Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Gaysian v. Gaijin

Me Chinese, me play joke, me put failed racist humor in your upwardly mobile men's lifestyle magazine and try to pass it off as homophobic chic!

Details—perhaps the world's most famous closeted magazine (think of it as the Tom Cruise of the Condé Nast empire)—has come under fire from Asians recently for a piece (featured in their latest issue, out now) called 'Gay or Asian?' [.jpg of magazine page]. The "offensive" article presents a photo of a stylish, Eurotrashily groomed East Asian man and asks the reader to deduce (based on the editorial board's commentary on his look) whether he is a full—on homosexual or just a mincing little Oriental. As the writer says, "One cruises for chicken; the other takes it General Tso style....[Are his] delicate features refreshed by a cup of hot tea or a hot night of teabagging?" Sassy!

Now, on first seeing the article, my immediate response was to assume that it was just Details's garbled attempt at reporting on the whole Last Stop Before Crossover phenomenon....You know, because East Asian girls tend to have boyish bodies (petite, broad-shouldered, flat-chested), guys who date them are said to be at the last stop on the dating train before it crosses over to the part of town where you, uh, well, you know, find the, how-you-say, fudgepacking factories. (Get my drift? Don't make me spell it out for you....Just because I'm brown doesn't automatically make me a spelling whiz like some movies might make you think, ok? Anyway, "last stop" is really old news—when it's mentioned (as the above linked blog notes) in a year-old Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, trust us, it's old news—but hey, a few years behind the curve is a typical reportage lag for Details (rumor has it the May issue will feature trucker hats and an interview with up-and-coming pop tart Jessica Simpson).

But it turns out that not many others had the same dismissive response I did, as many Asians were quite taken aback by the article. (This young Asians forum argument over it pretty much sums up the brouhaha. Kawabunga also reports on what the angry slanty-eyeds are doing in response—ooh, an anti-Condé Nast Yahoo! Group—while offering a handy gay v. Asian Venn Diagram that maps the hazily-gendered space inhabited by the modern AZN dude much more accurately than the self-loathing queers over at Details could ever dream of doing.)

Now, as a personage of both the gay and Asian persuasions, I have to say that the only part of the article that I find offensive is the fact that the hot Dolce & Gabbana jacket featured is only available in white, which is so not a good color for me outerwear-wise. Heh. In all seriousness, it's hard for me to understand why anyone, let alone just Asians, would see this piece as bigoted. First of all, if there's someone who's going to be offended here, it should be the gays: stereotyping all homosexuals as pedophiles and deviant testicle-snugglers is a bit more offensive than saying all Asians eat General Tso's chicken. So why doesn't GLAAD or some random pack of homos climb out of their k-hole long enough to put together a protest Yahoo! Group or some such?

The short answer is that gays only organize into Yahoo! Groups when it comes to sharing photos of A&F models. The long answer is this: the whole fag-bashing component of the piece is so crudely written that it's obvious that this is all intended as some sort of camp satire for homos (albeit a weak one), homos who the editors know would just laugh it off thanks to the far superiorly attuned sense of humour possessed by the homogays. Indeed, pretty much every issue of Details is chock full of such sly queerbaiting/homo entendre, as the editors of the magazine recognize its status as one of that elite cadre of magazines I like to call "gay for pay." (Side note: Details was actually the first mainstream magazine to publicly out some supposedly gay-for-pay-only porn stars.) You know, it's that group of magazines, often referred to as lad-rags—think GQ, Men's Health, Cargo, etc.—that are ostensibly for straight men but are secretly read only by gays. These are not to be confused with magazines like Maxim, which are ostensibly for straight men but are secretly written only by gays. (Don't believe me? Just think about it: straight people—straight men particularly—are pretty much devoid of any humour; they definitely don't do that whole self-deprecating comedy thing. So could straight dudes really put together a magazine that caricatures/self-mocks the prototypical hornball "straight guy" archetype as deftly as Maxim does? Also, someone I used to work with who once freelanced for Maxim reported back that it was nothing but a bunch of 'mos sitting around making up senseless titty jokes, tongue planted firmly in cheek and Cosmo Vodka Gimlet planted firmly in limp little wrist.)

Also, do these Asians live in a cultural vacuum? 'Gay or _______?' is a "humor" feature (called 'Anthropology') that not only appears every month in Details but prides itself on always being crass to the extreme: past issues have included 'Gay or Guido?' and 'Gay or British?', and hell, just last month the issue featured 'Gay or Jesus?', which showcased a hot, impeccably muscled model playing the son of man, complete with diamond-cutting cheekbones, a pair of fetching mandals, and the most amazing abs, plus the most tantalizing whiff of pubic hair peeking through a bulging see-through linen tunic. But you don't hear any complaints about that one from Jerry Falwell....Are you telling me that the dense bozos of the Religious Right can grok the (Tinky-)wink(y)-wink queer-friendly nature of Details, but a bunch of humorless Asians can't?

