Thursday, May 09, 2013
Queer as Fake
For years now, Salon's stable of really silly female writers has been to me what Tom Friedman is to Matt Taibbi or what The Family Circus was to Timothy Olyphant's drug-dealer character in Go: an unhealthy obsession that I can't help but be transfixed by no matter how much it sucks. Yeah, I love my friend Mary Beth Williams and I typically enjoy Joan Walsh's stuff quite a bit, but dear God, the rest of it. You already know about Irin, and Katie, and Falguni -- and emeriti like Heather and Stephanie -- but only one name at Salon dares to take on a beat that I suppose I should enjoy -- and yet strangely never do -- almost exclusively, and that's Tracy Clark-Flory.
If you're unfamiliar with Clark-Flory's work, she writes about sex. And, yeah, that's pretty much it. She's got the sexually empowered New York City chick cliché down pat and she cranks out more click-bait than just about anybody else at Salon, whether it involves watching porn at work or just mining her own sexual exploits and experimentation for opportunities to tediously navel-gaze, if you're looking for a hipster-lit boner, Tracy's your girl.
Yesterday, Clark-Flory posted a short column over at Salon that takes issue with what she sees as the recent rash of jokes about gay love by "bro-medians." In other words, straight guys who, she figures, suddenly see it as okay to play homoeroticism for laughs because they do it without any ill-will or offense intended. What led her to write the piece? Two things that happened back-to-back: a sketch on Late Night from a couple of nights ago in which Jimmy Fallon and John Krasinski lip-synced songs to each other while getting a little too close for a couple of men who claim not to be gay, and then, the next day, the release of the new single and video from the Lonely Island.
The song, Spring Break Anthem, intercuts lyrics about -- and in the video, images of -- your standard debaucherous spring break douchebaggery with lines about meeting Mr. Right, then planning a wedding between two guys and eventually tying the knot. While the Fallon gag, like most of his stuff, really is pretty pedestrian -- it's harmless and good-hearted but the sight of two straight men gaying it up is in fact the joke -- Clark-Flory is completely missing the point of what the Lonely Island is up to.
Spring Break Anthem is a fucking brilliant piece of subversion. While you know from the minute you hear it that the intention of Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone is to mercilessly send up "bro" culture -- the hyper-masculine, ultra-sexist, and almost doubtlessly homophobic frat boy behavior that turns Lake Havasu into the world's biggest toilet every spring break -- you also know that the song would still be a huge hit with precisely the people it's making fun of. That's the meta joke we've all become used to: When parody is done well it's almost indistinguishable from whatever it's parodying; in this case, the very people the Lonely Island are mocking when they shout over an LMFAO-style beat "Who wanna do a shot?! WE DO! I'm gonna get fucked up! ME TOO!" would without question be singing right the fuck along when the track got cranked to 11 at the Hard Rock Vegas pool during the real spring break this year -- were it not for the fact that as the song goes on there are more and more lines like "Sex with a man! We'll be so happy, true love forever, two kids walking hand in hand! Promise to cherish, trust and respect him... marry a man!"
Obviously, by the time the song turns up at an actual, honest-to-God spring break event, everyone will know the joke and so you'll lose out on the glorious opportunity of watching the faces of the frat douches change from pumped, to confused, to probably horrified, but you've got to imagine that the average party school dickhead will have no idea what the hell to do with the lines about gay sex and marriage. And here's the thing: If by some chance that dickhead and all his dickhead friends actually do find it in their hearts to enjoy the entire song, who knows, maybe the cognitive dissonance will help teach them a little tolerance. It's a stretch, I know, but stranger things have happened.
The fact is, regardless, that the Lonely Island isn't just rolling out homosexuality as a punchline; the joke isn't as simple as a couple of straight guys singing about getting married. Tracy Clark-Flory's wrong to assume it is. She's also wrong when she ends her piece with this predictable and thoroughly condescending scold: "To all bro-medians: Please, put a hold on the gay sex jokes until you come up with a really good one."
I've got a better idea. To Tracy Clark-Flory, and really quite a few other self-proclaimed feminist writers over at Salon and elsewhere: How about putting a hold on lecturing legitimately funny people on how to be funny. Trust me, you're not qualified to do it.