Monday, February 14, 2022


What the world needs now is love sweet love.  Jackie DeShannon took Burt Bacharach and Hal David's song into the top ten in 1965.  Many others have covered the song including Nell Carter serving up an inspiring version in an episode of GIMMIE A BREAK and Dionne Warwick recording it multiple times over the years (her EP FRESH TAKES, released last week, for example offers a version of the song she;s been recording repeatedly since 1966).  All this time later, the world still needs love.

It also needs to grow the hell up.



Watching REACHER on AMAZON and IN FROM THE COLD on NETFLIX, we were reminded of that.


That's not a slam on either show -- we highly recommend both.  

REACHER stars Alan Ritchson and, we're not complaining, his curvy butt -- continuing a tradition dating back to at least TITANS on which he played Hawk and, let's not forget, it's the same hot ass that Simon Cowell reached for when Alan sang "You Are The Sunshine of My Life" to Paula Abdul on AMERICAN IDOL.  The six-foot-two-inch actor  registers a very strong physical impression.  Maybe that's why his acting hasn't gotten the acclaim it deserves?

REACHER is an action-adventure series built around the character of Jack Reacher from the Lee Child novels.  Reacher was trained in the military and is now out (of the military -- out of the military only, be great if we had a gay action character as a lead in an AMAZON series).  He gets into various scraps in the novels, in the films starring Tom Cruise and now in the AMAZON series.

It's not an acting role, not on the page.  You have to fill it out and that's especially true in the series.  They've given him so damn little in the script and apparently wrote it for a 70s Charles Bronson.  Again, the world needs -- now -- both love and to grow the hell up.  Fortunately, Alan's smart enough to bring his own style -- which is more than current -- into the role and breathe life into it.  He floods it with charm and a warmth that cold, inexpressive (to the point of wooden) Bronson never could.

That's important because, as hot as Alan is, as Shirley MacLaine says in TERMS OF ENDEARMENT, "Gorgeous isn't everything."  If Alan was just coasting on his looks, we'd still be thrilled with the shower scene he has with Willa Fitzgerald (Roscoe) but we wouldn't really care if the two made it beyond one quick hump.  We also wouldn't care about the death of his brother.  That's the event that keeps him in a town he was just wondering through.  And the script doesn't provide Alan with much but he brings out the pain in looks, in varying his vocal reactions and in his body tension.  Yes, Alan is something to look at, to marvel over, but, if you pay attention, you also see he's also a very strong actor.  

That should have been obvious on TITANS when a number of the audience wished they'd killed off the moralizing and inept Dick Grayson (portrayed by the strangely faced Brenton Thwaites  -- enjoy whatever thrills you can take from him now, that face will not age well).  Maybe the nude scene distracted from the power of Hawk dying in the episode?  


Alan's helped by strong performances from Willa, Malcolm Goodwin (police detective Oscar Finlay), Maria Sten (Reacher's former military buddy Neagley), Martin Roach (FBI agent Picard) and Kristin Kreuk (the BEAUTY & THE BEAST and BURDEN OF TRUTH star first worked with Alan when he played Aquaman on SMALLVILLE).  Special praise goes to Kristin who plays a victim and could have left her a ditz but made some strong choices -- not on the page -- which gave her character a spine and a brain. 


If REACHER -- already one of AMAZON's most streamed series to date -- has a weakness, it is the script.  There are no real surprises so don't expect any suspense over who the bad guys are -- you know all along.  Trust your instinct on one that you keep thinking, "I must be misunderstanding" -- you're not.  The people making this just hope you're really slow and won't grasp that a car parked outside and spying on what is basically a person in protective custody just managed to show up -- and just managed to show up when it's first noticed.

