Log in

No account? Create an account
18 February 2006 @ 10:24 pm
Cruise control : Why Is It Libelous to Call an Action Actor Gay? by Richard Goldstein. May 9 - 15, 2001 Village Voice


I read this article by Richard Goldstein what--5 years ago now? It's been in my head all this time, and despite the exponential growth in verbiage on this and similar subjects since, I still think it captures what's going on with me and my writing better than anything.

"A homo who holds a gun." Sigh. Yeah, that's what I want. I want the queer Russell Crowe, the gay James Bond, the action hero whose idea of action is being the top to some other guy's bottom.

"It's not uncommon for straight women to fantasize about gay men." Uh huh. Even bisexual women. And bisexual men. My fantasy is to have the macho gay guy who's bisexual only with me. What I do apart from him is none of his business, although I can promise this: if he's man enough, it won't be other men.

I've read or seen complaints somewhere by some gay men that "Brokeback Mountain" isn't "gay" enough. That is, the two lovers don't "act" gay--they just have sex with each other. Give me a break--I mean broke. OK, OK. I know it's not for me as a woman to tell gay men what kind of guys or what kind of stories they should like. But come on--isn't it sort of a big, huge turn on to see two stereotypically masculine cowboys fucking each other? Isn't this, kind of, sort of, exactly our fantasy? By "our" I mean gay and bi guys and the women who love them. Don't a lot of us want to be fucked by that kind of guy? A real macho, leather-wearing, cocksucking faggot?

What exactly is going on here? The simple answer is one I can sympathize with. Most men--not just gay men--are feeling the strain of having to act macho all the time. No crying, no weakness. Keep those wrists and spines straight. Be tough, always support your family and friends, work hard, be responsible, and when things really get rough, never back down from a fight. Jeez. Of course you guys need a break once in a while. I get it. Let down your hair, talk some trash or some camp. Or just talk, for crying out loud, instead of having to choke on every word like Heath Ledger's character, Ennis.
And let me interject right here that while I say I want a butch faggot I certainly don't mean there's no room for some "gay" characteristics, like being articulate and witty. A little eye liner is fine, too.

But the subtext creeps me out. The subtext in all this seems to be that if a man is "really" gay he should "act" gay. Camp it up, swish and bitch, always be the bottom. Why? Sure, if you want to, go for it. But do you have to just because you like to have sex with men? Is it some kind of prerequisite for the advanced course in homoeroticism? And if the answer is yes, then who's going to be the top? Only straight guys? How are they straight if they're fucking other guys???

The debate seems to be partly about threat. In the linked article, Goldstein is saying that a macho action-hero gay guy is the biggest threat of all. He says it's because of the straight-boy's fear of rape. But I also think on a less visceral level it's just that with a macho guy, you can't tell he's gay.

The stereotypical gay guy is no threat, because you know he's gay. You don't have to worry about him “attacking" you unless you're locked in the shower with him. And even then, if he fits the stereotype, he's limp-wristed (if not a limp-dick) so you big butch straight guys really have nothing to fear.

But plenty of gay guys seem to think that "acting" gay is the greater act of bravery, because they're daring to show the world that they are gay. They're not hiding it. They're not passing or covering. And they could be right. The distinction may really be between gay men who act straight because that's their natural personality and gay men who act straight because they're afraid to show the world who they really are.

This is where as a woman I really do have to bow out of the discussion.

Recently Larry David had a not-so-humorous op-ed piece in the New York Times. That is, it was very funny, but also full of truth. His point of view was that of the straight guy frightened by the fact that the guys in "Brokeback Mountain" seemed so straight. If they could be gay, so could he, Larry David. It was a good piece, and I agree. Not every man, not even every gay man, can be a "Queer Eye" type of guy. But every gay man can have sex with men if that's his desire.

How does this relate to my writing, which is, after all, a kind of twisted historical romance set in 1812 London (a Regency romance)?

