Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Joan Rivers and Bethenny Frankel: Gay Men Aren't Pet Poodles

(Update to post: You can see how much reality TV I watch. I was informed I spelled Ms. Frankel's name wrong. I will make that change. If I missed one, please forgive my grave error.)

Poodles and gay men are two of the most misrepresented groups in the world. When most people think about poodles, they think about prissy, high-strung dogs who yap all the time and prance around in silly haircuts and rhinestone collars. When most people think about gay men they think about what they've seen on TV shows and films like "Sex in the City," where every strong woman has at least one effeminate gay friend to hang out with. Trust me on this, poodles are nothing like that and neither are gay men. I have two poodles and the reason why I have them is because they are one of the smartest, strongest breeds out there. I used to show Irish Setters in obedience. I got tired of losing and got myself a poodle. Whenever I stepped into a ring and I saw either a poodle or a German Shepperd I knew I was screwed. Poodles can also be as vicious as Pit Bulls, and they prefer to be outside catching snakes instead of inside on fluffy pillows. And, like gay men, if you cross a poodle not only will he snap back fast but he'll never forget you crossed him.

But this isn't about dogs. A few things prompted this post. The first was a comment I read a few weeks ago by an older gay author and book reviewer whom I admire a great deal. He read an article where someone asked Joan Collins how she feels about gay men and she allegedly replied by saying something about how much she loves gay men and never likes to go anywhere without one. The gay male author I admire posted something like this in reply: "Why do I now feel like a pet poodle."

Another reason why I'm posting about this is because I was asked to participate in a TV reality show a few weeks ago. A producer in Hollywood contacted one of my publishers and asked if she could recommend someone. My publisher recommended me and the producer contacted me right away. From what I gather, it's a reality show about romance authors...romance authors in general, not just m/m romance authors. I answered a few questions, replied nicely, and spent a lot of time thinking about this reality show over that weekend. Ultimately, after I answered the basic questions, before it went any further, I declined and thanked the producer for considering me. I did this partly because I'm a writer, not a TV personality and I love what I do as a writer. I also declined because I've seen the way these reality shows represent gay men...very poorly...and I didn't want to wind up as someone's pet poodle. I think you feminists out there can relate to this with regard to beauty pageants, and the way women have always been represented (or misrepresented) in beauty pageants. I was never a fan of beauty pageants for this reason. It's basically the same reason why I declined on the reality show.

The main reason why I'm writing about this now is because Tony and I accidentally watched two reality shows on TV this week I rarely ever have time to watch. One was a show by someone I'd never even heard of until I watched the show and googled her name: Bethenny Frankel. The show is about Bethenny Frankel's life (a reality TV diva from what I gather), in general, with the same quasi reality theme all these shows have...even though it all looks completely staged and there isn't an ounce of reality to it.

But there was nothing else on, so we didn't switch the channel. In one scene, Bethenny and an older woman with a very negative attitude go shopping. And guess where they go? That's right. To the gay guys who own a posh high end furniture gallery in New York. I think Ms. Frankel even commented about how much she loves to visit her "boys," (meaning her gay male friends) on her way into the gallery. This scene mirrored every single offensive "Sex in the City" scene with gay men being treated like women...just one of the girls...I'd ever witnessed. Tony and I watched for a few minutes, rolled our eyes, and promptly changed the channel. You have to understand where we are coming from. Tony was a corporate executive who traveled the world for twenty years until he started his own company. He worked with strong women in corporate and they always treated each other with mutual respect. No one, trust me on this, ever treated Tony the way Ms. Frankel treated the gay guys who owned that store in New York. If they had, they wouldn't have been able to speak for a month (smile).

And Ms. Frankel's show wasn't even that bad, at least not considering other shows I've seen. I wouldn't even be writing this post if I hadn't watched the Joan Rivers, "Joan and Melissa" show last night. Again, Tony flipped to the channel by accident and we wound up watching something we normally wouldn't watch. I'm a fan of Joan Rivers. She's been around for a long time and I respect her survival instincts. Of course I believe her show is as much about reality as I believe the candidates running for President right now. But it's not a bad show either; I like bologna. Some of the lines are hysterical. I was enjoying it...and then the classic gay guy pet poodle came on and Tony and I wound up rolling our eyes again. In Joan's show, the gay guy is a middle aged comic who opens for Joan before she goes on and does her act. I'm sure he's paid well for what he does. He's just one of the girls, which is classic in regard to how reality TV shows and Hollywood have been treating gay men for years. In last night's show, this guy put on his make up and went to a bachelorette party with all the women, and Joan actually referred to him as the "sister" she always wanted to have. Evidently, he doesn't mind this at all.

Now I do know this is a combination of generation gap and money. Joan comes from a time when the only openly gay men were the most effeminate and enjoyed being treated like pet poodles...for a buck. Again, I'm not knocking these guys because they did what they had to do to survive in a world where there weren't LGBT rights. No one talked about diversity and tolerance back then. In some ways, it's still like that to this day and we, as gay men, have a long way to go in the self-esteem department. Joan also knows how to get a laugh and what people will laugh at. And gay men behaving like prissy women are right up there at the top of the funny ha-ha list in stand up comedy. They all do this; it's not exclusive to Joan Rivers. And we all know there is no limit to how far anyone will go when it comes to making money.

The most interesting thing about all this is that some of the most powerful gay men in Hollywood were not openly gay and they were not treated like pet poodles. Joan Rivers and Bethenny Frankel wouldn't have treated Rock Hudson or Merv Griffin that way. I do know that there are, indeed, gay men who like to be treated like one of the girls. I'm not slamming them in this post and I really don't care how they choose to live their lives. I want to make it clear that I'm not discriminating against them. It's just that I often wonder where the Al Sharpton hero is for the gay male community when someone does or says something offensive with regard to gay men. I've always been the first one to laugh at myself. I wrote about a burping dick once and I've been writing parodies for years. I think I have a sense of humor. But I also think it's time that we stop laughing at gay men the same way we have stopped laughing at people of African descent, or Asian descent, or any descent for that matter. I don't like it when things get PC and people have to stand on guard constantly. But there should be some lines drawn so all gay men aren't misrepresented and exploited to the mainstream public in such obvious ways. We're fighting for some serious rights and we need to be taken seriously in order to get them. I feel strongly about this with regard to the way women are treated, too. I just don't comment about it often because I'm not a woman and I don't feel I have the right to do this.

I'm also no one's pet poodle. Neither is my partner, Tony. I would rather go to a funeral than suffer through a bride's bachelorette party...even if Joan Rivers was paying me to do it. Just the thought of going to a bachelorette party makes me want to scratch my nuts and spit on the sidewalk in retaliation. I'm not one of Bethenny Frankel's "boys." I don't like to shop, arrange flowers, or pick out fabrics. I like fast cars, straight vodka, and a good cigar every once in a while. I like sex with men, but that doesn't make me a woman. I don't like to gossip, shop for anything, or listen to Broadway show tunes. I know more than a handful of gay men who are just like me and feel the same way I do. And for every single gay man who doesn't mind being treated like a pet poodle...or who is willing to be treated like one for money...there are at least ten more who wouldn't allow it to happen.

1 comment:

Barb said...

Bravo! One more reason not to watch television, especially reality tv. How much of the country is NOT in the big city, and all they see are these "gay men" stereotypes. I wouldn't want to be out either, if everyone around me thought that's how all gay men really are!