The real story of REACHER is that Alan's a star.  And that Tom Cruise should find another character to play.  Never having been closeted lesbians (Rosie O'Donnell, for example), we've never felt the need to be impressed by Tom Cruise.  Yes, we enjoyed his BVD dance in RISKY BUSINESS (less so Nick Jonas' attempt to recreate it in the video for "What A Man Gotta Do" which was far less adventurous and, honestly, rather bland).  TOP GUN has always bored us to tears but, yes, we've been in stores before where the big TV on display had the film on and we've stopped a moment to watch Tom wander, teary eyed, through the latrine in, what else, his tighty whitey's once more.  And having seen that, we honestly feel we've seen everything that Tom Cruise could ever offer.  Brian De Palma used him wisely in the first MISSION IMPOSSIBLE.  In the second MI, Thandiwe Newton had a chemistry with Tom -- something only one other woman has ever had onscreen with him (Rebecca De Mornay).  And that's really it.  JERRY MAGUIRE?  There was more heat between him and Jonathan  Lipnicki than between him and Renee  Zellweger.  

Like Joan Crawford, he's somehow managed to hang around.  Now Joan had talent -- though she became a caricature as time went on.  Tom?  Not showing in any of the roles he's played.  Like Joan, he shot to fame for stripping down for a dance -- Joan in OUR DANCING DAUGHTERS and Tom did the same in RISKY BUSINESS.  Joan went on to be a film star for the 20s, the 30s, the 40s, the 50s and the 60s -- top billed star for five decades, something very few ever achieve.*  Tom's been a film star of the 80s, the 90s, the 00s, the 10s and now the 20s -- five decades as well.  After five decades as a film star, Joan had to move over to TV exclusively and maybe it's time Tom did as well?

Watching REACHER with Alan (who at 39, is no 'youngster'), you realize just how physical the part of Jack Reacher should be and how clearly Tom has failed at that in the films JACK REACHER and JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK.  Harrison Ford stopped playing a similar genre character, Jack Ryan (from the Tom Clancy novels) at the age of 52.  Though it's hard to determine Tom's current age by looking at his heavily upholstered face, he, in fact, turn 60 this summer and he is, in fact, way too old to be playing Jack Reacher -- or, for that matter, Ethan Hunt, unless the next installment in that franchise is MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 7: OVERCOMING THE BROKEN HIP.


The realities of age are the realities that the entertainment industry has long allowed male actors to avoid -- by pairing them with women half their age and by pretending they're still capable of being action stars.  Women, Joan Crawford excepted, are generally quickly put out to pasture.  


Women also are treated in condescending ways.  Strength?  It's been absent from women's portrayals in entertainment.  


Oh, sure, if you go to song, you can argue that Nancy Sinatra sang "These Boots Are Made For Walking" but the reality is that she walked right out of strength after that hit, she quickly ended up doing sickening duets with Lee Hazlewood and, sadly, her own father (not for nothing was "Something Stupid" dubbed "the incest song").  Lesley Gore may have had a hit with "You Don't Own Me" but she followed it up with "That's The Way Boys Are" and other garbage.  Carly Simon had the strength to compose and perform "You're So Vain" but was following that up with weaker songs -- and, of course, with "Slave" (which she wrote with Jacob Brackman, "I'm just another woman raised to be a slave," she sings).  Strength, for women, was a one-off.   Or, worse, something to run from.  By the 80s, Pat Benatar had built up her operatic range as the perfect vehicle for tough stances -- "Treat Me Right," "Love Is A Battlefield," "Invincible," "Heartbreaker," "Hell Is For Children," etc.  But she quickly turned her career over to Neil Giraldo and the hits just stopped coming.  Pat the submissive wife wasn't selling.  We've commented on how she destroyed her own career many times but we want to draw your attention one more time to "Life is too short, Pat, so why waste precious time?" -- our piece on her ridiculous 2019 tour billed as Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo 1979 -  2019: 40th Anniversary Tour.  No one ever paid a dime for a ticket to see Neil Giraldo and the world doesn't know who he is.  Pat's on a suicide mission trying to inflate Neil's ego and it's a mission she forgot to include their daughter Hana on -- which is why, on E's RELATIVELY FAMOUS: RANCH RULES, when Hana introduces herself to the offspring of other famous parents, she says, "I'm Pat Benatar's daughter."  Like everyone but her own mother, Hana knows the world doesn't care about Neil Giraldo.  In "Tina Turner: A retrospective," we've already written of how this fear of strength in women harmed Tina on the charts.  You can also include Alanis Morissette as one who fell from the charts as she surrendered her own strength.

