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"The Key to Otherland" -- a Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood Opera


PhillyCinephile
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Has anyone seen this?  It's available from Amazon Prime as part of season 7 of MR. ROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD.  

In the program, Betty Aberlin and Bert Lloyd play siblings at the beach.  While Betty spends the episode in a demure, Victorian-style bathing costume, Bert wears nothing but a pair of 1970s-era gym shorts.  During the course of the program, Bert is kidnapped by Lady Elaine (dressed as a witch), who puts Bert in a glass booth and forces him to do calisthenics (ostensibly to power her latest invention) while making leering comments about Bert's body.

Bert Lloyd looks great in his shorts, but it strikes me as a rather gratuitous display of beefcake for a show aimed at children.  Why not have the actor wear a men's Victorian-style bathing costume to coordinate with Aberlin's costume?  Bert Lloyd pops up in another episode as a different character, sporting the same shorts but with a vest and bowler.  (The addition of the vest and bowler makes Lloyd look even hotter.)  Seems to me that there was a conscious decision to show off Lloyd's body.

This sort of thing fascinates me.  Were the people involved completely unaware of the eroticism of showing a scantily-clad man doing exercises in a glass booth?  (Peep show, anyone?)  Did they throw this in as a treat for the stay-at-home moms who watched this with their kids?  Or was there a gay sensibility at work here?

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4 hours ago, PhillyCinephile said:

Has anyone seen this?  It's available from Amazon Prime as part of season 7 of MR. ROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD.  

In the program, Betty Aberlin and Bert Lloyd play siblings at the beach.  While Betty spends the episode in a demure, Victorian-style bathing costume, Bert wears nothing but a pair of 1970s-era gym shorts.  During the course of the program, Bert is kidnapped by Lady Elaine (dressed as a witch), who puts Bert in a glass booth and forces him to do calisthenics (ostensibly to power her latest invention) while making leering comments about Bert's body.

Bert Lloyd looks great in his shorts, but it strikes me as a rather gratuitous display of beefcake for a show aimed at children.  Why not have the actor wear a men's Victorian-style bathing costume to coordinate with Aberlin's costume?  Bert Lloyd pops up in another episode as a different character, sporting the same shorts but with a vest and bowler.  (The addition of the vest and bowler makes Lloyd look even hotter.)  Seems to me that there was a conscious decision to show off Lloyd's body.

This sort of thing fascinates me.  Were the people involved completely unaware of the eroticism of showing a scantily-clad man doing exercises in a glass booth?  (Peep show, anyone?)  Did they throw this in as a treat for the stay-at-home moms who watched this with their kids?  Or was there a gay sensibility at work here?

You could always contact Mr. Lloyd to find out, though he might not be too open to the question, given his current occupation...

https://breadoflifeag.net/people/bert-lloyd/

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It seems as though there would have had to be a gay sensibility at work, though maybe lurking somewhere in the background (or subconscious). I think many times the excuse that "it's for the ladies" covers another equally compelling reason to show male flesh. But, as you pointed out, in the context of a kids show the rationale becomes iffier. In the first season of Pee-Wee's Playhouse there was the character of Tito, the lifeguard (I'm pretty sure I remember him being referred to as "the pool boy" too), who came and went in only his bathing suit. The whole Playhouse reeked of gay sensibility in overdrive, so it didn't seem out of place in the least. Laurence Fishburne as Cowboy Curtis prefigured Li'l Nas X by decades in his pink and lavender-fringed outfits. You pretty much expected it of Pee-Wee, but you're right that it seems more foreign to Mr. Rogers' "brand". It may have been a case of someone behind the scenes putting a spin on it that would trigger some people's gaydar but not seem remarkable to other viewers. As Harvey Fierstein once described the phenomenon, "some queen pulled a fast one." 

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On 10/24/2021 at 10:08 AM, DougieB said:

I see what you mean.

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Exactly.

Returning to PEE-WEE'S PLAYHOUSE, my favorite moment is at the end of his Christmas special.  Throughout the show, there's a running joke about everyone bringing him fruitcake.  At the end, Pee-Wee reveals that he's using all of the fruitcakes to build an addition onto the playhouse.  He opens a door to reveal several construction workers, who look like they stepped out of a gay porn video, hard at work on the new room.

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2 hours ago, PhillyCinephile said:

Exactly.

Returning to PEE-WEE'S PLAYHOUSE, my favorite moment is at the end of his Christmas special.  Throughout the show, there's a running joke about everyone bringing him fruitcake.  At the end, Pee-Wee reveals that he's using all of the fruitcakes to build an addition onto the playhouse.  He opens a door to reveal several construction workers, who look like they stepped out of a gay porn video, hard at work on the new room.

There's a rather graphic outtake reel of The New Zoo Revue where the costumed characters do and say things you'd never imagine, and would never make the air, even today, on broadcast TV.  Seems the folks involved weren't all squeaky clean as they'd like you to believe!

 

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