Super-smart Matt Baume explores the cultural impact of the 1994 indie film, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, in the latest episode of his web series, Culture Cruise.
Baume’s popular series regularly takes a look at queer moments in TV and film that changed the world.
In 1994, a broken-down bus named Priscilla departed Sydney’s gay enclave, carrying three glamorous performers to the rural heart of Australia on the most perilous journey of their lives. And although only three of them set out in the film, they were soon followed in real life by an entire drag army.
Baume notes the film became so popular in the land Down Under ” that six years later Australia paid tribute to it at the Sydney Olympics.”
Organizers for the Closing Ceremonies featured a contingent of drag queens and pop star Kylie Minogue performed one of the ABBA songs from the film.
Also – the town of Broken Hill, featured in the film as hostile to the three traveling queens, now has become home to a huge annual drag fest called ‘Broken Heel.’
But Matt tells the tale much better than I. Take a few minutes and hit the play button below.
In this mini-documentary chronicling LGBTQ representation on television, Matt Baume does an excellent job pulling together the LGBTQ shifts in the tele-landscape on 1990s sitcoms.
Is there any show more perfectly suited for a gay ’90s romp than Frasier? When the show the first premiered, television often treated gay characters as a source of fear. But by the time Frasier was in its final season, lots of sitcoms were having a gay old time.
Hit play for a trip down memory lane on how the portrayal of gays changed over a relatively short period and why.
Super-smart guy Matt Baume’s latest installment of ‘Culture Cruise’ breaks down a 1992 episode of the NBC series, Quantum Leap, which explored the early gay movement in 1964 at a military academy.
As you may recall, the series (which aired from 1989-1993) starred hunky Scott Bakula as “Dr. Sam Beckett,” a scientist who travels through time tasked with having to ‘set right what once went wrong.’ His co-star was a hologram of his friend “Al” played by Dean Stockwell.
That may sound kind of weird today, but it was a hit in its day.
Baume shares how the episode integrated a lot of accurate historical details of the early gay rights movement from a time when such a thing barely existed.
Matt Baume’s Culture Cruise
In the episode titled, “Running For Honor,” Sam leaps into the persona of Tommy, a mid-western military cadet. As in every installment, Sam’s first challenge is to figure out why he’s even there.
It turns out there have been violent attacks around the military academy targeting young men suspected of being gay.
The tie-in here is that when the episode aired in 1992, the country was gradually becoming more comfortable talking about gay-related issues.
After a decade of HIV/AIDS headlines, and the deaths of 150,000 Americans, the importance of coming out and visibility was becoming more and more clear.
The topic of ‘gays in the military’ was making headlines as presidential candidate Bill Clinton promised to overturn the ban on open service by gays and lesbians, and Republicans were fiercely opposed to that idea.
This all led to the hideous compromise that became ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’
The episode also highlights the use of ‘underground newspapers’ which were the precursors to publications like The Advocate, and even includes a scene about ‘outing’ fellow students in the name of the gay movement.
In the end, Sam has to stop the hate crime murder of a gay ex-cadet and, in doing so, proves the foolishness of banning gays in the military.
Baume does a great job of highlighting the effort the writers took to weave in true historic details, including the Stonewall riots. And he does so without sounding like a boring history lecture.
Check out Baume and his ‘Culture Cruise’ below, and you can find more of his videos on YouTube here.
Super-smart guy Matt Baume takes a look back at a 1990 episode of the hit sitcom Designing Women which explored how southerns handled discovering lesbian amongst them.
“When we think about gay characters on sitcoms, we usually picture people in big Northern cities,” writes Baume. “But season four of Designing Women features an unusual southern and conservative take on having queer friends.”
“And it also set the stage for Ellen’s coming out episode, just a few years later,” he adds.
Journalist, historian and all-around smart-gay Matt Baume devotes this installment of his popular Culture Cruise web series on an episode of the iconic1970s sitcom, The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
The year was 1973. Homosexuality was considered a mental illness, you could be arrested for being gay in most of the country, no openly gay or lesbian person had ever been elected to public office. And Mary Tyler Moore, America’s sweetheart, put a gay man in front of viewers for an entire episode without anyone noticing until the last minute — and then acted like it was no big deal. When it was, in fact, a very, very, very big deal.
The episode, titled “My Brother’s Keeper,” aired on January 13, 1973. In the episode, “Phyllis” (played by Cloris Leachman) set out to set up “Mary” (Mary Tyler Moore) with her brother, “Ben.”
It turns out there’s no chemistry there, but Mary’s best friend “Rhoda” (Valerie Harper) ends up finding a connection with Ben. The problem is – Phyllis hates Rhoda, and can’t stand the idea of her brother with Rhoda.
Of course, in the end, Ben it’s revealed that Ben is gay.
What’s important here, though, is how the writers of TMTMS handled the moment. As you may remember, television (or most of America, for that fact) was not welcoming or warm-hearted when it came to ‘the gays.’
As Baume points out, if a gay person was on TV, they were usually portrayed as murderers or perverts. Note the infamous “The Homosexuals” documentary that aired in 1967 that declared “the average homosexual, if there is one, is promiscuous.”
What Baume does so well here is put what could be viewed as just another ‘gay punchline’ into perspective and gives us context on the whys and hows this was actually an important moment.
At the time the episode aired, Minneapolis (where TMTMS took place) outlawed homosexuality even though that same year saw the debut of Minneapolis first Pride event. And 1973 was the year homosexuality was removed from the list of mental illnesses.
I won’t spoil it for you, so watch the video.
Follow Matt Baume’s Culture Cruiseon YouTube here, where he regularly takes a deep dive on LGBTQ themes in TV, movies, books, games and more.
The Simpsons recently came under fire due to a controversy over the character of Apu. For years, Apu has been voiced by a non-Indian actor playing into what many feel are old, tired, and insulting stereotypes.
Ironically, The Simpsons has used the platform of its enormous viewership to combat harmful stereotypes for years.
One example: head back to 1997 when John Waters guested on the show and Homer couldn’t seem to figure out why he didn’t like Waters.
Smart-guy Matt Baume explains:
The 1997 episode of The Simpsons entitled “Homer’s Phobia” doesn’t just mark a turning point for queer characters on television — it’s a turning point for homophobia on television as well.
With an unlikely appearance by cult filmmaker John Waters, the episode features a groundbreaking depiction of intolerance, a crash course in camp, and a smarter conversation about queer Americans than on any other show at the time — all in a medium that was still thought of as only being for kids.
Watch the segment below.
For more insight into the current “Apu” issue, watch voice-over actor (and voice of “Apu”) Hank Azaria explain what’s up to Stephen Colbert below.
As President Trump attempts to spin his empty list of “accomplishments” during his first 100 days in the White House, Matt Baume offered this list of actions Trump has moved on since taking office including:
• rescinding LGBT protections under federal contractors
• rescinded transgender protections for students
• ended data collection by the federal government on LGBTs so they could even know who, what and how many there are
• appointed a SCOTUS justice who seems set to rule against any LGBT rights
• and his cabinet is decidedly anti-LGBT
Quite a list from the guy who said he would be “better for the gays” than Hillary Clinton.