Friday, February 22, 2019

And Then There's Tempus: Lorry & Clark Continued, Season 2

Other Themes/Plots in Season 2:

Reappearance of Lex: Some of the Lex episodes get downright strange. In response, I made Lorry as dry and bemused as possible. His initial reaction to Lex's reappearance is to apologize for not paying part of the wedding costs.

“That’s not the point!” Lex yells.

For Lex, the point is Lorry’s lack of “proper” feeling. He ought to have been obsessing over Luthor all these months while Lorry simply feels sad and weirded out.

Tempus shows up for the first time: In my version, Tempus is STILL Lane Davies. Come on, it has to be. (That voice!)

In my version, yes, Tempus blames Superman and Lorry for creating a future of peace including unremitting, unstoppable, irritating tolerance (some funny quips about label-happy-politically-correct-word-police could be delivered here).

The truth is, like many zealots, Tempus has fixated on a person/couple/group he can blame. In truth, many factors went into this utopian future. Still, H.G. Wells doesn't see why Superman & Lorry should pay for Tempus's bigotry.

Superman/Clark and Lorry do stop Tempus and arrange for Martha and Jonathan to rescue baby Clark. This begins a thread that is picked up in Season 4: Does Lorry/Lois really want to have kids? Lorry never thought about adoption or surrogacy (despite becoming a foster parent for the sake of a gay rights story--see "Smart Kids," Season 1). Now, he begins to wonder if he might be a dad someday.

Introduction of Red Kryptonite: In "Individual Responsibility," Lorry is alarmed when Superman, under the influence of red kryptonite, lets crimes go forward around him. Clark makes the argument, “Hey, Superman can’t be responsible for everything.” Lorry realizes that he takes a certain amount of commitment from Clark and from Superman for granted—and that he, Lorry, likes that commitment.

Speaking of nature . . .

In the episode following "Individual Responsibility" ("Whine, Whine, Whine"), the plot from the original series proceeds against a background of Martin Mull providing facts about animal mating practices. It is fairly hilarious.

I would keep this (and Martin Mull) but add in animal mating practices that include homosocial behavior, such as male dolphin sex play and the male flamingos who raised a child.

Coming Next: Clark & Lorry in Season 3, Engaged or Not?

Monday, February 18, 2019

Age and Art

In a single manga, drawings of characters can vary. This is, in fact, one of the inviting things about drawn comics as opposed to photonovels.

What drawn images mean, however, is that a character in a single manga or graphic novel can vary in appearance. Marriage counselor Serizawa from The Love Guide by Ayano Yamane looks his assigned age in the first panel (20-ish), somewhat younger in the second. Out of curiosity, I examined multiple panels closely to figure out the difference.

Close examination is how cartoonists, mangaka, graphic artists, and anime artists work. With Gollum, for example, from day 1, Jackson et al. used minute details plus Andy Serkis's facial expressions to give Gollum a personality. (Of course, this type of thing can create the uncanny valley.)

In the case of Serizawa, what makes a person older? How do we humans age?
1. Longer chin
2. More defined nose
3. Not quite so large eyes
4. Wider mouth proportionally
For example, here is Harry Potter younger and Harry Potter older both from Chambers of Secrets, movie and poster (aging teenagers must cause havoc with director continuity):

I took a young image of Serizawa and aged it. Here is the result:

Which basically means that I'm no artist. But the result is interesting--this image does look older than its original, which has taught me something about how people age and how people see and how much we take for granted with what we see. Most of the time, we readers think, "Oh, he looks younger," not, "Why does he look younger?"

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Thoughts on Sex in the 80s & 90s: Clark & Lorry Continued

Season 2

The biggest issue in Season 2 is Why don't Clark & Lorry have sex when they start dating? To maintain the original order of events/episodes, they mustn't, but what's the reason?

The original Lois & Clark aired in the 1990s. These are the X-Files years where Chris Carter simply ignored the issue of sex regarding his main characters for six plus seasons. And it worked!

On the other hand, sex was a major topic in popular culture. Just about every 1980s-early-90s sitcom had THAT episode, the one where the teenager decides to have sex and the parents have to prove how supportive and non-judgmental they are. For that matter, the 80s/90s were also the years when well-meaning adults got nutty about labels. LGBT teens were supposed to come out as some kind of message to the universe and a boost to their own self-esteem, a forced confessional that I criticize here (as do many M/M writers).