Today in songs that make the charts?  Pink's both an exception and a quandary.  Her work involves multiple levels and then you get the videos adding even more levels.  We see "Try" -- the song and the video -- as an expression of the need to own your actions and responsibilities -- a strong statement.  But we do understand others don't feel the same.  More often we get the insipid.  Taylor Swift's had a lot of success and the obvious question is: Why?  Like Aretha Franklin in her famous evaluation of Taylor, we really aren't all that impressed.  A bunch of feather weight songs that supposedly include a number of kiss-off songs but they all sound like they're sung by a meek 12-year-old, not like a 32-year-old woman.  Then there's highly embarrassing Billie Eilish who, especially since the release of her second album, seems little more than the wooden dummy of her ventriloquist older brother Finneas.  (Want to hear real art?  Skip Billie's two albums and stream Finneas' OPTIMIST.  That's art.)

In film and TV?  There have always been a Barbara Stanwyck or two who played strong women.  But they've been few and far between.  Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis and her friend Sigourney Weaver have carried on Stanwyck's mantle.  Sadly, there's been little real attempt to further develop strong women.  In 1991, we were all supposed to be applauding Jodie Foster's pathetic character in the homophobic and anti-woman SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.  A slasher film with a focused script (Ted Talley created the transitions in the script that allowed Jonathan Demme to finally make a coherent film -- each scene ends with a statement or an image leading into the next one), SILENCE OF THE LAMBS introduced 'strong' Clarice -- a Daddy's girl haunted by Daddy's death.  Jodie would play the same pathetic type in CONTACT and many other women would show up on TV and in film in action roles due to their Daddy issues.  Lamenting and mourning Daddy became the key to allowing women to fight back, to fight period.  It infantilized the female characters, but we were never supposed to notice that and, certainly, actresses like Jodie never copped to the reality of what they were actually playing.

REACHER has Roscoe and Neagley thick in the action.  Roscoe has lost her father . . . and her mother.  But she's not plagued by Daddy issues and there's no real backstory for Neagley -- a true wonder.  A woman can come on and do action scenes without the show runners or director feeling the need to explain how and why.

IN FROM THE COLD stars Marganta Levieva who is probably best known for playing the real Emily Thorne (Amanda Clarke's juvie cell mate on REVENGE).  It's an action thriller.  Jenny Franklin, Marganta's character, is actually a Russian spy and assassin who went into hiding in the US.  Cillian O'Sullivan plays CIA agent Chauncey (we're not doing spoilers) who blackmails Jenny to get her help on a mission that involves so much -- an assassination attempt, taking over people's minds and the attempted assassinations of a world leader and a possible US presidential candidate.

Along the way, we learn that Jenny has a super power.  But long before that emerges, we see her fighting and we never question her ability to take on this man or that woman.  The script says she's a former spy, we take it to be her training.  We don't need to hear about Daddy and how that haunts her and, good little girl, she's going to do this or that -- as instructed.  

No, she's a strong woman and an independent one -- watch the final scene of the season and grasp that there's one more twist in a series full of them -- one more twist right before the credits.

It's a series to watch.  

So is PEACEMAKER, as we told you last month.  We bring it up now because much was made of the latest episode confirming what was already known -- or should have been -- that the lead character played by John Cena is bisexual.  Did everyone miss the 'smiley face' in the first episode?  The object Vigilante commented on, laying out visible in the middle of Chris' living room, but didn't know what it was?  It's a fleshlight or flashjack.  Once known as pocket p**sies, these devices, even back when they were known as pocket-ps, have been used primarily by gay men and numerous gay porn stars promote them (and numerous gay porn videos feature them).  A bisexual male on a DC series finally and he's a lead.  Probably helped that Greg Berlanti wasn't involved in this DC show.  He's over so many of the others, after all: TITANS, SUPERMAN AND LOIS, LEGENDS OF TOMORROW, THE FLASH and the now-ended ARROW.  He could -- and has -- employed many gay actors, he just ran from putting gay male characters onscreen.  You have to wonder about the fear and self-hatred there.

Self-hatred's long been used to overlook the homophobia of some actors -- Will Smith, rumors insist, is gay.  We really don't care if he's gay or straight or bi, we just think he owes everyone a public apology.

