Often, we think something is so obvious no one could possibly misinterpret it.
Some people think it’s obvious the 9/11 attacks were carried out by terrorists led by Osama Bin Laden. Others think it’s obvious the Illuminati were behind it and used Osama as a scapegoat. Others swear it was Dick Cheney and don’t get how anyone else could think otherwise.
What about an example that’s less conspiracy theory-y?
“How could you not tell that David was a jerk? Look at his sideburns!”
“Wait, you didn’t know Cynthia is a lesbian? Her hair is short and she wears plaid!”
“Malcolm is poor. How do I know? He drives a Ford Focus.”
“Lisa’s dad works for Wall Street. That’s why Lisa is such a bitch.”
These are horrible attempts at stereotyping, but you get what I’m saying, right? And, while it’s true, I drive a Focus and don’t make a lot of money, that doesn’t mean EVERYONE who drives a focus doesn’t make a lot of money.
We do this kind of “this must mean that” generalization with people all the time, right? Every single day, right?
This is why we have labels like Emo, Preppy, Artsy, Goth, Hipster, Fop, Butch, Hillbilly, Nerd, Rocker, Gypsy, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. Based on how someone looks, we classify them, and then assume we know about who they are because of that classification.
Do you remember when Eminem first became popular? He wore oversized white tees and baggy pants. People were accusing him of acting black. Eminem wasn’t acting anything. He was being himself. He just happened to grow up in a community that acted in a way that a majority of people think of as “black”. The flip-side of this occurs when blacks are accused of being “white washed”, because they are educated or have a middle class life or a corporate job or whatever. What’s stupid is that people are assuming having a certain skin color means you have to live a certain way. We know how stupid this is, right?
And I just do not got the patience (got the patience)…
To deal with these cocky Caucasians who think
I’m some wigger who just tries to be black ’cause I talk
With an accent, and grab on my balls, so they always keep asking
The same fucking questions (fucking questions)…
What school did I go to, what hood I grew up in
The why, the who what when, the where, and the how
‘Til I’m grabbing my hair and I’m tearing it out
‘Cause they driving me crazy (driving me crazy)… I can’t take it
-Eminem, The Way I Am
What we’re seeing isn’t that race determines personality, but that the community you grow up in shapes you. Eminem is a byproduct of his community. Just like Neil deGrasse Tyson is a byproduct of his community. And I don’t mean “community” in the macro-sense of “black community” and “white community”. I’m talking micro level. Home towns. The people who raised you. The elementary school you went to. The people you hung out with. The movies you watched. The TV shows you didn’t watch. You are a byproduct of these things.
Anyone who assumes someone is “this” because they look like “that” is being dumb. Why? Because just because someone plays high school sports doesn’t mean they’re an idiot. Or just because a girl is attractive doesn’t mean she has to be dumb. Or just because someone is gay doesn’t mean they have to dress colorfully and have limp wrists. Or just because someone is black doesn’t mean they have to wear baggy pants. Or just because someone is wearing baggy pants doesn’t mean they’re low income or not intelligent. WE KNOW THIS. There are movie plots about how false and stupid assumptions like this are. There are TV shows about it.
Think about kids movies. Beauty and the Beast, The Princess and the Frog, Aladdin, The Lion King, Toy Story, Kung-Fu Panda, How To Train Your Dragon, The Little Mermaid, The Brave Little Toaster, THE LAND BEFORE TIME: all of these movies deal with the idea of people or animals or inanimate objects being more than what they appear, that our initial prejudices are wrong.
You think that’s just a toaster? NOPE! This is one brave toaster. Just you watch!
Beacuse a lot of these movies are cute and funny in tone, I think we take them for granted. There might be a girl who LOVES Beauty and the Beast, especially adores Beast, knowing he’s more than what he appears. But then this same girl is racist, assuming just because someone is Asian/Hispanic/White/Black/Middle Eastern/etc. etc. that they’re stupid or mean or beneath her.
You might be thinking, “Well, one is a kids movie, the other is real life. Real life isn’t as simple as a kids movie.”
Fine. But what about this:
Have you seen Frozen? Olaf never once does anything I’d describe as “stereotypical homosexual”. He especially doesn’t express anything in the way of sexual orientation. At one point he tells Anna that he loves her, but even that isn’t meant in a sexual way.
So why would Marjeez think Olaf is gay? Because Marjeez thinks you can observe and assume. 10/10 slave owners would agree!
Granted, yes, stereotypes can be accurate. There are people who look stupid who are stupid, people who look dangerous and are dangerous, girls who look like sluts and are sluts, guys who look like alpha asshole and are, indeed, alpha assholes, effeminate men who are gay.
But remember, people are multi-faceted. We’re not just one thing or another. No one is smart and never dumb. No one is dumb and never smart. Kobe Bryant, one of the best basketball players, trips and falls sometimes.
A perfect example of this is the TV show Frasier. I recommend watching all of this video, but the first minute or so will do.
