As you know, there's enough gay allegory and queer artistic sensibility in the two High School Musical movies to keep me blogging for my entire life and to keep tweens outraged into the next century. So I really have no need to purposely seek out other kids' programming to bait more faux controversy. But when something like the Nickelodeon sitcom, Drake & Josh, just falls into my lap, how can I possibly shut up about it?
As you also know, because of my Drake Bell obsession I've been catching up with the TV show that solidified his star status among the teen and tween set. Because I've been watching episodes of Drake & Josh out of order, I just finished the pilot episode tonight, which first aired in 2004 and which is quite hilarious. But my jaw dropped when I realized that gay metaphors, obvious and otherwise, lurked around every freaking corner of this thing! WTF?!
The premise of the show is simple and full of comic possibility. Drake, the popular high school ladies' man who's addicted to soda pop, and Josh, the chubby and nerdy outcast who's just this side of flamboyant, suddenly become live-in stepbrothers who now share a bedroom when their parents marry.
In the pilot, Drake discovers that Josh harbors a deep and shameful secret—Josh occasionally wears a tacky dress and blond wig that makes him look like a mini-Divine. Manly Drake is shocked and disturbed, of course, and demands an explanation. Well, it's simple, really. Josh says the outfit helps him write the anonymous advice column for the school newspaper. The name of the column? Miss Nancy. DID YOU HEAR THAT, PEOPLE?! His alter ego is someone named Miss Nancy!
Josh is a classic queer kid archetype. A bit flamboyant, as I noted above. Bullied at school. Excels at things like cooking. And frequently tries to give hugs. Oh, and did I mention he's Miss Freaking Nancy?!
In the end, Drake gets rid of the dress, much to Josh's dismay. "Give me my dress!" Josh pleads. But Drake convinces Josh that he doesn't need to put on women's clothing to be Miss Nancy. Miss Nancy is in Josh's heart and soul, not in the clothes he wears, not in outside appearances.
If you want to revisit the gay metaphor thing, well, it seems that Drake is saying that you don't have to look gay to be gay. You can just be gay without the fanfare. It's kind of like he's okay with Josh being a homo—as long as it doesn't involve flaunting it in people's faces. I'm not sure that's a very empowering message, but, hey, whaddaya gonna do? However, Drake does accept a big man-hug at the end of the pilot.
A bunch of mixed messages seem to be flying back and forth in this episode, so I'm not sure where the show lands on the whole gay issue. But it is sort of like adolescence, right? It's a confusing time, and it may take a while to sort things out.