel about ruining what would otherwise be an inoffensive (yet entirely unfunny) teen comedy for a gay audience member. Because I enjoy sitting through 90 minutes of hearing "faggot", "queer" and "ass-pirate" thrown around just about as much as a storyteller enjoys having his movie ruined by a bitchy critic.
In Sex Drive, the main character, Ian (Josh Zuckerman) is too big of a loser to get a date on his own, so he starts posting fake pics of himself in an Internet chatroom and eventually attracts the rather whorish attention of a girl willing to have sex with him if he drives 300 miles to see her. Of course he has no car, but his brother Rex (James Marsden) does. Of course, Rex is a raving homophobe who takes an inordinate interest in his younger brother’s sex life (telling him he’ll turn queer if he doesn’t have sex) and calling him any number of anti-gay epithets at every opportunity.
Of course, when Ian and his friends Lance (Greek’s Clark Duke, who is way too good for this) and Felicia (Amanda Crew) help him steal Rex’s car and head South, they come across all sorts of wacky obstacles and soon have a furious Rex on their tail.
One of the wacky obstacles is an unnecessary (and gross) scene where Ian is propositioned in a men’s room by a gay guy. Hilarious! Another involves prison rape. Side-splitting! And yet another involves being called "Bilbo Faggins" by a complete stranger at a carnival (who is played by Sarah Silverman’s Brian Posehn, who should really know better after having played a gay character in the longest steady job he’s ever had).
But getting back to ticking gaybomb Rex … in literally the last 90 seconds of the movie, in a "where are they now" montage under a voiceover, Rex comes out as gay to his family, finds a nice African-American boyfriend and becomes a puppy-dog-eyed sweater aficionado (who nonetheless still likes throwing lit firecrackers at his little brother).
And they all lived happily ever after!
A little too little, a little too late … and a phenomenon I like to call the Curse of the Surprise!Gay.
Next page: Why Surprise!Gay characters aren’t exactly my cup of tea.
THE CONTINUED CURSE OF THE SURPRISE!GAYS
Here’s the thing: Sex Drive was supposed to be a comedy. (The fact that it’s crushingly unfunny is another story, but we’re talking about intent here.) And comedy, by its nature, should not make members of its audience feel like they’re about to be lynched. Yet again, the Curse of the Surprise!Gays has rendered a moviegoing experience unduly unpleasant for gay audiences.
Did the people behind Sex Drive give a moment’s thought to the gay viewers (young or otherwise) who were going to have to sit through 90 minutes of anti-gay insults being shouted out, likely to the laughter of the auditorium’s less sensitive occupants?
It’s not like this was Boys Don’t Cry or Schindler’s List or American History X, where you’re supposed to feel what it’s like to be the persecuted group or person. Would American Pie have been as funny and successful had it been filled with racial epithets that were "just a joke"? Or hateful words about Jews or women? Absolutely not … so why should this movie get a pass for throwing out anti-gay sentiment for laughs?
Because it’s ironic, see? He’s the homophobic character, but he’s actually gay!
Pardon me if I don’t find that the least bit funny. Or original. Or even, in this day and age, particularly realistic. So we gays are both the victims and the aggressors? And hack filmmakers’ hands are totally clean. Boy, how convenient.
The phenomenon of the Surprise!Gay is usually meant to send up stereotypes about gay men … but in the process often ends up offending a gay audience or simply reinforcing those stereotypes or arming the audience with all new insults. But even more often, it’s used as a cheap plot point that, whether intended or not, often associates queer sexuality with something negative. (Like murder, as you’ll see in several cases below.)
Back when I saw Sex Drive a few months ago, I had the idea of doing an article on some notable Surprise!Gay reveals in movies, and how this gag should really be left to the history books. Alonso Duralde did a great job with the piece, and I thought I’d add a few of my own least faves, to illustrate just how unpleasant the joke can be.
Note: As this is a discussion of surprises, there are SPOILERS throughout.
Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve in Deathtrap
Many people (myself included) enjoy Deathtrap for its clever, twisty plot and old-fashioned suspense. But the fact that the characters played by Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve are not competing dramatists but are actually in fact lovers who have conspired to give Caine’s dippy wife a heart attack is revealed in a way clearly meant to disgust the audience (the two men kiss over the body of his wife, a kiss that was added for the film adapation of the original play). Um, manipulative killer or no, I can’t see any gay man taking the time to make out before tidying up such a terrible mess.