Actually, maybe I should reconsider my position, and maybe gays should be offended—not by Details's limp moisturizer jokes, but by the very Asians who are themselves claiming offense. I mean, let's look at what this outrage from the Asian community boils down to: basically, a bunch of Asian people are upset because an article is equating them with gay people....gasp! horror! Heaven fucking forbid! Please America, completely ignore us and our culture, deny your persecution of us throughout history, fetishize our women as kittenish whores, blaspheme our holiest beliefs, decimate our cuisine for the sake of your bland honky palates, fail to differentiate among our thousands of ethnicities, cast us in movies only as either doctors or kung-fu fighters, ridicule us for being gap-toothed Engrish-spewing tone-deaf nerds on TV, but please oh please oh please don't associate us with the homosexuals! We don't really care that we're constantly, mercilessly stereotyped and ignored as a worthwhile subset of American culture by you, just promise you won't say that we like to take it up the ass and displease THE LORD YOUR GOD like those faggots do. Ack!

Fucking bigoted chinks.

Anyhoo, speaking of tone-deaf nerds, SF Gate columnist Emil Guillermo has been spewing forth articles about how dorky American Idol reject William Hung—the supposed quintessence of America's horrible attitude toward Asians—is only getting his 15 minutes of fame because he fulfills America's racist fantasies of Asian people. Uh, what? There are plenty of reasons to haterate on American Idol, but accusations of unspoken bigotry are hardly first on my list.....Turns out this is actually a popular meme in the land of Blog (not that that has any correlation to its relevance, coherence, or interest, but hey). Basically, because William fits all the classic racist stereotypes of the ineffectual Asian male—he's awkward, he has bad teeth, he's a virgin, he studies engineering, he barely speaks English, he attends Berkeley, etc.—his emergence as an American cult(ure) icon only shows how racist our country truly is. Wha? Now, we could be considered racist if, say, William Hung were some white dude who entertained us by dressing up in "yellow face"; but last time I checked, all those unappealing things cited as William Hung's "stereotypes" are just facts about him; he's not "fulfilling" any ideally bigoted image by having bad teeth, a worse accent, and a problem losing his virginity—that's just who he is. In fact, by calling attention to all the ways in which he doesn't fit in to hackneyed American conceptions of manhood—and then sneakily claiming these are personal "faults" of his that somehow make anyone who likes him a racist—you serve only to marginalize him and attempt to deflect attention away from your own racist leanings. Dumbass!

A similar scenario arises whenever Carson Kressley from Queer Eye For The Straight Guy is discussed. Many—homos included—dismiss him (and his show in general) for reeinforcing the "worst stereotypes about gays" thanks to his flamboyanté demeanor, campy humor, and slavish adoration of couture. This would be a horrid riff on tired old fag-bashing stereotypes if, say, Carson and the other 4 members of the Fab Five were actually 5 straight dudes who were basically gay sambos trained by Bravo as interior decorators and hair stylists and then paid $80,000 an episode to really flame it up in front a bunch of TV cameras. (That's of course how they make Frasier, which surpasses even Will & Grace as prime time's best gay drawing-room farce—small surprise given that Frasier's current producer and writer is author Joe Kennan, who writes gay drawing-room farces. But that's a story for another time.) Anyway, the fact remains that Carson really is gay, effeminate, and obsessed with fashion, just as his colleagues really are Broadway dancers and interior decorators and hair stylists. They don't just play gays on TV, get it, so calling them out for being too stereotypically gay is like being outraged that black people would dare to show their black skin in public.

But my favorite line from Mr. Guillermo is when he offers that final damning evidence proving that American Idol is a racist scourge: Why does America allow an untalented Asian to be ridiculed? "You certainly wouldn't see them glorify a black man who couldn't sing and dance on American Idol. Nor would they prop up a clumsy, tone-deaf white person." You're right, Emil—we reserve the glorification of talentless black men and clumsy, tuneless white people for prime airplay on MTV, not on hack shows like American Idol. Dumbass!

[I know, I know, the lack of posting. And considering that 4 of the total 5 readers of this blog either date Asian girls, are Asian girls, work for Condé Nast, or all of the above—all groups I chose to skewer this evening—I hardly chose a topic to get myself back in your good graces. I just haven't been inspired in a while, sorry about that; but I'm aiming for posting twice a week, hopefully thrice. Email me with topics and I would be happy to oblige.]

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