We want our kids to make fun of, and then clink juice boxes with, the gays on the playground.
The U.S. government recently told federal employees to forget anything they saw in those diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks, while everybody else enjoys the lurid details of Qaddafi’s Ukranian nurse and Hillary’s identity-theft ring. Short of Men-in-Blacking bureaucrats, there’s no way to enforce this directive.
Yet our national thought police, represented by a decent comedienne and a threesome-initiator on “Gossip Girl,” wants to clamp down on another boat out of the dike - the use of “gay” as slang for something negative. “That’s so gay” has been credited with the suicides and bullying of gay teens, plus the heightened attention given to an otherwise forgettable Vince Vaughn buddy comedy.
Banning this juvenile ejaculation from the lips of the nation’s bullies and Stiflers, before it loses cachet and everybody starts calling things “fetch,” would be a mistake on par with voting for Bristol on DWTS. My good friend Jeremiah, whose marriage doesn’t depend on the California Supreme Court, wants to make America totally gay.
We know that “gay” means “lame” in this context. But if we go back to “lame,” we’ll simply transfer the stigma to people with disabilities. You could start calling things “douchey” - Jon Stewart’s longstanding verbal crutch - but then we’re using vulgarities that insult women. I didn’t even know what a douche did until last week - seriously, ask my girlfriend.
That’s the point of slang - words and meanings drift apart until you forget they were ever together, like Warren Buffett, his wife and his wife-approved mistress. If you remember scenes from “Growing Pains” out of fondness for the show or ironic fantasies about being “raptured” by Kirk Cameron, you’ll remember the teenager Mike Seaver sullenly proclaiming “this sucks eggs.” Ten years later, Seinfeld’s Frank Costanza could exclaim “It sucks!” - in reference to an omelette! - without any “egg” modifier. By then we had forgotten that “sucks” originally referred to, you know, actual sucking, and was later modified at the behest of parents, educators and network executives, so a new generation would forget its phallic roots.
“Gay” has traveled a “merry” and “noble” road as well, describing everything from tail-wagging dogs to dandies in fur coats like David Puddy. Heterosexual barbarians were having a “gay old time” through the swinging ‘60s, until the Stonewall riots ruined the fun.
What really bothers us is that kids are harassing actual and suspected gay peers. No one worries that young black men might kill themselves because white suburbanites are calling each other “niggaz” - blacks are simply annoyed that such “lame” people have stolen a term of endearment. Our 21st-century culture is built on the mutual, tolerant and good-natured insults we sling back and forth. We want our kids to make fun of, and then clink juice boxes with, the gays on the playground. They, in turn, can zing the pudge-packers and give them makeovers at recess.
So long as Canada keeps its gay little hands off Christian Lander for calling Barack Obama “the first white president,” can’t we spare our li’l bastards the indignity of making them into the douches we’ve become?
Greg is not afraid of insulting a tenth of America just to keep his precious whiteness intact. Greg, for whom whiteness is a God-given, Disney-built achievement of cultural superiority, routinely fears blacks, gays, Jews, Arabs (and possibly Persians), fat people, and liberals in equal measure, depending on which social situation he's in.
But fear not, Greg, you can't lose your most cherished and valued commodity--your celebrated and practically bullet-and-history-proof race--even when you make fun of yourself. It's easy to rail against those who are different. Just what does trodding on the perceived or real sexuality of someone, just to decry the "lameness," do in the long run?
As we slouch ever closer to the Apocalypse or Tenenbaum (whichever is more frightening), we are probably the first culture in history to be concerned with labels offending one group or another. Making hate a crime is as proudly imperialist as you can get, unless you're staunchly in favor of the imperialism of hate, in which you have a standoff of Oscar-George proportions.
And why shouldn't we worry about other people's feelings? We've got the food and shelter thing down, unless you're in Africa, and they certainly have no shortage of worse atrocities than name calling. When you're no longer concerned with the bare necessities and have stopped macheteing the competition to death, the natural progression is to conquer schoolyard bullying.
But isn't gay just another word for lame, and aren't all insults by their very nature, insulting and thus not open to criticism?
Words change their meanings, and meanings evolve, like Hitler from a mediocre artist into a brilliant public speaker, or Seth MacFarlane into Stewie Griffin. It isn't the vulgarities or insults themselves that are under scrutiny; it's the use of a pejorative that simultaneously indicts a large portion of San Francisco, who may be lame, but they aren't gay, except in a gay way.
Even gays have trouble knowing what's okay to say. Back in 2000, "gay as lame" was surging. Everyone was using it. It was the equivalent of a Rwandan machete wielded by child soldiers on our playgrounds. It still is. The only difference is we've gotten smarter and more sensitive.
The gayness of something has, through the common lexicon, become a measure of one's homosexuality, the litmus seeming to hinge on relative fashion choices, haircuts, effemininity, type of pets one owns, and of course, if you're a dude banging or being banged by another dude (the "that's so gay" insult doesn't, in fact, apply to lesbians, for whom there is no equivalent schoolyard slang with which to marginalize the lame, dumb, or stupid things of the world; "That's so lez" doesn't quite have the same stinging ring to it).
Say what you will about Clay Aiken as a gay man, just don't call his music gay, because that's mean, and because Clay's music somehow, beyond all sense of grace, virtue or value, transcends gay culture, like Thomas Kincaid driving under the influence (he's a painter and runner of red lights).
It's up to us to discover a term that applies equally to gays and straights, that doesn't offend one's phallic leanings or refer to Italians in the negative, yet also remains solidly pro-Jew, pro-family, and non-racist. Better yet, find a phrase that offends ONLY white people without touching on the sexual or political.
I think "That's so Raven" kind of sums it up.