Dec 15, 2017

70 Years of Archie Beefcake

For over 70 years, Archie Andrews and his pals and gals have been presenting an idealized portrait of the American teenager, with countless thousands of comic book stories, plus cartoons, tv series, radio series, movies, and songs.  Preteens look to Archie for a glimpse of their future, and adults, for a nostalgic look at their past.  And gay boys can find in Archie comics more shirtless and swimsuit-clad hunks than anywhere else in children's literature.

I wanted to see how Archie and the gang have changed over the years, becoming more and more buffed, more defined to meet the changing expectations of masculine beauty.






1948.

Archie is thin, even underdeveloped, with little attention to realism in his arms and shoulders.  He looks like a cartoon character.












1959.

Archie and Jughead appear in the Dan Montana house style, with some indication of pecs and maybe a line down the stomach to indicate abs.











1973.

When I was reading Archie comics as a kid, there was a lot more attention to the detail of pecs, shoulders, and biceps, particularly in the "muscle bound" Big Moose.











1989

The guy's got a chest and abs, but no biceps.
















2002.

A rather realistic Archie, with chest, abs and biceps.













2013

Whoa, Reggie's got a 6-pack, plus shoulders, pecs, and biceps.  Of course, he's parodying the tv show Jersey Shore, but still, he's come a long way in 70 years.









Dec 14, 2017

Jonathan Taylor Thomas



Born in September 1981, Jonathan Taylor Thomas (JTT) became a star at age 11 through Home Improvement (1991-1998), playing Randy, the middle son of macho tool-show host Tim Allen. He was passive and somewhat feminine, gay-coded yet indefatigably girl-crazy from the start, and careful to rebel against any hint that he might be gay.

In “Groin Pull” (October 1992), Randy is cast as Peter Pan in the school play.  First he is horrified because he must “prance” rather than fly: as his father states, “Men don’t prance.  We walk, we run, we skip if no one’s looking. . .but we never prance!”  Then he discovers that Peter Pan is generally played by a woman, and almost drops out of the play, before Dad confinces him that he can re-create the role as heterosexual, “a man’s man. . .a man with hair on his chest.”  And it works: Randy comes home after the performance and exclaims triumphantly, “I saw Jennifer looking at me!"



The pubescent Jonathan Taylor Thomas soon began to dominate the teen magazines.  There are literally thousands of pin-ups and centerfolds, far overwhelming those featuring the more muscular Zachery Ty Bryan, who played his older brother, or Taran Noah Smith, who played his younger brother, or their various hunky friends (such as Josh Blake of Alf).

. His character became a teen dream operator, intensely attractive to girls -- never to boys -- and intensely heterosexually active and aware.

But Randy was not content to be just another of the girl-crazy hunks who populated 1990s tv.  He often supported liberal causes, in opposition to his conservative father, and his episodes often drew the series into serious themes, such as Randy questioning his religion or facing a possible cancer diagnosis. When JTT left the series in 1998, it was explained that Randy had been accepted into a year-long environmental study program in Costa Rica.



In his other projects, JTT more than made up for the "every girl's fantasy" plotlines of his conservative tv series.  He enjoyed a buddy-bonding romance with Brad Renfro in Tom and Huck (1995), and with Devon Sawa in Wild America (1997).  He played a bisexual hustler in Speedway Junky (1999), opposite Jesse Bradford, and a gay teenager in Common Ground (2000).











2 gay/bi roles in two years!  The gay rumors came fast and furious, but JTT, like his character on Home Improvement, always denied them: he said he didn't mind, but they made his elderly grandmother upset.

He moved into voice work, guest starred on Smallville, and went to college, graduating from Columbia University in 2010 with a degree in history.

 In 2011, tv personality Lo Bosworth re-ignited the rumors by stating that he was gay on the Chelsea Lately program.

There's a sausage sighting story on Tales of West Hollywood


West Side Story: Stick to the East Side


When I was in high school, we had to read West Side Story in conjunction with Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.  They were even bound together, in the same book.  Plus the orchestra played highlights from the score.  So I got a double dose, and I hated every moment of it.

Was there ever anything more heterosexist?










It's about two rival gangs in New York City, the Jets (white) and the Sharks (Puerto Rican).  Tony, a retired member of the Jets, meets a girl named Maria, who happens to be the sister of Bernardo, leader of the Sharks.  Guess what happens?

Right.  The Jets hate Maria, the Sharks hate Tony, conflict, conflict, conflict, our love will triumph, fight at the gym, death, everybody's sad.

A flame of heteronormativity envelops songs like "Maria" and "One Hand, One Heart."

Plus all of the Jets and Sharks have girlfriends.  Every one of them.

The most you can hope for is the tiniest bit of chest-pounding, girl-chasing buddy-bonding between Tony and Riff (the leader of the Jets), and Bernardo and his right-hand man Chino.

Horrible.  Absolutely unwatchable.

Which is surprising, when you consider that the writer Arthur Laurents, composer Leonard Bernstein, and lyricist Stephen Sondheim were all gay (see Hello, Dolly! for another example).

And about half of the cast members.

There isn't even any beefcake: the high-stepping hunks never take off their shirts.  Not once.


The original Broadway musical starred Larry Kert (Tony), Carol Lawrence (Maria), Michael Callan (Riff), Ken Le Roy (Bernardo), Jamie Sanchez (Chino),

The 1961 movie starred Richard Beymer (Tony, left), Natalie Wood (Maria), George Chakiris (Bernardo), Russ Tamblyn (Riff), and Jose de Vega (Chino).

Many other hunks have played Tony, such as Colt Prattes (top photo) and Matthew Cavenaugh.

Including some gay ones.

I can not figure out why.

See also: Leonard Bernstein's Mass; Michael Callan: A Gay Guy and His Pretend Wife.