Monday, January 10, 2005

So, I can't go to sleep, and thus I decided to discuss something else: The stereotypes of homosexuals in our society and how that relates to hatred against them.

See, the caricature of a black male in our society is of someone who constantly drops phrases like "jive turkey", who blames everything on "the Man", who focuses on bitches and hoes and bling bling and shoots, murders, robs and rapes people. It's a composite of 1800s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1990s stereotypes, and however stupid and ignorant it is, it does make sense that someone would be revolted by that.

But what's the image of homosexuals? There is the biker image and there is the "fly left open, gay bar, having sex with everything that walks" stereotype, but the main one is: Sharply dressed, clean cut men who do such womanly things as cook and clean, who speak with a lisp and make funny hand gestures and use particular phraeologies and are tax attorneys and neurophysicians.

Umm, maybe I'm hiding under a rock or need to let down my hair from the Ivory Tower so someone can climb up and give me a firm smack in the face, but since when was it uncool to look good, to have a $900 Armani suit? Since when was having girls want to have sex with you and having money considered a bad thing by macho America?

And what about cooking? I mean, I watch plenty of Food Network and Iron Chef, but I'm hardly effeminate. I considered playing football in high school before I was in debate, I've been in martial arts classes, I've nearly incited riots and have been threatened physically, and my uncle-in-law once said I was "all boy". The first time I laughed, ostensibly, was when I was watching people hit each other with large clubs. What exactly is it about the chef thing that has that effiminate aura about it?

A man gets up at the crack of dawn and drives his SUV out to the lake. He catches a few trout (putting them into a sealed water bag), maybe kills himself some deer, and brings it home with him. He then throws the deer into a smoker, takes the still-alive fish, wrestles it to the cutting board and cuts off its head with a large, sharp knife. He fires up the grill and tosses on a honey mustard and wasabi sauce and deep fries some potatoes on the side. Is that effeminate? Most of the top chefs in the world are men, and for every thin-bodied ladykiller Sakai you get a massive jovial Italian man like Mario Batali.

I don't get what an occupation that involves drinking alcohol and using it for cooking, grilling, using heavy knives to slash at things, learning practical science, and frying, grilling, broiling, and baking things has to do with being feminine. It sounds easily within the spectrum of male behavior.

Which brings me back to homosexuals. Sorry, crazy reverends, but I don't think that the source of moral decay in this country is Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. I don't think that Ellen Degeneres is actively telling people to worship Satan, torture animals and burn down churches. One time, Bill Clinton (war criminal though he is) pointed out that FOX, conservative propaganews par excellence, hosted the most reality shows and the most morally degenerate pap. (To FOX's credit, they also aired Family Guy and continue to run the Simpsons, which is a recurring pattern: Say what you will about conservative media, they are willing to be a little more open and experimental and say some positive things, like the WSJ). No, the source of moral decay in this country isn't the minority of fellas who like fellas, of Adams and Steves: it's the white culture that continues to fall to depths of incredible depravity concurrent with promising trends towards empowerment and tolerance. What threatens our souls is abu Ghraib, not people making flippant hand gestures and telling us to put herb butter underneath the skin of our chicken.

That having been said, I do think that, as I noted in my entry on the Stepford Wives, there are real concerns that good old macho men have. The interesting thing about gay culture is that it is often quite a high-class and rich culture, and often a backlash against it is in fact a backlash against rich life. Why is it necessarily classy to eat caviar and dress in suits? Some guys look good in suits; others look uncomfortable or like bouncers. I think that there are men who look fantabulous in cowboy apparel. Tapping into the anima, the feminine side of our masculine psyche, doesn't mean adopting a shabby excuse for woman's apparel. After all, Utah Phillips still dresses like a backwoods type of guy. I consider myself a reasonably sensitive, non-chauvinist, objective individual. Maybe I'm a liberal idealogue, maybe I'm a chauvinist pig wearing sheep's clothing. But I think that elements of what we consider being a "real man" are entirely appropriate. Watching the football game? Why not? Drinking beer? Humanity has only consumed alcohol over its entire recorded history, and Alton Brown, geek extraordinaire, has said that Bud is a good beer precisely because it is so basic and no-frills: it's the type of beer you can drink when you come in from mowing the lawn. Eating a lot of food? Well, watch for diabetes (as one of my friends tragically learned too late) and other health conditions, and use yourself some fresh ingredients, but there's no reason you can't have barbeque and burgers. Driving a large truck? Try to get a hybrid and carpool when possible, but hey. Working out and being muscular? You damn better well after choking down those ribs and jalapeno poppers. Enjoying sex? Tantric Buddhism has argued that sex, done right, can be a portal to spiritual advancement. Liking some wrestling or boxing? Getting out violent emotions with some sparring can't be bad. If Buddhist monks practice martial arts, why can't red-blooded Amer'cuns?

Look at Ernest Hemingway: Cultured man, brilliant writer, fought for the anarchists in Spain, devoted anti-fascist, and total macho badass. (Unfortunately, he killed himself because he lost his gift, which points up the dark side of personalities like that, but it's Ernest fucking Hemingway).

My point is not that our ideas of masculinity aren't unhealthy: They are. Homophobia, dismissing entire occupations as "gay" or "for women", refusing to share equally in child rearing and raising, etc. are nasty sides to our construction of masculinity. My point is that, like anything complex, there are things to resurrect out of the ashes. There are ways of being a moral, socially aware and active, sensitive, compassionate individual and still watching the Super Bowl and kicking back a Bud.

While I'm on a tangential rant: I remember reading something by Lydia Sargent, a feminist author who is normally very cogent and very funny, saying something about how a Japanese character from Fatal Fury (I believe it was) told Asian kids that they'll never be as big or as macho as American men. This makes me wonder how badly normally smart people can put feet into their mouths. People comment on video game culture with literally zero understanding of it. The fact is that these games are designed by the Japanese, and they caricature American women as having impossibly large breasts (rather than simply fantastically ridiculous breasts like the "Asian" women in anime) and American men as being big, loud tough guys. Yet anyone who's played Street Fighter knows that it's Ryu, Ken, Chun Li and Akuma to watch out for, not Zangief. In Mortal Kombat, it's Liu Kang and the ninjas (the 10,000 of them), not Jax and Sonya. The pattern is that a Japanese or Japanese-looking character is the main character. For more proof, note Naruto: Sasuke, Naruto and Rock Lee, all important and powerful characters, are very Asiatic in appearance. Luffy, the main character of One Piece, is possibly the most Asiatic character in the show, a surprise considering it's a show about pirates, and so on. If anything, the cultural message from video games and anime is "Be asian", which is why there is a growing otaku movement that irrationally views anything Japanese as being ipso facto positive. (Not to mention that all of the American hack writers and artists nowadays are stealing wholesale from anime, both in terms of plot and in terms of imagination/myth/artwork...) Some of these people seriously seem to think that the rational and cultured position is to appreciate all anime that comes your way. Sorry, but if I find a show like Super Milk Chan to be incomprehensible and lacking of any artistic, comedic or literary merit, then it's fucking not a good show. Just because it's made in an anime style doesn't make it positive, anymore than something being filmed in black and white necessarily makes said something a film noir classic.


Blogger Jewels said...

I love what you've got to say and how you say it.

I'll have to read the rest and visit often. Thank you.

4:43 PM  
Blogger Frederic Christie said...

Why, thank you. ;)

10:45 PM  

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