Saturday, March 17, 2007

missing the obvious

it's saddening when you realize someone that you have long admired turns out to be a casual bigot. garrison keillor, of "a prarie home companion" fame, wrote a horrendously hypocritical piece about marriage. when i first read the article i sort of sat back in disbelief that he would write such a thing... oh how my hopes have been crushed, garrison... why? i just dont get it. you have to read the article for yourself, and then read dan savage's savage (yet fair) critique!


W.B. Reeves said...

I wouldn't call Dan Savage's rant fair since it's based on a falsification. To whit, that Keillor presented stereotypes as fact when he clearly did not.

It's patently obvious to anyone except the irony challenged that GK doesn't intend his discription of his childhood to be taken for reality. He knows very well that not everyone had two parents, a lawn, a car, etc. He no more expects this to be taken literally than he expects us to believe that his parents were no more than "smiling manequins". If this is nostalgia it is clearly faux nostalgia.

What seems to have escaped the critics is that this was all preamble to GK's pointing out that, regardless of whether this illusion of stability was good for children or anyone else, no one pretends that this is the way we live now. He makes it fairly explicit that in this context gay marriage, like serial monogamy, is just one more challenge that people will have to cope with.

GK's critics seem particularly incensed by his observation that straight society has come to accept a particular stereotype of gayness which he goes on to describe. Since his observation is indisputable, GK's critics focus on his discription which they find objectionable because it is ... a stereotype. Exactly how one is supposed to describe a stereotype without being stereotypical is not explained.

You might think that, at this point, his critics would cop to the fact that a GK is making comparison of stereotypes but alas no.

What I think actually pushed most of his critics over the edge was GK's suggestion that this public image does not jibe with the tough job of parenting, a task that requires putting the welfare of children ahead of any other consideration. Again, it's hardly open to dispute that the popular stereotype of the Gay male doesn't include or even allow for parenthood. How many episodes of Will and Grace dealt with parenthood? How many of the guys on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy have kids? Are we ever going to see a Gay Brady Bunch?

In a way the reaction is understandible. Given the struggles, both personal and political, of Gay people it's to be expected that they'd not take well to some straight guy advising them on how to present themselves. That, however, doesn't justify denouncing GK as a homophobic bigot for stating the obvious. To whit, as long as gayness is associated in the broader community with images of fabulous, high consumption, essentially narcistic lifestyles, it will make the struggles of Gay parents and their families for legal and social acceptance that much harder.

Now if GK's critics were zinging him for assuming that gay people have control of how they are portrayed, they might have a point. I haven't seen anyone make that point yet. Too busy screaming homophobe I suppose.

Unknown said...

i think the issue that parents need to be supportive of and focused on their children and not solely themselves is a valid point. a family involves the parents and the children interactively experiencing the world.

but i dont understand why GK needs to invoke stereotypes of any parenting group to prove this point. it doesnt matter the gender of a single parent or two parents. whats important is the *children*. what is important is for parents to provide an affectionate and cooperative environment by unconditionally loving and supporting their children. period.

i hope that when i become a mother, i dont completely lose my personality by becoming a "helpless mannequin in the background." i want to be the one in the front row smiling and clapping the loudest for my child! and if i happen to have a brightly colored, hawaiian print shirt on... does it really matter?