Max's Blog

How Pop Culture Leads and Misleads

Month: June, 2011

Hello Dolly

or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Stereotypes

One of the things I hated about doing queer studies at UofT (besides the esoteric discussions centred on some inane straw man of a theory, which nobody believed anyway) was the inability of students to get past ‘deconstructing’ things. The focus on every identity being ‘socially constructed’ (thank you, Judith Butler) has convinced a whole subset of young academics that ‘deconstructing’ identities is a worthwhile endeavor.  My professor, on hearing someone wanted to ‘deconstruct’ the traditional male, or the feminine wife, or whatever, would say “Okay, but what are you doing in a class room?”

Then there was that much-discussed but rather silly cover story in The Grid which, because some white, hipster queers don’t like rainbow flags, declared a new way of being gay. The author didn’t seem to realize that resenting stereotypes is as grand a tradition in the gay community as musical theatre and bath houses. Gays in the 1950’s didn’t like their stereotypes; same in the 1970’s. The only result is that new stereotypes are formed (which the cover photo suggested, what with its bearded, bow-tied, plaid-wearing homo’s).

Stereotypes are not always bad. They can help people find a place in the community and get comfortable with their identity. We fight for human rights so that we have the freedom to be whatever we want to be, not necessarily be reactionary and original.

I think it’s hilarious that as a refugee from academia, first fleeing to Ireland and then to WORN Fashion Journal, my first major article was not only about stereotypes, but celebrated them. And based on it and Sara Guindon‘s gorgeous illustrations, we created these wonderful paper dolls.

Through my article, I have ended up putting gay men into little packages based on socially-constructed identities. I wonder how Michel Foucault would feel.

Click here to check out the WORN issue with my article ‘Out of the Closet’ and click here to order these fabulous little guys.

Introducing Wilfred the Fairy: With his snappy suit, pink carnation and sidekick poodle, he wouldn’t be out of place tickling the ivories in a Noël Coward comedy. While his jokes may be dry and a bit cruel, he’s a sweetheart deep down who tears up when Judy Garland sings ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’.

Don’t let Gunther’s tutu fool you. He’s a tough-as-nails Radical Drag Queen who doesn’t let gender binaries or police officers prevent him from marching in pride parades and high-kicking his magenta heels. By mixing femininity with masculinity (note the beard and hairy legs) Radical Drag Queens of the early 1970s forced people to question what, if anything, gender meant.

None of that gender-play for Lance the Clone. He likes his t-shirt tight, his green jeans tighter, and his moustache well trimmed. While Fairies of the 1950s had dressed like dandy aristocrats to escape the bourgeoisie, Clones of the 1970s embraced the icons of working-class manhood (cowboys, soldiers, construction workers) to show the world that just because you slept with men didn’t mean you couldn’t look like one.

Tobias the Leather Man has only one inspiration: the leather-clad biker. Gay men were into black leather for almost as long as the Hell’s Angels. He demonstrates his sexual interests with signifying keys on his belt or with a coloured hanky. But beneath his studded and studly ensemble, he’s harboring a secret: he’s got tickets to go see Bette Midler with Wilfrid next week.

Other People: Tommy Mosher

Tommy Mosher is a writer, poet, singing, song-writer, long distance runner, occasional white-rapper, tree-planter and graduate of the University of Guelph, from which his diploma just arrived in the mail. He apparently quotes Hemingway now. As you read this, he is planting saplings in Northern Alberta. He is also my little brother and is missed. 

MM: What book should everybody read?

TM: Something by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Perhaps Love in the Time of Cholera. It’s the bee’s knees.

MM: How is writing a song different than writing a poem or short story?

TM: It’s not all that different. Songs come about in different ways. Sometimes I have a guitar riff first, sometimes I have some words and go from there. A poem has to sound interesting or compelling with only the sound of language, whereas a song integrates music. But writing them can be a very similar process. I tend to go simple when writing songs, though. I don’t like to over-write them. And when I am writing poetry I usually don’t know that I am doing it. I just jot down random lines or phrases and pull shit together.

MM: For those of us who would never go because they fear dirt, describe tree planting.

TM: You shouldn’t go planting if you fear dirt. List of things you shouldn’t fear if you are to go planting: rain and cold, wet feet, isolation, damage to hands, bugs, bears, the ongoing rambling of your own mind. Treeplanting is a really hard job. It breaks you down and only gets better once you toughen up and become more comfortable with the extreme nature of it. If you survive the initial shock of it, the body pain and the rugged lifestyle, it pays off. You meet great people and make some decent money. I’m enjoying it this summer because it removes you from the real world.

MM: What’s your next step after this summer?

TM: I want to travel a bit. Not sure where. I might look into teaching english oversea. I might do nothing.

MM: What are your top five all-time favourite quotes from movies or TV?

TM: That’s a frustrating question. I often communicate entirely through quoting various things. Here is a list of movies/shows I never grow tired of quoting: Seinfeld, The Office, Star Wars, The Magnificent Seven, Jack Black in High Fidelity, Dave Chappelle doing Samuel L. Jackson, anything from Lost, a whole lot of swirling song lyrics.

Fuck it, here are a couple more off the top of my head:
“I walked out the door, there’s no memory left here.” Jim Carey from Eternal Sunshine…
“You realize, of course, that we could never be friends…” Billy Crystal from When Harry Met Sally
“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places…” Hemingway

This is a hard game.

MM: What country would you like to visit and why?

TM: The ongoing search for beauty can take me anywhere. I don’t care. I would just appreciate traveling and being in new places.

MM: What are your fondest memories of Guelph? What will you not miss?

TM: My years in Guelph have contributed greatly to who I am. I will miss many of the friends I made. I expect I won’t see them as often now. I will miss The Cone Shoppe and The Speed River. I won’t list the things that I will not miss. What is the point in that? I know what they are.

MM: Describe a recent great vintage purchase.

TM: Bright red wool jacket. Looks like a Santa coat. Shrunk it in the laundry and now it is too small.

MM: For those of us who get out of breath climbing stairs, describe long distance running.

TM: I always have trouble describing distance running to non-runners. It’s really not just an activity or a sport, but more of a lifestyle. It consumes you and demands a lot from you. You have to pour yourself into it in order to compete at a high level. It’s about pain tolerance and endurance. Discipline.

Hardcore training is a love/hate relationship, but to be a good runner you have to love it more than you hate it. You have to have a fire for it. It’s a great feeling, being able to go for a long run, pushing your body to its limits and then just lay down in the grass and feel your muscles gasping for air. Running is my favourite sport because it is just the human body pounding away. The original competition of humanity: who can get from here to there faster?

MM: What’s your current favourite album slash emerging band?

TM: I don’t have any emerging bands to list since I haven’t had an ear to the pavement for a while. But I will say that not nearly enough people listen to John Frusciante. He is amazing. A couple other quick names to check out would be James Vincent McMorrow, A.A. Bondy, and Possessed by Paul James.