Monday, October 31, 2016

Some Things Just Don't Change, I Guess

It's been annoying enough to see all the babble about the Chicago Cubs going to the World Series -- did I get that right? I really don't pay attention to these things -- though I admit, having so many of my Facebook friends distracted from posting stuff about the election campaign made online life a little easier for a while there.  And now it's over, which I know because the express bus I rode to Seoul this morning played the final game* live on its video screen, with commentary from a couple of Korean sportscasters on location.

But yesterday one of my Facebook friends, formerly a resident of the dorm where I worked for thirty years and now a journalist somewhere, posted a link to an article that included this graphic.
For context: the Fox sportscaster Joe Buck has been vocal in his admiration for the Chicago Cubs player Kyle Schwarber, "the heroic slugger who is almost certainly the first professional athlete to return to play after suffering a tragic knee injury."  Apparently he ran on until it began to annoy some sports fans, some of whom expressed their annoyance by constructing memes like the ones sampled above.  Some fans also started a wedding registry for Buck and Schwarber -- no, two of them, with proceeds from one allegedly to go to Cleveland Indians Charities.

I looked it over for a while, then commented that I was trying really hard, but I couldn't find a way to read it except as good old-fashioned fag-baiting.  No reaction, either from my friend or from any of his friends.  This morning I added a comment: "I give up -- it's fag-baiting." Still no response, but when I looked for the post tonight to grab the collage of images, it was gone.  So maybe I made an impression, though not the impression I'd intended to make.  (It took me a while to find another article with the same graphic; I was unable to find the article my friend had linked to.)

This could be an answer to the question I posed myself a few days ago: whether there were images that would offend me to the point that I'd demand their suppression and removal.  Now, I did not and do not call for the suppression or removal of my friend's post, or of the article he linked to.  What I do want is a response.  It seems to me that these images are the equivalent of images of Barack Obama as a chimpanzee or as an African witch-doctor with a bone through his nose, that no nice liberal would admit to being amused by; but as I've noticed before, nice liberals -- especially males -- despite their lip service to and even sincere belief in Equality and support for gay marriage, still harbor homophobia in their hearts that now and then will come bursting out in fag jokes, uncomfortable references to buttsex, and pictures like the ones above.  And if you have any doubt that antigay bigotry is involved, consider this tweet, just one of numerous ones that make it explicit.

One right-wing commentator complained that Buck's admiration for Schwarber, which she also called a "man crush," "is getting annoying, if not borderline creepy."  "Creepy"?  Well, I haven't listened to Buck's commentary, nor am I going to bother doing so.  What is creepy, to my mind, is the persistence of this kind of grade-school mockery -- Joe and Kyle / Sitting in a tree -- among nominal adults of any political persuasion.  Where's the liberal hand-wringing about how this sort of thing will drive young Homo-Americans to suicide?  Again, I'm not calling for suppression, even on that rationalization, just wondering what runs through people's heads when they make and share images like these.

P.S. Something else funny here, in more than one sense of the word.  Remember how distraught many straight people (and some gay people too) get about supposedly "modern interpretations" of manly friendship and admiration that cast the manly men involved as homosWriting about this before, I distinguished between
what I'll call a homophobic (or gay-baiting) interpretation -- which detects eroticism in same-sex bonding in order to mock and discredit the people involved, while furiously denying the possibility of eroticism in pairs whom the homophobe does not want discredited -- and what I'll call a homoerotic (or gay) interpretation, which sees eroticism in same-sex bonds as positive and desirable.
Homophobic / gay-baiting readings have always been acceptable in the mainstream; it's pro-gay / homoerotic readings that arouse indignation there.  What we have in these images is clearly gay-baiting, and an example of how gay-baiting is used by straights (mostly by men, but by women too) to shame and control each other. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick pointed out somewhere (I think in Epistemology of the Closet) that it's impossible to draw a sharp line between "innocent," "platonic" male friendship and Sodomitical vice, but this is a feature, not a bug: men can never be sure that they haven't crossed the line between the former and the latter, which fuels anxiety that can be redirected into mockery and hostility against other men, as we see in these images.  The fag-baiting of Buck and Schwarber is comparatively harmless, unlikely to hurt either man, but it shows that, although homophobia may be declining, the anxiety Sedgwick wrote about is still lurking in many men, ready to surface in harmless and harmful ways.

*Evidently it wasn't the final game.  You see?  I told you I don't pay attention to these things.