And honestly, I don’t mind seeing gay killers, I really don’t. But tying the men’s sexuality to their murderousness so directly isn’t exactly responsible, particularly at a time when gay characters were few and far-between.
Michael Pitt and Ryan Gosling
Flirt Murder by Numbers
Murder By Numbers
This mystery thriller pitted Sandra Bullock against two precocious (and murderous) teenagers played by Ryan Gosling and Michael Pitt. We know early on that the two are behind the murders, but we don’t know exactly what brings the two together. Surprise, the sweet, passive Justin (Pitt) is in love with Richard (Gosling), whose character is likely straight but happy enough to entertain the attentions of a longing gay kid if he’ll do the dirty work for him … which Justin is happy to do. Had Justin not been gay and in love with Richard, would he have killed? Probably not … hence the problem.
Numbers was clearly based on the real-life crime of gay lovers Leopold and Loeb. And if their sexual relationship had been addressed directly (as it was in Swoon, for example), that’s totally fine … but pushing the characters into the closet and using the sexual energy between them as thriller fodder is a bit cheap.
This utterly insane slasher movie from the 80’s centers on a group of Olympic hopefuls who are targeted one by one by a homicidal killer. While the idea of a bunch of fit young things being dispatched by a javelin-throwing killer might sound at least campy or promise some male skin (the guys actually shower in their jockstraps to prevent that from happening!), it’s a pretty lame effort overall and in the end is sunk by the fact that the killer is Sally Kirkland … yes, the Sally Kirland … and she’s a man!
Ving Rhames and Adam Sandler
I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry
Alright, alright … we’ve probably said enough about this not-terribly-intentioned but also not-terribly-funny "gay marriage" comedy, but one element that isn’t often discussed is the bizarre change in personality that accompanies one of the film’s actual gay characters’ coming out. When macho, aggressive fireman Duncan (Ving Rhames) comes out as gay to Chuck (or Larry, I can’t remember which is which) because he thinks he’s really gay, he suddenly turns into Carmen Ghia from The Producers. Seriously, does every gay man have to high-kick out of the closet singing showtunes?
Bruce James and his snake
Snakes on a Plane
This is kind of the reverse Surprise!Gay effect, but it has the same disappointing impact. When I saw that the effeminate flight attendant on said serpent-infested airline (Ken, played by the dashing Bruce James) was actually a heroic character, I found my brittle heart swelling with pride. But at the end of the movie, when the guy has actually survived, he gets off the plane and runs into the arms of … his girlfriend! Get it? He’s femmy, but he’s straight! Subverting the stereotype … or just an excuse to make more tired gay jokes (like one involving his sucking venom out of another guy’s buttcheek) at the gays’ expense?
Up next: Hey, not all TV sucked this week!
IMHO — THE WEEK IN GAY TV
This was actually a pretty busy week for television’s gays. From doomed college romances to gay film festivals to gay advertising execs, our fellas were out and active on the tube.
As the World Turns: Well, after months of inaction it’s hard to not get at least a wee bit excited about Luke and Noah’s return to consciousness this week. Sure, the "GaygaygaygayGAYgaygay!" talk is a bit wearying, but I’d rather have Luke’s sexuality be the topic of conversation than it never be mentioned at all. And considering he’s coming into his own (though it stops there, if you catch my meaning) in terms of his identity as a gay man, it’s not that unrealistic. Just let’s have some juicy gay soap action, shall we? Oh, and welcome back, Reg!
Brothers & Sisters: I personally am not a fan of the Walker clan to begin with (sorry, but the problems of the rich and overentitled really don’t garner much sympathy from me), but as Steven Frank beautifully put it in his recap, this week’s avoidance of several of the show’s cliches (including the family’s boozy pity-parties) made it actually fairly watchable.
Dancing With the Stars: This week’s DWTS was a win-win for the gays after Lance Bass’s best-yet performance and the hilariously camp stylings of the shirtless Los Vivancos all-male dance troupe and resident (until sadly eliminated) Peter Allen and flamingo aficionado, Rocco DiSpirito. Throw in a sassy gay judge giving pelvic thrusting lessons (thanks, Bruno!) and you’ve got the gayest 90 minutes of primetime all week.