The topic is still omnipresent but not as frantically discussed. Some people will claim that this is because teens having sex/people having sex before marriage has become too much of a norm. The truth is, the number of teens engaging in sex has decreased in the last ten years. In fact, Castle took for granted that Alexis would wait until college. And while that was far less likely with Mandy from Last Man Standing, there was no corresponding pressure placed on Eve to "grow up right now." (Not that any guy without massive self-confidence would mess with Eve anyway--see above image.)

Sex is no longer being used as a coming-of-age ritual, not to the same degree as it was thirty plus years ago.

Still, in television world, if two adults with no religious upbringing don't sleep together before getting married or moving in together, the question of "Why?" arises. What's the background?

My background for Lorry and Clark is as follows:

Lorry, somewhat more than Clark, was a geeky guy in high school. He came out in college at the same time that he grew several inches and got downright good-looking. However, he has never fully accepted that he is an attractive guy. 

Lorry has great insecurity about relationships, which was compounded in college by the Linda King episode (see "The Rival" from Season 1). Lorry was dating a confused guy whom Linda stole away. This event is one reason Lorry is so definite about never dating a guy who isn't totally and completely 100% out. He is wary with Clark, whom he doesn't entirely trust until the end of Season 3. And he is tired of having his heart stomped all over. He has more sexual experience in some ways than Clark but that experience is fairly limited. 

In many ways, Clark has a much broader view and understanding of sexuality than Lorry. Although he didn't come out to his parents until moving to Metropolis, he traveled a great deal after college and and consequently had experiences that actually make Lorry look a tad naive--which is something of a staggering revelation to Lorry who has to readjust his image of Clark as the naive country boy (Clark is--and isn't).

However, Clark has never "gone all the way," due to the issue that Kingdom Come references as does Hancock--namely that gods may require other gods when it comes to sex. Clark doesn't know what his limits are. Hey, nobody has ever mentioned that Jor'El included sex education in his messages to his son (although it can be assumed he did in the first Christopher Reeve's movie).

So Clark and Lorry are cautious, which doesn't preclude other approaches. But cautious. Which keeps the timeline intact and makes it possible to put off the episode "Soul Mates" until the fourth season.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Male Superman Male Lois: Clark & Lorry Continued . . . Season 2

Season 2

Lorry & Superman: Lois has always maintained that she sees Superman as a person. Clark disbelieves this. However, throughout Season 2, Lois--and therefore, Lorry--do a number of things that prove their claim correct. During various visits, Lorry gives Superman a kid's medal as a joke, asks him his favorite color, invites him to dance, and takes care of him when he is blind.

I played around with the dialog in the episode where Superman goes temporarily blind. Superman tells Lois/Lorry that he wants to be the best superhero he can be, blind or not. Lois naturally totally supports this. Teri Hatcher is capable of reeling off entirely sentimental and maudlin dialog without a wince.

However, the sentiment on the original show got a bit much as the seasons went on (and some of the plots got overwhelmingly byzantine). Lorry also supports Superman's decision to be the best blind superhero ever. But he's a bit more sardonic. Here's my dialog:
  Superman/Clark says, "We are all put on this planet, any planet, for a purpose. Too Hallmark?”
  "Yeah,” Lorry replies, “but you mean it, so it’s cool."
Mayson Drake: Mayson Drake is one character, other than Lois, that I changed in terms of gender/biology--in this case, from female to male. Mayson became Mason, the first gay man other than Lorry to show any interest in Clark romantically. The experience throws Clark for a loop. He came out to Lorry at the end of Season 1 for the sake of that relationship. It never occurred to him that he might have other options.

Clark's concern gives rise to one of my favorite exchanges (from the original with edits):
Clark Kent: Mason likes me, Clark, but he detests Superman. Which is kinda confusing because Lorry admires Superman but only likes Clark. Mason likes Clark, but in a different way than Lorry, and Mason detests Superman in a way that's different from anybody.
Martha Kent: Oh, Clark, I've been afraid something like this was going to happen.
Clark Kent: What?
Martha Kent: You're beginning to talk about yourself in the third person.
Mason's arrival in their lives eventually inspires Clark to ask Lorry on a date--and encourages Lorry to accept.

The next Lorry & Clark post will address the problem of Clark & Lorry & sex . . . 