Because of Frasier, people have spent two decades asking if Kelsey Grammer is gay. You can see why, right? Look at all the “tendencies” he displays in the first minute of that show. But it wasn’t just those few minutes Frasier showed tendencies, or this one episode (where someone who is gay mistakes Frasier for being gay, which is a wink-wink to the fans), it was the ENTIRE series, every episode. Never mind Frasier sleeps with women all the damn time. That HAS to be a ruse. And it isn’t that Kelsey Grammer is acting. He can’t be that good of an actor. Him being married in real life HAS to be a ruse. LOOK AT HIM! He has to be gay.
Grammer, as far as the public knows, is not gay. Neither is the recently-married Patrick Stewart.
However David Hyde Pierce (Niles) and John Maloney (the dad) are both gay. Not in the show. In the show they’re very straight. But in real life: gay.
You might ague that this proves me wrong and Marjeez right. Actors can “act gay” or “act straight” by using various “tendencies”. A straight man becomes “gayer” by acting “gay”. Michael K. Williams was a thin black man who loved dancing, yet you put him in a do-rag, baggy clothes, and hand him a shotgun, and he becomes Omar “oh shit, let’s get out of here!” Little.
But this is exactly why I’m right. It’s easy to change the most superficial aspects about our person–our appearance–and convince someone you are what you are not.
We try to guess WHO someone is, or WHAT that person is based on what? A single thing they said? A gesture they make?
I don’t understand this obsession with having to classify.
Why can’t we just say: people are complicated.
But not really. We’re like pianos. Most pianos have 88 notes. That’s it. And yet, over the course of CENTURIES, we’re still coming up with new piano music that hasn’t been heard before. Though some songs sound similar (which is why we created genres, the same way we group people into types), no two songs are alike. We know this.
How often have you been watching a movie or reading a book and thought, “I know where this is going,” only to be totally shocked when the narrative turns in a way you didn’t expect?
People are the same way. Each person is made up of 88 keys, but the order and pace at which those keys are played is completely unique.
Which is why I don’t understand why we have to try to figure out whether characters in a movie are gay or straight. What’s it matter what the sexuality is?
What’s even more confusing to me is why an LGBT-centric publication is attempting to appropriate Disney characters as being gay.
Gay Star News has an article called “The 14 Disney Characters You Had No Idea Were Gay.”
For the record: NO Disney character has ever been confirmed as gay. Which means there are, legitimately, zero gay Disney characters. And look, I’m all for having an LGBT Disney character. But I think it’s…harmful and irresponsible for anyone in the LGBT community to say “Oh! That character is gay! He’s ours!” Hasn’t the last three decades been spent trying to make the question of “straight or gay” irrelevant? No matter sexuality, we’re just people. Sexuality shouldn’t be a factor in the day to day life. In business, in sports, in parenting, in education, in art.
Which is why I find it disgusting when Gay Star News said Scar, from The Lion King, is gay because:
Scar is an example of a ‘coded gay’. Referencing a time when being gay was depraved, filmmakers were able to imply a character’s sexuality by the behavior, demeanor and dress. That way, audiences understood the character was meant to be queer even if there was no actual same-sex love interests.
Whether or not the creators of The Lion King meant for Scar to be gay–we have no idea. Why? Scar never says, “I’m gay.” Nor do we ever see him kissing or having sex with another male lion. Basically, Gay Star News thinks Scar is gay because of how he looks and some hand gestures he makes.
But if we know ANYTHING it’s that tendencies don’t equate to absolutes. Sports is an awesome example of this. Nate Robinson one time scored 34 points in a basketball game. That’s what elite players like LeBron and Kobe and Wade and Kevin Love and Kyrie score. Does that make Robinson as good as those players? No. Robinson shows the tendencies of an elite player, but he’s not an elite player.
And what the queer community has spent the most recent decades dealing with is people judging their capabilities to work, create, and parent–solely because of sexuality. Finally, when we’re at a point in the world where LGBTs are integrated into society with an unprecedented acceptance, when people aren’t making a big deal about sexuality–why is a major LGBT publication retrograding the conversation and placing an emphases on sexuality?
The sole reason Gay Star News says Hades from Hercules is gay?
A more modern take on a US fop in this 1990s film, as Hades is like every girl’s sassy gay best friend.
Does that make any sense to you? Because Hades is sassy, he’s gay. That’s like saying because someone is gay, they cry at weddings.
Then we have Slant Magazine’s review of Frozen.
The writer: R. Kurt Osenlund.
The first paragraph:
Disney’s Frozen teems with gay themes long before it hits its stride. It tells the story of Elsa, a princess from the land of Arendelle endowed with inexplicable, ice-emitting powers that shame her parents. In childhood, she injures her sister Anna during snowy playtime, and the half-stone trolls beseeched with healing Anna’s wound ask if Elsa was “born” or “cursed” with her gifts. (Fans of the similarly queer-friendly X-Men saga will note some striking parallels: Elsa develops a can’t-touch-this mutation a la Rogue, while Anna’s trauma leaves her with the Marvel character’s white-streaked hair.) Mom and Dad do acknowledge that Elsa was born this way, but after having Anna’s memory wiped, they nevertheless urge Elsa to remain in the family’s castle, its locked gates signifying the girl’s closed-off, guilt-ridden heart. “Conceal, don’t feel,” the princess is taught to tunefully recite in the film, which is based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, and hinges its chief conflict of eternal winter on the dangers of emotional suppression.