Forbidden Love: I know, I know, light the torches and head to Brooklyn. But the boys didn’t have much to do this week, so it’s hard to give them an up-arrow. And the background nipple-tweak definitely saved them from a dip!
General Hospital Night Shift: Talk about going out with a bang! Gay doc Kyle and his ailing love interest Eric were sadly parted, but it’s not necessarily the end of the line for them. But we can’t necessarily say the same for Kyle’s on-again-off-again BFF Claire, who may have been caught in the biggest tragedy to hit the hospital since Antonio Sabato, Jr. showed back up!
Greek: Okay, this week’s Greek finally got good again on several levels. Not only did we get back into some old-school backstabbing between Casey and Frannie (which was what made the show great to begin with), but Calvin shrugged off his barely-there invisibility cloak and actually got some screen time. Unfortunately for Max Greenfield fans, that screen time regarded the dissolving of Michael and Calvin’s relationship … but fortunately for Heath fans, it looks like Calvin’s indiscretion with Kappa Tau’s cutest brother will be leading to a reunion after all.
And shirtless, basketballing Calvin? It’s about time! I’ve actually included a clip that has all of Calvin’s recent scenes in it later in the column, so keep on reading if you want to see what all the fuss is about.
Mad Men: Um, WOW. This week newcomer Kurt came out of the closet over free donuts (and while wearing mechanic’s coveralls … anyone know what that was all about?), effectively giving poor closeted/married Sal (Bryan Batt) a grand mal in the process. Having an out gay guy in the office is a brilliant, game-changing move, and assuming that they don’t make Kurt give any more makeovers (although Peggy does look more thoroughly modern…) I’m all for it.
Project Runway: Well, it’s hard to even rate this one, as the season overall has been a big fat dud and there weren’t even any gay men in the finals (though two, Suede and Jerell, showed at Bryant Park as decoys). If the show does really move to Lifetime (which is still undetermined), I’ll miss it … but not in the style that it went out. It was nice to see Tim Gunn as the finale guest judge … too bad it was out of necessity when Jennifer Lopez canceled at the last minute and not a genuine gesture of thanks.
True Blood: Although this week’s funereal episode was slower than most, I actually liked that things cooled for a few eps so that we could get to know the characters a little better, and a lot actually happened this week. We learned that Lafayette was a concerned friend (with a pharmacy full of perks), Jason is crazier than we thought and Tara’s in deeper than she imagined with her mama.
Plus, Sookie’s screaming at the town to "shut the f*ck up!" at her grandmother’s funeral, the pecan pie to end all pecan pies and the sex scene ending on a bloody cliffhanger were killer TV.
Next page: Are conservatives hacking gay websites? Kittens to the rescue!
CONSERVATIVE GHOSTS IN THE MACHINE?
Earlier this week gay website The Sword reported on the fact that gay-run magazine RADAR’s website had apparently been hacked by conservatives behind Proposition 8, the bill that seeks to change California’s constitution to redefine marriage as being between a man and a woman:
It turns out that while it’s not quite as insidious as hacking, the conservatives are being pretty crafty in their targeted marketing. It seems that via AdSense, the online ad company that sells ad space for RADAR, Towleroad, Queerty, and other gay sites based in New York, the Yes on 8 people are running the ads only in California (where the proposal is on the November ballot). Being that these sites are based in New York, their proprietors might never even know that the ads are running if keen readers didn’t tip them off to it.
Problematic, to say the least … kind of like when "intuitive" advertising programs place ads for baby clothes in a news report on crib deaths, and so forth. But given that the Yes on Prop 8 folks didn’t even bother to customize their ads for gay sites, it looks to be a simple oversight due to the advertiser’s allocation system, not a targeted attack. After all, why would Yes on 8 actually advertise on a gay site to begin with … aren’t the visitors mostly gay or gay-friendly? If anything, Towleroad and Queerty are pocketing Yes on 8’s ad budget, which is actually kind of funny.
We haven’t seen any conservative ads pop up on AfterElton.com yet (although we did have a run-in with some syndicated Mitt Romney campaign ads a while back that we had to put the kibosh on rather quickly). And if you happen to see any, do let us know!