Lorry and Clark's first date--and yes, Bones fans, that's Bones & Booth.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Myth Meets History: YMCA

When I was growing up, people made jokes about the YMCA being "gay." Throughout my childhood, the YMCA was about as thoroughly suburban, conservative, and middle-class as an institution can get. And focused almost exclusively on children. I learned to swim at the YMCA as a kid.

So I dismissed the comments as something to do with the YMCA song. It was myth, falling into the same category as "Halloween candy is full of razor-blades." Somebody told a story and that story grew . . .

It turns out, there is a connection between the YMCA and gay culture. It's a fascinating tangled thread that goes, as far as I can figure out from credible research, something like this:

1. Post-Civil War, the United States was trying to find ways for the nation to pull together. There was also an influx of immigrants. WASP leaders saw a need to create a coherent national narrative AND to train new immigrants in the way of American, Christian life. This meant finding an attractive Christian message.

2. The attractive Christian message was an offshoot of muscular Christianity--the use of gyms and fitness and the outdoors to give people purpose, attract them to form communities. During the late nineteenth century, people were also becoming interested in National parks, different types of diets, outdoor scouting, and other keys to a well-rounded existence.

It is easy to be obnoxious and scornful of these (frankly) paternal (and maternal) movements, mostly led by a bunch of Protestant White People who wanted to save everyone. But many of these efforts were well-meant. And some of them did a great deal of good with a surprising degree of objective goodwill.

Muscular Christianity worked--at least for awhile--because male affection was not yet as fully stigmatized as it became (a stigma that is only beginning to fade now). That is, the pictures to the left do not automatically denote homosexual relationships.

Or not.

And therein lies the tension. As J. Edgar Hoover well-knew, without intrusive home listening devices, what happens behind closed doors is a hidden truth. Absent a secret police, nosy neighbors, and McCarthy-like paranoia, a discrete homosexual is not going to be caught.

3. The YMCA was safe for gay men. The gyms and baths were largely unmonitored due to lack of funds and mind-your-own-business nineteenth century attitudes--which extended to prostitution, at least for awhile. YMCAs didn't get raided (until the early 1900s). Bohemians tended to congregate elsewhere. But for men who wanted to experiment, men who thought they weren't gay, men who were closeted (and sometimes married), and men who were anxious about going to jail, the YMCA was a haven.

"Cruising" was a regular occurrence in the YMCA through the late 1800s into the early 1900s. 

4. Scandals did break, of course. (Conspiracies, even unintentional conspiracies, and talkative human nature do not mix well.) The reaction was a growing stigma of male affection--platonic or not. What the YMCA started out by extolling became problematic behavior that embarrassed the institution publicly.

When a culture relies largely on self-monitoring, stigma is the default position. Other far more restrictive cultures may not have the same stigmas.

The stigma of male physical affection is beginning to fade. Leonard can say wryly about Sheldon, "Well, maybe we are a gay couple."

Friday, February 1, 2019

Romances with Humor: Loretta Chase

Humor in romances has followed a weird path. Go back to the nineteenth century and one gets wit and biting social commentary.

During the twentieth century, with the notable exception of Georgette Heyer, romances were often tiresomely serious. Irony was dead. "Funny" took the form of teasing and cute: cute puppies, cute romance cards, cute children, cute proposals. Think of the dead seriousness of high school prom invitations. In my day, a high premium was placed on being over-the-top sweet, meaning inviters were expected to issue the invitation in a really, really adorable and unusual way: through a cassette, through a balloon bouquet, etc.

This is the level of humor suffusing a great deal of romance literature in mid-twentieth century romance novels. "And then they both ended up on the same cruise! It was so funny!!"

Where's Daria when you need her?

Nowadays, it is almost de rigueur--thankfully--for romances to use humor of the more rigorous kind: sarcasm (which can backfire), wit (which doesn't).

Loretta Chase is one of the best at humorous romances. She writes traditional romances (M/F), and they never fail to appreciate (this is difficult since romance writers, like any writers who have to continually produce, can run out of steam).

Some of my favorite Loretta Chases:
Mr. Impossible
Mr. Perfect
Lord of Scoundrels
Scandal Wears Satin (my favorite of the Dressmakers' Series)
Don't Tempt Me
Manga version of Mr. Impossible
Chase has the skill to create feisty female characters who are not simply defined by their feistiness. And she creates heroes who are ironic in a blithe sort of way. In Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase, the hero Rupert Carsington--who was sent off to Egypt by his father to keep him out of trouble--wonders "if [the heroine] was counting to ten. People often did that when conversing with him." Chase's heroes and heroines have brains and hearts, interests and goodness and wit.

