Critical Reading of Magazine Article
Written as a spoof, I hoped this magazine spread and article referring to a gay best friend as a must-have accessory for any fashionable lady would make readers realize how ridiculous that idea is. While the existence of gay best friends is nothing new, it’s the idea that they’re an “accessory” or something that can be owned that is bothersome. What is the difference between a gay best friend and just being your best friend, and why does popular culture insist on the differentiation?
As put by Thomas Rogers, a writer quoted in a CNN article, “What’s always offended me about the stereotypical relationship, especially following ‘Will and Grace,’ is the notion that the gay man gets turned into a commodity. The gay man allows women to feel exotic, like they’ve suddenly found themselves an exciting pet or fancy outfit that will get them comp tickets to Broadway shows.”
While the GBF is continuously popularized and monopolized by the media, it’s definitely not okay to fit the idea into a boxed cliché. Not every gay man is into fashion and musicals.
For example, in Lidia Yuknavitch’s memoir Chronology of Water, she spends a chapter explaining the importance of two gay men in her life, Michael and Dean. While it’s shown that these were very close friends to her, even compared to as being the family she never had, it’s not as if Lidia chose to be their BFF because they were gay; she loved them because of who they were and the connection they shared.
“I didn’t learn to love men from anything I knew. I learned to love men from loving Michael…I didn’t learn to love holidays from my family. I learned it from entering Mike and Dean’s house…I didn’t learn to cook from my mother. I learned to cook from watching Michael…I didn’t learn how to be feminine from any women. I learned to take off my combat boots and comb my crooked hair from looking at pictures Dean took of me over the years, pictures where he showed me that someone like me could be…pretty,” writes Yuknavitch on page 250.
While each of these characteristics that Mike and Dean shared with Lidia can be simplified and be put into that stereotypical GBF mold (they teach her to decorate, cook, and dress), it’s important to note that it wasn’t their talents or hobbies that Lidia placed emphasis on, but on their meaning.
I think that was why I was so stunned when I found the Teen Vogue article that was actually serious in pointing out how a GBF is the trendy thing to have. It amazes me that an actual publication, even worse a magazine aimed at young girls, is promoting such a shallow idea of friendship. Lidia wasn’t friends with Mike and Dean because they were gay, she was friends with them because she deeply cared for them, and it’s sickening to think that because of the article and TV shows endorsing this fantasy best friendship of rainbows and unicorns a bunch of impressionable teen girls are scouring the crowds choosing their next friend solely based on their sexual orientation.
I can’t believe I even have to include this, but a gay man is a PERSON and is a completely unique individual, unlike a specific designer bag that is fabricated to be exactly the same as all the rest no matter if it’s bought in New York or in Tokyo.
In a critique of the Teen Vogue piece found on gawker.com, Richard Lawson satirically underlines his disgust in comparing a gay man to an accessory.
“Um, OK. I don’t even know how to be mad at these kinds of things anymore, y’know? I’ll just say to Vogue, what if I wrote an article that was called “Asians! Everyone Wants To Be Friends With ‘Em.” Would you enjoy that? Though race and sexuality are two very different things, so how about “Cripplez: Are They For You?” That would be a very interesting and good article to read I suspect,” Lawson writes.
Sure the gay best friend or gay boyfriend emerged long before it became a necessity according to pop culture, but it’s the idea that EVERY gay man is some fashionable, sassy diva that is bothersome. I don’t want to be misunderstood that I’m against having a gay as a best friend. That’s not what I mean AT ALL. I just want to emphasize that one should create friendship based on a genuine want, not for the need, especially if that need is your shallow desire to be a Carrie Bradshaw clone. If you create a sincere bond with a gay guy who likes dancing, wearing heels, and sipping on wine while watching “The Real Housewives of New York,” then of course there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you go to a gay bar searching for your new gossip/dancing toy only because you saw “Glee” and wanted your own, then maybe you should take a moment to find your morality. It should be common sense that it shouldn’t matter whether he is gay or not as long as the friendship is GENUINE.
In addition to having the shopping fashionisto gene, another stereotype in the appeal of friendship with a gay man that’s alluded to in the Teen Vogue article (that I’m happy to note was removed from the site) includes a level of honesty that is usually unattainable in friendships among women.
We can see an example of this “frankness” that is supposedly a trait reserved only to gay men in the reading by Craig Seymour also done in class. In the excerpt entitled “Envisioning Lives,” Seymour quotes an anonymous letter written in response to a story “Cover Girls’ in Essence magazine.
“Just as I was about to give up completely, gay males came into my life. I may even eventually meet a gay male with whom I can share my life. I am especially open to the sense of truth, openness of expression, level of considerateness, and general lack of inhibition,” (Anonymous 1992, 9).
Overall, while it’s safe to say that some of these characteristics, like wit, fashion sense, and being blunt, may be true for some gay men, it is entirely dependent on the individual, and it is extremely unfair and superficial to say that they are constituent to each and every one because they are somehow synonymous with being gay. It’s as if we are still stuck in the perception that all “gay men are more like (straight) women and gay women more like (straight) men,” as criticized by Anne Fausto-Sterling in Frameworks of desire (51).
In summary, as Fausto-Sterling also states: “The stereotypes seen on Will and Grace, or in discussions about butch and femme lesbians, may derive from particular, but certainly far from universal, practices within the gay community,” (50).