Easy. My book--and everything else I have written or am trying to write or plan to write--is written from the point of view of a woman married to a bisexual man. A masculine guy with a boyfriend. My first fictional husband was the champion swordfighter in a leather-wearing, pseudo-medieval sword-and-sorcery fantasy world,

The husband in my only "published" work, "Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander," is a genuine "top gun"--a crack shot with the dueling pistol--and definitely a top in the sexual sense. His boyfriend is a big, two-fisted, blue-eyed blond Yorkshireman (the last word in English butch, and no that’s not an oxymoron)--and a bottom.

So what are we: what we do or what we are?
Are we what we eat?
Or only what we wear and say?

This will have to be part one. Part two may discuss the difference in the way gay and bisexual men perceived themselves in the past compared with how they see themselves now, which is directly related to my writing.

Here's an excerpt from the article:

A certain androgyny has always heightened the allure of heartthrobs, so it's no surprise that a gay man like Rupert Everett can play a woman's lover (especially if she's Madonna). By the same token, a demi-dyke like Anne Heche can do the nasty with Harrison Ford. After all, lesbian scenes are part of the straight man's pornographic repertoire, and it's not uncommon for straight women to fantasize about gay men. In the arena of film romance, flexibility may actually be an asset. Which is no doubt why Ben Affleck and Matt Damon could kid about being lovers (while denying it). This twofer tactic heads off rumors and bolsters the image of the hip straight guy.
But imagine if Russell Crowe cultivated a similar persona. Would he still be believable as the millennial version of a man's man? This is the heart of Cruise's suit: The implication that he is gay could destroy his credibility in action films. It's a nasty claim, but the essence of libel is a false statement that hurts someone's ability to make a living, and it can be argued that no one wants to see a top gun draw like a bottom; certainly not the men who gravitate to movies like Mission: Impossible. The action genre is one of the last bastions of what Ehrenstein calls "the cordon sanitaire" between straights and gays. It's a line that can't be crossed without raising the fear of pollution that attends all homophobia. How can any real man identify with a goddamn pansy?
Of course, identification is only part of the problem. There's also the anxiety that arises when a gay actor takes on the aggressive persona of an action hero. A homo who holds a gun triggers the scariest straight-male fantasy of all: being raped. This nightmare is what animated the tumult over gays in the military—remember the shower-room panic? It's what haunts gay men who work with young people: the belief that they will force themselves on boys. This image of the gay predator is grounded in a system that measures masculinity by immunity to rape. Male melodramas like Oz show how central rape is to the straight fantasy of homosexuality. Say what you will about progress, but most gay men still shuffle (whether they realize it or not) so that straight guys can keep their fear of violation at bay.
Current Mood: determineddetermined
In Different Hues: Winterindifferenthues on February 19th, 2006 09:38 pm (UTC)
Congratulations on progress being made on your Blog!

You might like this article too: http://community.livejournal.com/bisexual/1447391.html and the "LJ Community" too.

Also go look here at other "Bi & Bi-friendly Communities" to join: http://www.nyabn.org/Pages/StayInTouch/StayInTouch.html

And I've just found (& joined) this "LJ Commuity" which is specifically for all people on LJ who are actually over 13 and not "like totally in to 'Hello Kitty' & 'the Cheeta Girls'", etc. http://community.livejournal.com/ljover30/profile
ann_amalie: Phyllidaann_amalie on February 28th, 2006 06:24 am (UTC)
Thanks for great article
Thanks so much for turning me on to Mark Simpson--and I do mean turned on! He's pretty much already written everything I'm working toward expressing, and he said it five years ago, and he's witty. I guess all that's left is for me to figure out something new to say from the American woman's point of view.
In Different Hues: Winterindifferenthues on February 28th, 2006 04:20 pm (UTC)
Re: Thanks for great article
Thanks so much for turning me on to Mark Simpson

You do realize between your e-mail and this ‘LJ reply” I've just spent the last several hours trying to figure out 'who in the hell is Mark Simpson?’. . . LOL.

I finally looked at the link and saw he was the author of that particular rant. I just see stuff on line, go thru it quickly and if I think 'Oh, So-and-so would like that', so I sent off a note with a link.

My whole family & many friends do that sort of thing. I guess it's the ‘high-tech’ equivalent of clipping articles, recommending books and so forth.