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The Subversive Queer: Romance, Bromance, Incest and More in 1960’s TV Sci Fi

Lost in Space

Is it just me, or is there a pervasive queer subtext to much of the sci fi fare produced for television during the 1960’s? I submit for your consideration four series which I believe exhibit strong evidence to support this idea.

1. Lost in Space

2. Flipper

3. Land of the Giants

4. Jonny Quest

Let us start with perhaps the most outré example: Lost in Space. Can anyone argue that the character of Dr. Smith was not a typical over-the-top queen? And there seems to be a subtle sub-text in the portrayal of his relationship to young Will Robinson: he is the seducer, the man who calls on will late at night to embark on adventures that must, of course, be kept secret from Will’s parents. Again and again, Will follows his heart and does Dr. Smith’s bidding for the sake of excitement and adventure though he knows his parents disapprove of Dr. Smith and Will’s intimate relationship with him. Hmm .. who cooked up this relationship? Could it be …. Satan? And what about daddy John Robinson and his ‘first mate’ Don West? Hell, they spend more time together smiling and blushing over hardware than John and his wife (Lassie’s mother, June Lockhart) spend tossing salad from the replicator.

We now move on to Flipper. So sweet, so innocent. Really? A hot young widower with two young boys on the edge of sexual awareness, parading around half-naked and wet without a significant female presence? Just a man and his boys. Um hum. Oh, and Flipper. A male dolphin. That the boys play with and occasionally ride. And Porter Ricks – the Dad- is just so … I don’t know … tender with his ‘boys’.

Land of the Giants. Once more, Irwin Allen revisits his man/boy fetish, pairing the oily and stereotypically homosexual Mr. Fitzhugh (was the name a wink or what?) with the sweet young Barry Lockridge. Once again, the older man is the tempter and the younger boy is the seduced.

Lastly, I leave you with my absolute favourite example of this quirky queerness that informed 1960’s TV: Jonny Quest. Oh, yes. Jonny Quest. Dr. Benton Quest, the hunky hot widower who lives with his ‘friend’ , the hunky hot Race Bannon ( where did they get these names? from ‘muscle mags’?) who is his constant and inseparable companion – think of John and Don gazing lovingly at one another as they repair the Jupiter 2 – plus his cute son, Jonny and his pretty ‘companion’ Haji. As a queer child, I was convinced that Benton and Race were lovers. What else could they be? And Jonny and Haji? I know what they got up to with a flash light and some spit under a tent!

It can’t just be me reading something into all this. Can it? Am I the only one who felt the pull of something that I was certain was written just for me: a queer little boy looking for affirmation, connection and, yes, maybe just a bit of innocent -though forbidden – titillation?

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