Hey everybody, I'm back! Did you miss me? Last month I didn't have a column because my life was consumed by chaos; I was shuffling around Athens like a Monopoly board - now I live on Chase Street! now I live on Hancock! But everything has settled down now and things are pretty good, so I'll skip the angst and gloom in this month's column and just give you something bizarre:
Hanson & Homosexuality
I am not insane. There actually is a link here.
Now, I'm not saying that any of the Hanson brothers are gay. As far as I know, they're fine examples of heterosexual youth. But Hanson has gone beyond being just a pop group and is now more in the realm of a cultural phenomenon -- and their popularity can be used as a kind of prism through which to view American attitudes towards homosexuality.
First of all, the Hanson boys are extremely androgynous. At my first glimpse, I thought it was a band of teenage girls (and I know that I'm not the only one who had that reaction). I've heard about teenage boys thinking "Wow, those Hanson girls are HOT!" before discovering that Taylor is, in fact, a boy. What I wonder is: are any of these boys questioning their own sexuality? Do they wonder about the fact that they have been attracted to another male? Of course not. Instead they just deny all of their feelings, which you can see by looking at...
Hanson Hate Web-pages. I've cruised through a couple of these, and I think that there are several perfectly respectable reasons to hate the group (e.g. cheesy lyrics), but most of the web-sites tend to boil down to one of two reasons: 1) They're fags. 2) They look like girls. So we can see that teenage boys (the ones who are developing these sites) are reacting with virulent hatred towards those that they perceive to be gay, and those who don't conform to traditional gender-role appearances. I know that this isn't exactly a startling observation, but it's comforting to know that some things never change.
Next, much has been made of the fact that almost every 13-year-old girl in the country wants to meet/date/fuck one of the Hanson boys. What Newsweek and Entertainment Weekly totally ignore is the fact that one out of every ten 13-year-old boys also wants to sleep with them (Ty, back me up on this). This is because young girls idolizing pop stars is cute -- young boys who do it are suspect, at least. Mostly, Americans don't want to admit that someone who's thirteen has any kind of sexuality, even though anyone who remembers being that age knows that they did. Young males aren't even really allowed to express heterosexual interest in celebrities, so of course following a male star would be forbidden. We're never going to see a version of "Bye Bye Birdie" with a male fan club.
Lastly, the way in which Hanson is being marketed is homoerotic. What's being sold really isn't the music - it's the image of Hanson: three good-looking teenage boys. Who does that appeal to? I'll admit that I wouldn't kick them out of my bed if they showed up in it (well, I'd kick out the drummer - "Go get a cookie, kid, I'm busy."). Hanson has to have some adult male and female fans, because there aren't enough teenage girls in the country to sell that many albums (which goes into my theory that sexual interest in youngsters is far more common that we like to admit, but that's another column).
For example: the videos they show on MTV. The song MMMBop is ostensibly about getting dumped by a girl. So where are the girls in the video? There aren't any! In "MMMBop" and the follow-up video "Where's the Love?" any female is conspicuously absent. Instead, the camera just follows these three cute boys while they clown around and play their instruments (is there a difference?). It's like watching the first hour of "Death in Venice." * The only physical contact which occurs is between the boys. The only way it could be more blatantly homoerotic is if the boys took their shirts off. Yeah, there aren't any girls in the video so that the brothers will look available, but they're engaging in traditionally male activities which appeal to a male audience. They drive, explore, and "plant a flagpole" on the moon (that's just slightly phallic, don't you think?). Hanson is playing towards an interested male audience, even if they would deny any intention of doing so.
Well, that's all I have to say on the subject. Do you agree? disagree? think I'm a pervert for even thinking about this? Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org I'll be sending the next month cogitating on the difference between "Coming out and Being out." see you later.
*"Death in Venice" is a movie (and novella by Thomas Mann) about a male composer who goes to Venice and falls in love with a young boy. Then, he dies.