January 21, 2014

Reluctant Gay Dude's Guide to Modern Gay Vernacular: A Response


Chances are you’ve probably seen this video by now.  If not, take a few minutes to view it and return to this article...

[Insert Jeopardy Theme Here]

Alright, so now that we are on the same page...  GIRL, WHAT? Like... What did we just view? I kinda feel like we just re-watched that scene from “Game of Thrones” where Walder Frey slaughters House Stark.  Ew.

I’m not sure if any of you had as visceral of a reaction as me, but I was deeply disturbed on multiple tenets:

First, this is a classical example of “cultural appropriation.”  Cultural appropriation is the
systemic theft adoption of cultural elements by a different cultural group.  Usually, this phenomenon is enacted by whatever perspective or cultural ideology dominates society, as “minorities” and “less celebrated” cultures seek to distinguish themselves from dominate culture, through creating ideas, rituals, rites of passage, symbols, etc.  By adopting these cultural pieces, mainstream culture frequently misuses and misunderstands what was taken, as it is being understood in a different context; outside of the perspective of those who created the appropriated item.  Much of the lingo featured in the previously mentioned video was created by the forefathers/foremothers of “Black Gay Culture,” namely those a part of the drag and ball culture communities. 
Folks like Dorian Corey, Marsha P. Johnson, and their legacies created something unique to separate themselves from a movement that was predominantly viewed as a “middle-class, white phenomenon,” based upon their observations and experiences as queer people of color.  Today, major aspects of “their creation” have slowly diffused into mainstream pop culture, being used in poor context, and without citing their community’s contribution.

Thus, now understanding the previous, my second issue is that many of the definitions and examples given in the video were inaccurate and extremely hollow.  Perhaps,
much of the shallowness was a by-product of the host’s comedic tone; nevertheless, the presentation was pretty “off.”  Let’s take a look at how “shade” was defined:

Shade - [to insult or speak ill off]
“...You keep throwing shade at me because I lost your library card...  I told you I would replace it hunty.”

For those of us familiar with “shade,” we understand that the concept of “reading” came first.  Sure, “throwing shade” or “reading” someone would include the process of insulting him or her; however, it’s much more than that.  The nuances of each term are what differentiate them from one another.  “Shade” is supposed to be subtle and stealthy.  In its covertness, it stings after the fact.  A “read” is meant to slap you in the face, while simultaneously emphasizing or exaggerating a fact or noticeable flaw.  To define either one simply as “an insult” is extremely misleading.

Finally, the host suggests that “Looking” does not include any of the featured vernacular...  So, why does he make a point to talk about it? Why was this vocabulary montage made the central point of the video? This truly stumped me.  All-in-all, we learned very little about “Looking,” its characters, or what the show hopes to chronicle.  Was this not the main purpose of creating the video? To discuss the details of a “groundbreaking” new show? I don’t expect HBO to explain itself, but at this juncture I’m genuinely curious...  Almost as curious as seeing the subsequent fallout of "The Red Wedding."  I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
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