January 1999

The Trendy Thing to Do

I am walking out to the van in which our team came to the Belmont Plaza. As we're walking, our resident jerk -- every team has one -- begins to mock the residents of Belmont. His wrists go limp like soggy noodles; his hips sway from side to side like a hula dancer; his voice becomes high and squeaky like a rusted hinge. It's an act that gets laughter from everyone on the team save the author. I am reflecting on how being gay is now a trendy thing for the humor industry, and is now being adopted by the average Joe/jerk in the street; this has kept me too busy to laugh.

I think that it started with Ellen. Her coming out episode was the highest rated show ABC had that year. It even got me to watch TV -- I generally have no time. But once something becomes popular, whether it's Tickle Me Elmo or a TV show, the popular item spawns a slew of knockoffs. With Tickle Me Elmo, it was other toys like Sing'n'Snore Ernie; with Ellen, it's the recent shows that have introduced the idea of homosexuality for laughs. I haven't yet had time to see Will and Grace, but I have seen recent episodes of Ally McBeal and That 70's Show. These two shows both deal with being gay in very different lights.

In Ally McBeal, Ally scares away an irritating guy by kissing another woman. By implying lesbianism, she drives away the jerk. When he gives her a bible and pamphlets on how to change, she drops them and shudders. I'm glad that the image of a bigot is being mocked. The charming Christians at my old high school were all visible in the bigot, and Ally's response was probably enough to convince her audience that she thinks being gay is okay.

Similarly, That 70's Show also made it okay to be gay. When Eric's best friend kissed him, it wasn't a horrible act of no return; it was just a guy looking for love and finding friendship. I applaud the efforts Hollywood is making to come out. But Hollywood's efforts are giving my idiot teammates the deluded notion that anything gay is funny.

"[It] bothered me," David Sedaris once said, "that they'd found such an easy way to get a laugh. As entertainers, these [people] were nothing, zero." For example, on the van ride home, people pass the time by telling stories. Most of the team's stories involve random sex with random girls in random places. Since they aren't ready to know about my sex life, my stories tend to be far more my neurotic family (I start out with a true incident and expand on it -- so far it's working).

Meanwhile, they talk about the joys of watching lesbians since, "you get a double dose of girls." I've gotten to the point where slurs from ignorant people don't hurt, but they still irk me. None of the gay people I know prance about with spaghetti noodle wrists like in their stories of random people they have beaten up (though I'm sure that stereotypical gay people are out there -- stereotypes exist because some people fit them, after all). I understand that jocks tend to be stupid, but my jerk teammate managed to be a Scholastic All-American in swimming last year -- it's not stupidity but ignorance that fuels his behavior. Something tells me that nothing will change till I'm out to the team, but I'm waiting on that. Frosh Hazing is bad enough without mixing in homophobia. I apologize to everyone who actually stuck with me on this rant.


Mike is a gay college student in California. He swims, studies, and spends a lot of time thinking of unflattering things to say about ignorant straight people. He loves speaking in the third person and reading e-mail; you can reach him at hubbabubbafly@hotmail.com

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