Every time I turn on Logo (the gay channel), I find myself confronted with a discussion program featuring the same group of hard-done-by homosexualists, all complaining about the same issue. The cause of their suffering? Gay bashing? The Christian right? No, these inverts are focused on something far more gruesome: their homo-media invisibility, i.e., the dearth of gay character depictions on TV during the latter part of the last century. Unlike the fabulously privileged straight folk of the world, or so goes the argument, we gays were deprived of the unspecified benefits of “seeing ourselves” represented on TV during our formative years.
Putting aside the fact that this line of thinking is rather insulting to all the poofs and dykes who worked their asses off on TV during the offending period (Paul Lynde, Rip Taylor, Charles Nelson Reilly, Alan Sues, JM J. Bullock, Nancy Kulp, to name almost all of them), I cannot shake the feeling that these well-meaning folk are scraping the barrel in search of victimhood.
Now that the playing field has been leveled and one cannot turn on one’s television without being confronted by a telegenic nelly of some description or other ( moi included), the gays of the future will have to get really creative if they have a hope in hell of casting themselves in a victimy light. I’m sure they’ll come up with something: I can imagine mid-21st-century gays—huddled on similar discussion programs—bemoaning the extensive psychic damage incurred as a result of the current gay media ubiquity and loudly craving the codified invisibility of yore.
Which brings us to a magnificent tale of gay invisibility: Brokeback Mountain. The story line—two doomed Marlboro men fall in love in a hostile environment—is a recipe for operatic sadness. Compound this with Heath Ledger’s amazing performance (this is the first and last time I will ever compliment a pampered, overpaid actor in this column) and you have one of the saddest movies of all time. In the tearjerker department, it’s right up there with Imitation of Life.
As I left the theater clutching a wad of tearstained paper napkins snatched from the concession stand and praying that nobody who had ever seen me on America’s Next Top Model would recognize me (“Now it’s your turn to cry, little fellah!”), I found myself dreaming up alternative, happier David Furnish/Elton John–type endings for Ang Lee’s triumph.
I envisaged our two handsome heroes hopping on a Greyhound bus and heading to New York, where they become not hustlers but top-flight hair colorists. (That cowboy drag is a surefire passport to success in the hair world. Do the words “José Eber” mean anything to you?). Ere long, Ennis and Jack would have their own chain of salons and a line of hair goop produced and distributed by L’Oréal.
Those of you who are recoiling at the cheesiness of this alternative dénouement clearly have no idea just how much money—much of it CASH!—is to be made in the world of hair. Manhattan chippies think nothing of paying $200 to get their roots touched up. Japanese straightening? If you want it to look halfway decent, you’re not going to get away with paying less than $500 a shot. Ennis’ pesky monthly child support would easily be covered by a couple of his Saturday-afternoon tips!
Through product-licensing deals—think Jonathan Antin or Sally Hershberger—our cowboys could pocket enough money to buy Brokeback Mountain and turn it into a Western-themed clothing-optional resort.
The moral of the story: Sometimes the price of freedom can be a roll of tinfoil and a bottle of bleach. Any marginalized underclass group craving visibility and power should send its young to the nearest salon. That goes for the New York bourgeoisie as well: An earnest straight-Jewish-doctor friend, upon learning that John Frieda sold his company for $440 million, has vowed to send all his kids to beauty school. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper than Brown.
PS: Re Logo: André Leon Talley (if you’re going to drop a name, drop a big one) turned me on to a not-unamusing series entitled Noah’s Arc. It’s a gay, black Sex and the City. Check it out, and please join me in praying that Noah, the lead character, will bag the struggling-screenwriter angle and get into hair.