And for those of you who feel that your monitors have been violated by unwanted conservative imagery or dogma, I have a solution for you:
Yes, for the low price of only $4.99, you can buy a full-size screensaver of an adorable kitten or puppy licking your monitor from the inside out, washing away all those icky right-wing straw men and falsities. (You know, they do say their mouths are cleaner than ours are…)
And if that doesn’t exorcise the conservative demons from your ’puter, well … um …
Brandon Staughton from Britney’s “Womanizer” video
Next page: We have friends in heterosexual places.
A MOMENT TO RECOGNIZE OUR STRAIGHT SPONSORS
You may have noticed that the battle for same-sex marriage rights in California is reaching a fever pitch. While we’re of course most interested in what our few out A-listers are doing to fight Proposition 8 (T.R. Knight, Neil Patrick Harris, Suze Orman and others have donated cash to the cause), big-name celebs of all sexual orientations are getting behind gay causes more than ever before.
Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Lance Bass, Lacey Schwimmer
Last weekend the GLSEN Respect Awards (which promote understanding between gay and straight students) and the Heroes & History Makers gay marriage equality fundraiser brought out some celebs who might not be the first to come to mind as gay allies.
Here’s a few Hollywood folks out there fighting for our rights.
Five years ago, billionaire philanthropist/playboy Steve Bing was best known as a punchline in an Elizabeth Hurley paternity joke. But just this week Bing pledged $500,000 to fight Proposition 8, making him the single largest straight donator to the cause. That’s certainly nothing to laugh at.
Other hetero celebs like Brad Pitt and Steven Spielberg have also given generously (to the tune of $50,000 each) but this is an enormous donation coming from someone who could just as easily pretend the civil rights concerns of gays and lesbians didn’t exist.
And still more celebs pitch in by lending their star power. Here’s an assortment of names and faces who have showed up at recent high-profile events to promote gay causes.
Eric and Janet McCormack
Scott M. Foster with out Greek creator Sean Smith
Kathryn Joosten and Dana Delaney (Desperate Housewives)
Out actor Chad Allen with Heather Tom (Ugly Betty)
Next page: What’s up this week in gay TV and movies!
FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE
In theatres, a gay family movie called Tru Loved opens in limited (very limited) release. I caught the movie at NewFest and while it’s pretty scrappy, it does have its heart in the right place and does represent something new in its handling of gay themes from a straight teenaged girl (with gay moms and a closeted best friend) perspective. And it’s totally worth checking out for supporting turns by the absolutely hilarious Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek’s Uhura), Alec Mapa (as a closeted teacher) and Jane Lynch (Best in Show).
Those with a taste for political satire might be checking out Josh Brolin’s take on Dubya in Oliver Stone’s W. … myself, I can’t see the movie being any more ridiculous than the real thing, and I still haven’t forgiven Stone for the unforgivably wretched World Trade Center, so I’ll likely be skipping it.
And we’ve already discussed Sex Drive, so … my recommendation for bang-for-your-buck is actually to go see Quarantine, now in its second week of release. It’s clever, fast, and fun, Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter) is great, and Jay Hernandez (Friday Night Lights, Hostel) and Jonathan Schaech (The Doom Generation) provide some good eyecandy. Seriously, it’s October! Get scared a little!
On to the small screen …
Tonight we’ve got a new episode of The Starter Wife, or as I like to call it, The Nonstarter Wife, as it doesn’t really have many fans here. But tonight we at least get to see Rodney (Chris Diamantopoulos) in the buff, which is probably enough to tune in for. Oh wait, here’s a clip!
You can thank us later.
Sunday there’s a new True Blood, and while Lafayette doesn’t have too much to do (although he does have another run-in with the hicks who didn’t want to eat his "AIDS burger") there are some interesting developments, including a mysterious new love interest for Jason (played by the Hipster Chick from Cloverfield) and a return of the vamps (including gay Malcolm) from earlier in the season.
