Buh-Bye Queer Eye!
In light of the recent news that Queer Eye will enter it's final season this summer, I can finally do a jig of relief.
I understand many other gay men and women thought this show was the beginning of a revolution. I felt like it was the beginning of a new kind of oppression. This show takes what are quite possibly the five most obnoxious and insulting stereotypes about gay men and brings them to life on the small screen in the form of five of the most non-sexual homosexuals I've ever seen in my life.
The men in this show portray the role of the housewife in the 1950's whose duties included cleaning, cooking and caring for her man and children. Her responsibilities were limited to familial care, and freedoms were limited to even less. She was a commodity.
With the advent of more and more gay programming in the last decade, gay men have been commodified without any objection. They've been categorized into this hybrid subspecies of the women of the 1950s and the women of today that love to shop, do make-overs, cook and redecorate apartments while having sexual encounters that everybody hears about in just enough detail to make them seem just above a common whore without exuding the sexuality of the town slut. After all, how threatened can society be by a mixture of June Cleaver with a pinch of Paris Hilton?
While these programs do give gay men exposure to people who would otherwise never encounter homosexual peoples by putting them on TV screens across America, it also puts them into a position where they must trade their sexual identity to be treated with decency.
These shows greatly desexualize homosexual men in such a way that they become harmless eunuchs. Much in the way that Donna Reed and Harriet Nelson were stripped of any sexual qualities that might give them more power than they rightly deserved, gay men are being transformed into neutered dogs trained to satisfy the culinary, stylistic and hygienic needs of the heterosexual male.
Case in point is Robert Laughlin from the short lived (thank the Goddess) spin off "Queer Eye for the Straight Girl." Seen here is the photo spread from his interview in Instinct Magazine's September 2002 issue:
Three years later, his sexuality was subjugated when he was cast as one of the new "Queer Eye's" "Gal Pals" which is more obvious in the the actual context of the show, but is slightly evident in this picture:
He was changed into yet another prissy, sweater-vested puppet to portray the harmless version of the contemporary gay man. The new gay man with so little dignity that he will trade his sexuality and the right to be sexual for a five episode stint in the limelight.
To television's credit, I will admit that Queer as Folk is adept at characterizing gay men in a more varied light. It shows that gay men are not just the bee hived librarians that Queer Eye and Will & Grace make them out to be. They love, hate, have sex and develop relationships on friendly and romantic levels. The fact that (I feel) the acting is slightly sub-par can easily be overlooked for how daring and true to life this show can actually be at times.
We're in a war right now. I'm not entirely certain that people that fight for gay rights understand this war, or even realize its presence. We have people that bow to the current norm and take it as face value as acceptance from society. A good example of this is the subculture I call "the 12 year old girls trapped in middle aged men's bodies" that read Tiger Beat and listen intently to Lindsey Lohan’s newest single. Then there are people like Dan Savage who actively engage in the fight for homosexual equality (I do not claim to be one or the other either, I just comment on the facts as I see them).
Granted that state by state, country by country gay men have begun to receive more rights on a global level than were ever provided to them before. But here in America, when you're given the option of a civil union, or domestic partnership that provides you with none of the 1,138 federal rights of an actual legal marriage, doesn't it seem like gay and lesbian people are just given the booby prize to shut them up? Personally, I would rather have a legally binding contract that is upheld in all 50 of the United States. Not a cheap consolation that would be null and void when I take a vacation in Florida and can't get into the hospital room because I'm not "family" while my loved one lies prone and paralyzed, nearer to death with every breath because a venomous jellyfish stung him.
This is a war, and instead of being called to arms, most gay men would rather cash in their dicks for thirty seconds of airtime. The next time you have a chance to be the feature of a gay themed television show about free makeovers for overweight, bald republicans, or the next time you're asked to play the promiscuous yet horribly desexualized "Jack" type character on the next "Will & Grace" think about how the price of your 15 minutes of fame is more than just your own personal dignity. To sell your sexual identity for a coveted role comes at the expense of your fellow gay men. To be illustrated as subservient commodities instead of actual people who are entirely willing to fight for something that they deserve is to take a giant leap backwards in a fight for equality.
The day that we finally have gay comic book heroes, gay video game characters, gay television shows on regular programming TV that actually show the sexual aspect of gay life is far from today. But that doesn't mean that we can't do anything today to make it happen for tomorrow. We can no longer lie like dogs while our bones are being taken away. This is a war on a different kind of terrorism. If you have ever been afraid to hold your man's hand in public, or kiss at the movies, or share a fork in the food court, then the time has come for guerilla warfare. The time has come to rise up and take position in the gay militia and fight.
But first let me go make myself over.