On the surface, there’s nothing egregious about what Osenlund wrote. The problem is the narrow-mindedness.
Sure, we can read Elsa’s “Conceal, don’t feel” song as recalling the strife that LGBTs went through for centuries as being queer was something that could get someone killed. Except there are other emotions people often suppress–joy, love, hatred, fear, competency, wanting to be creative, wanting to quit, etc. etc. Oselund even says the song is “based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, and hinges its chief conflict of eternal winter on the dangers of emotional suppression.” Or maybe Osenlund meant the ENTIRE film is based on Anderson’s work? I can’t tell because the syntax of Osenlund’s sentence is weird to me. Either way, his original point about the song “Conceal, don’t feel” being specific to “gay themes” is wrong. The song isn’t about being gay, because, as far as we know, Elsa isn’t gay. The song is about EVERY TYPE of emotional suppression. Which includes being gay, but doesn’t mean the song is about being queer.
Which is exactly what X-Men gets at. X-Men isn’t mean to be about homosexuality. It’s meant to be about anyone who feels different or is different. Which includes the LGBT community, but isn’t directed at.
So why does Osenlund, a professional film critic, miss the broadness of the film? Why does he feel a need to narrow the discussion arbitrarily?
Not only does he miss the broadness of Frozen, after opening his review with a discussion about Frozen’s “gay themes”…Osenlund NEVER MENTIONS IT AGAIN. Punk work, Osenlund. Punk. Work.
We’ve seen two instances of MAINSTREAM news organizations simplifying sexuality. Not only are these top news organizations, Gay Star News won the National Diversity Award and Slant is becoming a major critical influence. I think both are….not doing a good job.
An awesome article, one that I think takes the proper perspective, is at Autostraddle. The article, “Evil Queens Are Doing It For Themselves”, by Kate, never claims the Disney characters are anything that they aren’t. GSN news claimed Ursula, from The Little Mermaid, is queer because Ursula “seduces, she manipulates, she’s theatrical. And most of all she does it all while remembering the most important thing – body language.” Where as Kate/Autostraddle never tries to define Ursula’s sexuality.
She’s the ultimate Other of the merworld, as different as she can be. She doesn’t have the prepubescent supermodel body of every other merperson — she’s fat and totally fierce in her body. She’s also a cephalopod with tentacles, distinct from the traditional fishtails. She works the femme with super bright makeup, amazing eyebrows, and girl’s nails are always matching her lipstick. Her ultimate accessory is a necklace that holds people’s souls.
The closest Kate comes?
Ursula’s design was based on Divine, so you know she’s fabulous.
We could assume the word “fabulous” implies that Ursula is queer. Or we could take the word at face value: incredible.
I think the GSN article and the Autostraddle article show one way of discussing sexuality that is negative and one that is positive.
I ask again, why do we have to try to classify Disney characters as “gay or straight”? Especially when the sexuality has no impact on the story? Are Timone and Pumbaa gay? Maybe, maybe not. Why’s it matter? It wouldn’t impact the plot. This is the same question as asking if Jerry Seinfeld is gay or not. Does that impact how funny his jokes are? Or the quality of his TV show? Or whether or not you’d let him give you directions if you’re lost?
How does a major LGBT publication do something so…hypocritical? I see this as the equivalent of Martin Luther King Jr. putting out a list of people who would make good slaves. Which I’m well aware is an awful thought. But that’s how ridiculous I think the GSN article is. It’s like Home & Garden magazine doing a list of female movie characters that would make great housewives. As a global population, we’ve worked to stop categorizing people based on race and gender. The same way we’ve worked to make sexuality a non-topic. Kate’s article at Autostraddle is progressive. The Gay Star News article is regressive.
Just like Slant’s review.
Why does Slant state that Frozen is about gay themes and mention nothing else? Why not look at the movie from other perspectives? Especially when the movie itself is never about being queer. In fact, Frozen is ABOUT TRANSCENDING sexuality. For decades, we had the True Love’s Kiss as saving the day. Here, the kiss is abandoned. It’s an act of sisterly love that brings about the happy ending. Sure, romance is a major plot element, but the movie purposefully subverts making romance and sexuality the ultimate powers. And here we have a professional film critic at one of the most influential 21st century publications TOTALLY MISSING THIS POINT and making the movie about sexuality. UHG.
You think it would be obvious that a film critic would be more observant, or that an award winning LGBT news site should not enflame or encourage the question of “is someone queer”.
The lesson here: if you think something is obvious: think again.
I don’t think Olaf is gay. I especially don’t think we can know if he is or isn’t gay based on anything in the movie. But say Olaf is gay. So?