ZOOM and the pandemic have meant that we do our various conversations over the internet.  No more are we able to go onto campuses or into union halls or whatever.  We miss the face to face, honestly.  But what we have on the plus side, the up -- as Mike would say, is that we've been able to expand the groups we speak to since we aren't traveling.  And one of the groups we've added a lot more of is LGBTQ groups.  

Things are better for young LGBTQs than they were for previous generations but things are still not where they should be.  As we've enlarged the scope of our groups, a friend who is a therapist asked if we'd mind speaking with her group.  They were nine gay men, in their forties, who basically did not feel listened by society or represented in the media.  Would we speak to them?  Being told that, we were dying to speak to them.  And we were not disappointed.

There's a story that's not really told and they brought it to the forefront (as have other gay male groups we've spoken to since).  We thank them for that.  Like them, we marvel over how this part of the story really isn't told.

Being gay is easier than it used to be. 20 years ago, or even just ten in some places, there was so much harassment.  We have honestly advised men who've shared their experiences to consider filing lawsuits.  And we're not joking and we're not litigious people.

Films and TV shows thought they were being 'sympathetic' and true telling of the gay kid in school who got picked on by some bully.  That's the story we've heard rejected over and over for the last five months from many different groups of gay men.

No, what we've heard is about how the whole school system was after you.  That was the bully, yes.  And there was usually a coach -- at least one -- and a principal egging them on.  Adults were around and they not only were not protecting these children, they were actively participating in harassing them.

And it was accepted back then.  It was 'normal.'  That's in part due to a point we've made here forever: the socialization of males by this society is one of bullying.  Toughen up, don't cry.  You can see it, as we've often noted, in two films from the 80s.  In both, two characters join the military and are treated horribly.  In the one about the male, AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN, Richard Gere is harassed by his drill sergeant (Louis Gossett Jr.) and, instead of rejecting that harassment, we are supposed to applaud it and feel all warm inside.  In the other, PRIVATE BENJAMIN, Goldie Hawn and her team get their revenge on the harasser (Eileen Brennan).  The male socialization is bullying in this society.  That's not acceptable (even with the well known existence of 'mean girls') when it comes to females.  

So sometimes, a gay man will offer that maybe the principal was trying to help him by bullying him, by mocking him in front of other students, by sneering at him and calling him a "fairy" and worse in front of the whole school assembly.

We say f**k that.  We say sue those assholes.  And what about statute of limitations?  Who cares.  File the paperwork, have it thrown of court as a result of being beyond some time limit.  But in between the those two moments, let that elderly abuser know that the world knows what he or she did.  And let them sweat it and let them be haunted by it.

They have made no effort to find these former children and apologize to them.  So f**k them.  To lead a school into targeting a young boy because he's gay?  You were an adult.  There's no excuse for what you did.  And if the court of law can't put you on notice, the court of public opinion certainly can.

NETFLIX is offering AMEND: THE FIGHT FOR AMERICA -- a documentary series.  Episode five is "Love."  Yes, what the world needs now.  Professor Martha S. Jones talks about the impact of LOVING V VIRGINIA -- a breakthrough case that especially impacted her life because her mixed race parents married years before the verdict in LOVING.  

This landmark case gets far less attention than it deserves.  We've noted it many times such as in 2008:

Loving v. Virginia was a breakthrough, a legal landmark, for the United States. In a debate, Barack Obama was asked, "Senator Obama, the laws banning interracial marriage in the United States were ruled unconstitutional in 1967. What is the difference between a ban on interracial marriage and a ban on gay marriage?" Obama mouthed a lot of nonsense about 'equality' and then went on to state it's a decision for different denominations to make. There should have been a gasp heard round the country.

Barack is a lawyer, a trained legal mind. Though we find it difficult to believe he's never studied Loving v. Viriginia (as difficult to believe as Clarence Thomas' Senate testimony that he'd never thought about Roe v. Wade), we'll allow that maybe it fell into some gap in his education. But as a trained legal mind, he does grasp court billing. "v. Virginia" means versus state. Not versus a denomination.

