Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Duet In The Key Of Batshit Crazy

In high school I was bitten by a radioactive debate team captain. The incident gave me the ability to have lengthy arguments with myself about tedious, trivial subjects. This is also known as "youneedtogetafuckingfriend" disease and in most cases is treatable with therapy coupled with actually accepting invitations to social engagements.

Today, I will be discussing (with myself) whether the character of The Alchemist from my (and also my) favorite television show, The Venture Brothers, is a positive or negative portrayal of a gay man in the media. Let me begin.

I think the most tale-tell evidence to support the argument that the Alchemist is not intended to be a parody of gay men is that he is noticeably void of the stereotypical mannerisms often found in the token gay characters of "straight" media. He doesn't lisp, he doesn't gait, and he doesn't do that thing where you snap your fingers in a z formation and loudly proclaim "mmmmhmmmm". However, he does not come off as "straight acting" and is very out and proud about his identity.

"Very out and proud". That's a clever euphemism for "his sexuality is referenced in episode he appears in" if ever I did hear one. Do you have somewhere to be or something, or are you losing yourself this argument by accident? You can look at it one of two ways. Either the show thinks we're going to forget that Al is a 'mo, or the writers don't feel that he needs to have any other personality beyond being gay (which, by the way, is so 1998 sitcom). VB fans rival Lost fans in "holy shit is that a clue? look, a cultural reference!" retentiveness. We're about one plot twist away from "EPILEPTIC TREES!" We're well beyond "friendly reminders". I think we're doing the time warp again. 1998 ahoy!

I think you've just invented the rhetorical version of pouring cheap vodka through a charcoal filter, because I didn't detect a hint of sarcasm at your use of "retentiveness". And I would have to agree. Retentive is definitely a word I would use to describe fans who need to look up all the pop culture references on wikipedia and have to be reminded that no, that's not really David Bowie playing himself. That's how you do sarcasm. Pepsi Challenge that, motherfucker. This is not to suggest that VB or [as] fans are dumb. No, contrary to my love of self-abasement, I will concede that [as] viewers are some of the smartest in television. Still, that doesn't amount to jack shit when you consider that most pop culture references in Venture Brothers refer to people, places, and things beyond much of the core audience's generation. And that, I think, is what you, um...I, fail to compute. The show is a parody of old timey adventure franchises like Johnny Quest, Scooby Doo, and Doc Savage. Now, if The Alchemist was a character in Scooby Doo, we wouldn't be having this argument. He would have a rainbow colored robe, talk like Rip Taylor, insist that the kids call him "Auntie" and end every episode he was in about the importance about being true to yourself. So while you may find the constant referencing to his sexual proclivities demeaning, compared to the "source material" it's a big gay leap in a better direction.

Your mock scenario is problematic because 1) it's only a matter of time before you try to extract the gay themes in old Scooby Doo for another one of your essays and 2) you're omitting one of the most prevalent themes in LGBT portrayal in media, and that's ambiguity. We're in the 21st century and churches are calling for the still-beating heart of Spongebob Squarepants. In Superfriends-era television, there wouldn't have been so much as a saucy wink at the hunky male lead. They would have gone all "Cask of the Amantillado" on the Alchemist and tried to pave over his goofy mannerisms in subsequent episodes. But not in Venture Brothers. Every one not only acknowledges his gayness, but some go one further and harass him about it. Nobody mocks Colonel Gentleman for being bi, or King Gorilla for being...whatever the hell King Gorilla is. This is some selectively bizarro universe where people can accept mad scientists with invisible limbs and people waking up as caterpillars but shit their pants at the first homo they see.

Are you talking about the Venture Brother or Bible Camp?

I don't know.

In a show like King of the Hill or South Park where you have obvious author avatars, I could see your point. But look at Venture Brothers and see someone close enough to the finish line to be a voice for the creators? The burnt out fratricidal Dr. Venture? The pedophiliac Sgt Hatred? May I remind you that the only character in the show with at least half a suitcase of his shit together, Brock Samson, has been absent for the most of this season. The show's theme is failure, and most of the characters express their feelings about their failures in life by indifference and malice towards each other, which is surprisingly realistic for a show with hover bikes. So, in summary, Me-1, you-0.

You can't win an argument you have with yourself. The best you can hope for is a draw.

Shit, you're right.

Well at least we retained something from all that art school training. So, I've been meaning to ask me. What did you think of Titan Maximum?

I had really high hopes for it, but it left me wanting.

I thought the fight scenes could have been a little more played out.

The dialog could have used some serious punching up.

If it gets approved for another season and Superjail! isn't, I'm going to stop playing Amateur Surgeon out of protest.

I'm still waiting for that god damn DVD.

You should really go back to working on that comic of yours. Masterpieces like that take time. So, is it Issue 7 or 8 that Amelia Earhart blows up a zeppelin of Nazis?

Bite me, Lilith Fair.

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