This week’s True Blood has also got a ton of bare man-buns in it … if you’re into that kind of thing. And do be sure to check in on Monday for our recap and the next Blood Work vlog, which I can tell you follows the beefcake theme of the episode quite nicely …
Elisabeth Moss and Edin Gali from Mad Men
After last week’s Mad Men I’m dying to see what’s going on with Sal (Bryan Batt) and new gay Kurt, but it doesn’t look like they’ll be prominently featured in this Sunday’s episode. But Queen Bee Joan introduces her hot fiance around the office, which should be a riot.
Up next: Lots more gay TV!
AND THE GAYS JUST KEEP ON COMIN’…
Seriously, maybe that GLAAD report really was on to something, because this week’s gay TV listings are taking way longer than I’d expected … but I must sally forth!
If you haven’t been watching TNT’s legal drama Raising the Bar (which among its central cast features Jonathan Scarfe as closeted gay lawyer Charlie Sagansky), next Monday’s episode might be a good time to watch, as it features the most action for Charlie in regards to his gayness. Considering that most of the action in general for Charlie has been in his confounding sexual affair with an insane judge played by Jane Kaczmarek, it’s about time the show dug a little deeper into his gay side, and for the most part the episode is pretty solid.
Raising the Bar’s Jonathan Scarfe
Charlie has been seeing a gay fashion designer name Rafael (played by gay actor Wilson Cruz) on the side, and in Monday’s episode Rafael is picked up for giving an undercover cop Ecstasy at a party. Rafael turns to Charlie for help and Charlie can’t turn him down, but also isn’t willing to come out, so he has to do some serious string-pulling behind the scenes.
Ultimately he has a serious talk with Rafael about how their differences are deeper than out vs. closeted, and Jerry (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), who has been helping Rafael for Charlie knowing full well why but not asking, finally calls him on it and gives him the chance to come out, leading to a rather touching moment between the two.
I don’t like legal procedurals and honestly haven’t watched the show before, but I thought the situation was handled pretty well and found all the actors likable in their roles (less Charlie, as he’s in some serious denial). Probably the most notable element was Jerry’s continued, unconditional support of Charlie; he obviously knows that his friend is struggling with his sexuality and tries to make it as easy for him as possible to come out, and makes the observation that being gay is not a big deal anymore, but being a branded a liar is. (He also goes on to list a handful of out gay judges, one of which is Judge Ventimiglia, who appears several times throughout the episode without wearing a big gay hat or anything.)
It’s at least unique to see a gay character’s coming out in this manner … although I understand that in subsequent episodes things aren’t handled quite as well. In the meantime, Monday’s ep is worth checking out.
Also on Monday we’ve got more Lance Bass on Dancing with the Stars, and a new episode of Shirts & Skins, which I’ll admit has become a guilty pleasure for me.
Tuesday’s the big Greek finale … with Calvin (Paul James) split from Michael and headed back toward Heath, will we see an official reunion before the year is out? I’ve been a fan of the show since the start, so I might be a bit biased in saying that if you’ve been missing Greek you’ve been missing out … but here’s a handy collection of Calvin’s most recent scenes, to catch you up if you want to tune in for the finale. (Big thanks to Anthony for the clips!)
We’ve also got a double-dip of JanDick with a Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency reunion/clip show and the season finale, which promises all sorts of shock and awe. Did I say "awe"? I meant "abs". Oh, and Katie Holmes starts her arc on Eli Stone (including musical numbers!), if you’re into that kind of thing.
Wendesday brings a new Top Design, and a very special gay guest judge: Simon Doonan, aka Mr. Jonathan Adler, swings by to judge a challenge that asks the competitors to design a room around a chandelier. I’m a huge Doonan fan, so I’ll be tuning in for this one despite the fact that the show generally puts me to sleep.
Justin meets his match on this week’s Ugly Betty
Next Thursday’s Ugly Betty brings wee Justin (Mark Indelicato) back into the mix, when the youngest (and most fabulous, sorry Hilda!) Suarez auditions for Billy Elliot on Broadway and comes up against a "bully" named Randy, who may wind up being more of a friend than a foe. We have more snaps over here, and we’ll definitely be watching to see what develops with this new relationship. There’s also a new Survivor (with gay lawyer Charlie still among the castaways) and more Sarah Silverman lunacy for gay besties Brian and Steve.
And that’s next week! Now let me get out of the way so that y’all can have the Best.Gay.Week.Ever!