In conversations, the exchanges can ramp up to The Thin Man territory as in the antique discussions in Lord of Scoundrels. This exchange from The Thin Man echoes the cadence of Loretta Chase's novels:
Nick: Now, how did you ever remember me?
Dorothy: Oh, you used to fascinate me. A real live detective. You used to tell me the most wonderful stories. Were they true?
Nick: Probably not.
Chase's novels are also clever--with plot lines that converge like those in an Oscar Wilde play. Scandal in Satin is a particularly good example here, employing wit, disguise, break-ins, and other entanglements. Plus a very witty heroine. And an amazingly insouciant hero. 

A full list of Loretta Chase's books can be found here.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Assumptions about Singles Plus Romances, Part 2

Assumption 2: A single person must have ________________ orientation (fill in the blank). 

The second assumption often made about singles is that they MUST be a particular orientation, such as...

How the blank gets filled rather depends on who is talking. Keep in mind, the insistence on a label can come as much from the left as from the right.  People who love labels just, well, love them.

The closest label that matches me is hetero-demisexual. I have never had to put up with the kind of "bashing" that LGBT kids have to endure. But I understand, to a degree, the gap between what society feels comfortable with and the category or understanding (since no label is all-encompassing) that I have of myself. There's also the shaming that can ensue when my reactions don't line up to social expectations or, oddly enough, when the label is perceived as more real than my actual decisions. Despite the glut of personality tests on the Internet, wiring and experience, reactions and choices do come first, not the other way around.

Romance literature, erotic and more chaste, is quite good at addressing the variety of reactions that people have when it comes to taste and preferences, even, for that matter, addressing the reality of sexual desire itself--and how people can ache when perception and reality fail to match up.

Classic Approach: In Jane Eyre, Jane passionately cries out against Rochester's supposed interest in another woman. Despite the later reference to "spirit" in the below passage, yeah, she's talking about sex (in fact, Bronte was more straightforward about sex than the seriously repressed writers of nearly 100 years later--check out Henry James and Edith Wharton and then ponder why a bunch of bohemians can't be as honest as a vicar's daughter).
States Jane Eyre: "Do you think I am an automaton?–a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong!–I have as much soul as you,–and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you."
In the novel, most of the characters--with the exception of Rochester--perceive Jane's status and appearance as out of sync with her desires. Except for Helen Burns who is nevertheless rather critical of Jane's passionate nature.

M/M Approach: In Unsuitable Heir, KJ Charles addresses not only Penn's difficulty in labeling himself gender-wise (he uses "he" for convenience) but also his catholic yet fastidious demands in the bedroom. He is willing to try almost anything but not always. And some days, not at all, no way. Mark, the ultimate go-with-the-flow character, doesn't mind (just to be clear--another lover might; sexual issues supply some of the biggest problems in relationships). I discuss Penn more here.

Despite some issues I have with some of Heidi Cullinan's books, I admire Antisocial in which one of the M/M characters is what is often referred to as graysexual. He is terrified to admit to having attitudes and reactions out of sync with what a young man of his age is "supposed" to have.

Favorite Manga: In Apple & Honey, His Rose-Colored Life by Hideyoshico, the characters tackle the issue of labels, namely, the unease between what the label says and how they each feel. Is being gay the same as wanting to be a girl? Is being supposedly straight that conclusive a definition? Do labels imply actual physical differences and/or differences in terms of desire?

Both characters are fairly normal college students. They like having sex and have it regularly. But the issues that haunt them are how they define themselves separately, then together: who am I? Do I know? With or without labels, how genuine are we as a couple? 

I read an interesting review of this manga series in which a college professor, self-described as gay, stated that he uses the manga series in one of his classes, adding that he believes it perfectly captures the questions that a young, gay man asks himself.

Speaking of manga, I discuss here the tendency for reviewers of manga to be entirely dismissive of flexibility in sexual preferences (remember those people who love labels?). Luckily, there is plenty of literature and manga out there which avoid labels as absolutes. Many of these stories intelligently address the tension between reality and (personal, social) perception, demonstrating an appreciation for complexity.