Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Yikes! Someone thinks we're gay!

This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.  Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky.
 
So let's have a look at some adverts

This one from Klondike
Here's one from Maltesers
Here's one from Fosters
And from Pepsi
And this one for a drink from Argentina
And from Virgin Atlantic (this one banned)
Or Snickers

Hey, are we seeing a pattern yet?

Yes, same-sex intimacy, guys getting it on - it's it shocking? Isn't it frightening? Zomg straight guys put into a situation where people may think they're gay! Yikes! Someone thinks we're gay! AIEEE I did something that may be seen as gay! The horror! The fear! This is twilight zone stuff - we need the scary music! More scary music - there is GAY HERE!

And of course there's the related HUMOUR. Because, as Maltesers and Klondike up there tells us, it's just screamingly funny to put to straight guys in an intimate/gay-seeming situation. And then they realise and have to desperately assert their heterosexuality! The gay! THE GAY! WE GOT GAY ON US!

And how often have we seen this in TV programmes? The skit where a straight man realises someone thinks he's gay or he and another friend have done something that could be interpreted as gay? Is there a sitcom or soap out there that HASN'T resorted to this at some point? Y'know I was actually working up a list but it not only got so damn long but so many were such utter repeat offenders that I just deleted the whole thing and got a drink.

It's been done so often that even if it ever were funny, its sheer lack of originality would make it as funny as a knock-knock joke. And don't even get me started on the extremely not-funny "no homo" obsession that gets on my very last nerve.
 
And of course, Hetlandia cries, it's just humour, just some adverts. What does it matter? Heh, I've been told that I "think too much" about these things when I first cursed that Malteser advert

Well first of all, the fact it is in the adverts - in so many adverts - means it's a media staple now. It's a trope that everyone can recognise for a cheap, easy laugh because it's so damn common as to be both instantly understood and unavoidable. It's a message no-one can fail to understand because just about all of us have seen it - often repeatedly in media, in music, everywhere. This fear of being seen as gay is a universal trope that is not only in society, but saturates society.

And, this matters because this message? This message is toxic. Like the eternal trope of calling anything we don't like "gay" this straight horror of the anything that could be remotely interpreted as gay tells us one important thing - being gay is bad and wrong. Being gay or being thought to be gay is something apparently should inspire horror and terror in all men everywhere. I really think it's probably easier for many straight men to be thought of as a violent criminal than it is for them to be thought of as *gasp* GAAAAAAY *DUH DUH DUUUUUH!*

And what does that say to those of us who are gay? That our love, our existence, our being is something so hateful, so shameful? That being like us is, at best, something to be snickered at and found soooo freaky and hilarious? At worst we are seen as something so horrendous that even being THOUGHT to be gay for a few short seconds causes instant panic. Being thought to be gay is something so horrible that even the slightest stereotypical suggestion needs a vehement disclaimer, a hurried "no homo" or a dramatic display of stereotypical heterosexuality - because gods forbid anyone ever think you are that most vile of things - gaaaaaay (dramatic music again)

This is not really a healthy or happy idea for us to absorb.

But it's not just the self-hating message being drummed into our heads - it's a message that is being perpetuated, echoed and encouraged by straightness in our homophobic society. We are objects of revulsion and horror - something so bad that the merest suggestion of being gay needs desperately rejecting. It is a message that again and again adds to our rejection, our exclusion - and violence against us. It is a part of the culture that sees us beaten and killed - and part of a culture that still sees the damn "gay panic defence" raised again and again in court.

It is a part of straight culture that continues to say that not only are we less, but we are vile, disgusting, horrific to be rejected and vilified.
 
So, no, I don't think I think too much - but I do think straightness thinks - and cares - too little but it won't be straight folk paying the cost of this eternally repeated trope.