After Elvira went full Hollywood and Rhonda Shear got tired of maintaining her upper register, Joe Bob owned horror movie nights on cable. First on The Movie Channel in the 80s and then over at TNT where Monster-Vision reigned supreme through the mid-late 90s. While I worshiped at the altar of Up and Night and wore out my VHS copy of Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, Joe-Bob had something they didn't - specifically, he was hot as fuck.
I'm not one to lust after straight men, but Joe Bob wasn't just hot, he was smart too - he wrote books! He knew everything about the films he was showing, the making-of the films and the context in which we received the films. His graphics packages were all day-glo and he had icons like Linnea Quigley come to visit his DIY trailer park set to chat. I'm starting to sweat just thinking about it.
When a little birdie told me that Shudder was bringing back Joe Bob to work his magic on some titles in their streaming library, I was skeptical - more than skeptical, I didn't want it. He's a straight white guy from Texas - proudly. More complicated than being a straight white guy from Texas, he's a boomer. With that, comes a lot of messy opinions and a general lack of desire to "read the room." He doesn't really care about the hideous underpinning of the supreme court case on gay cakes, he casually mocks the controversy around Colin Kaepernick and he still loves to objectify ladies in bikinis. This isn't a person I would be friends with any more than he'd want to come over my place to talk about Light in the Piazza and how quickly Antoni from Queer Eye sold out his entire online footprint to sponsored content (good angle for a Phantom of the Paradise reboot - you're welcome).
So, this last Friday the 13th, me and my bestie Mark sat down to watch The Last Drive-In on Shudder. We had beer and pizza and we were prepared for anything. Apparently we weren't the only ones, the feed crashed before the show even started. Joe Bob broke the internet.
Three minutes in and he makes a reference to "Indians" and he's dropped a casual rape joke, but you know what? We're doing this. It's fine. We're fine. Like a couple of Patty Hearsts, we sat there transfixed by Joe Bob's dulcet tones. If we closed our eyes, it was 1996 and we were safe in the comfort of something tied to our adolescence playing out as though no time passed. It also didn't hurt that the first movie was Tourist Trap - a gay mid-summer classic!
"They're not perverts" - Joe Bob, re: the Trans community.
Next up is Sleepaway Camp and I want to die. Joe Bob goes on for about twenty minutes about trans bathroom bills and "gender confusion," but is he woke? Maybe. He's mocking the notion that someone would carry a birth certificate with them to go to the bathroom and all the wasted resources that went into bigotry and, you know what, I'll take it. In addition to being the gayest summer camp movie, I forgot how spectacularly vulgar Sleepaway Camp is - there's something truly magic about underage children swearing like they're in a Scorsese film!
Then grown-up Felissa Rose shows up on the Joe Bob set wearing the most horrible pair of patent pleather, baby pink, bargain-basement stripper shoes with black tights and a thick black glitter dress (in the middle of summer). I think it's safe to say Felissa isn't doing a lot to advance trans representation - if she had a queer friend, she'd know that you can't clash lipstick with your shoes, but what do I know. Maybe this wasn't the place to have that conversation. Maybe I'm part of the problem.
Then came Rabid, a Cronenberg movie I'd never seen that Mark referred to as "gnarly" before heading out to a midnight screening of Jason Lives. I have a strong aversion to vaginal body horror, so I had my first nap while Joe Bob talked in my dreams.
I woke up the next morning like Christmas day - racing to the TV with my Eggo waffles to catch up. Joe Bob was still at it - maybe it was my coffee, but he was making good points about our over-dependence on cell phones and late-stage capitalism. I love him. Is this how the gays felt at Jonestown?
So much of my identity is has been tied to rejecting straight culture, avoiding the water cooler at work, rebuking sports, defying buffet lines and refusing to be a member of a club that not only doesn't want me as a member, but a club that's proven itself completely illegitimate. The one thing Trump culture has done is expose that "traditional marriage" and "the rule of law" were all a gag. These were systems put in place to give people power over other people. We were lied to - straight, gay, all of us. But here I am, watching b-movies and momentarily forgetting all that self-righteous indignation - allowing myself to enjoy a television program, homophobic warts and all.
So, yeah - we contain multitudes. Joe Bob talked about AIDS, the FLQ, he mocked Streisand and the first amendment and there was gay-panic humor and I still had the time of my life watching this entire marathon. I want this on every Friday until I finally die.
Long live Shudder - Long live the new flesh!