In that historic case, the Supreme Court of the United States found the laws of the state of Virginia to be unconstitutional and illegal. That finding meant that all states could no longer refuse to issue marriage certificates to couples of different races. Obama's weak-ass response should have been considered weak ass. (John Edwards also embarrassed himself in that debate noting he was against "gay marriage" and "I do not" support it leading us to shout back at the screen, "Gee, John, we weren't aware you were being inundated with proposals!") But it was also dishonest. A law student, forget the former president of the Harvard Law Review, grasps that Loving v. Virginia was not about whether "denominations" could make a decision, it was about what the government could do. To provide perspective, imagine the issue was illegal search and seizure on the part of the government (forbidden by the Constitution) and Obama had responded, "I think it's up to denominations." The government was discriminating and the Supreme Court stood up for the rights of all. A trained legal mind should grasp that. If Obama didn't, he's either not much of a student or he's a really bad liar.

It's good that the episode starts off with LOVING because that is at the root of equality.  And other cases are cited including LAWRENCE v TEXAS and the appalling BOWERS v HARDWICK.  Episode five revolves around the importance of The Fourteenth Amendment and how its importance and relevance leads to the historic OBERGEFELL v HODGES. 

We applaud much about the documentary but episode five, for all of its applause, also has to answer for something.


Will Smith produced the series.  And probably should have stayed off camera.  Why doesn't Will have an Oscar.  Well, Jada, it's partly because he's not really an actor -- don't confuse stardom with acting ability -- but it's also because of his hateful past which includes a lot of homophobia and Academy voters just don't embrace hatred and intolerance.


In episode five, Will declares of Cincinnati in the 70s, "The message to its LGBTQ citizens is be quiet, stay hidden or get out."  Will, could of course, admit that his message to the LGBTQ citizens has been be quiet, stay hidden, get out or be mocked and demonized.

That is what he has done.

Some try to argue that he's gay or bi in real life.  He presents as straight.  Take him at his word.  But even if he were choking a cock every night, that doesn't justify the damage he has done.  

Early on, he told MOVIELINE that the reason he wouldn't kiss Anthony Michael Hall in SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION -- as required in the script and has had happened when it was a stage production without Will Smith -- was because Denzel Washington told him not to.

Did Denzel tell him that?

We have no idea.  And the reason we have no idea is because Denzel, a movie star for decades, didn't go public.  If he was against gay people or playing one or whatever, he had the brains not to say so publicly.

Will didn't.  And this is throughout his career.   


Is he homophobic, we wanna know.


How can we tell what's in his soul? 

It's in his recordings: "All the filthy stinking nasty people be quiet. All the homeboys that got AIDS be quiet. All the girls out there that don't like guys be quiet."  It's in his films -- such as HANCOCK, and BAD BOYS 2It's in his red carpet encounters.**

Will gave interviews about how ''gross'' two men kissing were.  He's done that since, 1991. 

We can't tell what's in his soul, we can only register the meaning of his statements and his actions.

Now he just wants to act like it never happened?  Like decades of homophobia from a one-time action-movie star didn't have an impact:?

His comments egged on others as much as any teacher or principal at a school.

He needs to publicly apologize.  It's that simple.

We'll gladly forgive him.  But not without a public apology.  Again, we have no idea what Denzel thinks about LGBTQ people.  Fine.  He didn't blast hate in interview after interview.  Will Smith publicly made it an issue -- with his films, with his recordings, with his interviews and with his public actions.  He can't just sneak in with this documentary and act like the past didn't happen.  In episode six, he notes "change and growth" (with regards to The Fourteenth Amendment and immigration).  We can accept that he's changed and grown if he wants to apologize.  He and Jade aren't publicity shy and they certainly don't mind talking about themselves and their private lives -- be it her extra-marital affair or what have you.  So having caused so much damage to the way society saw the LGBTQ community, he needs to apologize.  If he does it with love, society can receive it with love.

The world needs more love and it needs more maturity.  More and more, entertainment offerings appear to be catching up with that realization.




*If you want to count the abomination that is 1970's TROG, you could argue Joan was a film star up to 1970 -- six decades.  We don't count it because it's a low budget, B-movie.  Not a studio film.  

** Yes, in this section we are riffing on "The Shoop-Shoop Song."

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