Sunday, March 01, 2009

"Out Magazine" centerpiece gets it right: think of the "perfect male" as like an (avian) cardinal

Well, Out Magazine really has got it right now. In the March 2009 issue, there appears, about ten unnumbered pages in, a two page promo “Marc from Marc Jacobs” of what appears to be the perfect male. Yes, he’s probably a model or actor. But, instead of the juvenile fantasy of the past, we see a tall, lean twenty-something with a neat beard, reclining on rollers on a marble floor as if in a Northampton hammock, complete with frankly shaggy legs and arms, and a bearish tuft at the neck. (Thankfully, there's no "rose tattoo"!) Thumbing through the magazine, I see that there are plenty of other hairy legs and some celebration of the external trappings of manhood.

Suddenly, gay fashion has gotten it. The male is to be admired for his “masculinity”. For decades, it was women who got admired and socially pampered for their beauty. Now, it’s the man’s turn.

Isn’t it that way in nature? You wake up to chirping outside your window at 5 AM and notice that it’s a brilliant male cardinal. How often among birds is it the male who has the brilliant plumage, whereas the female is more camouflaged to protect the brood? (The Army is pretty good with that.) It’s sometimes true among social mammals. Male lions have manes, which help them establish themselves at the top of a social hierarchy. Tigers, who have biologically identical bodies underneath, don’t make such differentiation in secondary sexual characteristics because they live solitary lives.

Perhaps the editors of Out reread the essay "Notes on the Hairless Man" by David Skinner, "The Weekly Standard" (a "conservative" periodical), June 21, 1999, although it’s not on the web anymore; you have to go to the public library to find it. Ah, we long for the glory days of Alexandria, Egypt.

The issue of Out also has a humorous article on comedy actor and director Andy Samberg, and how SNL (NBC Saturday Night Live) is struggling with how to get straight actors and writers into doing “positive” gay materials – getting beyond the Larry Craig and Ted Haggard “jokes”. How about a skit about the barracks and removing “don’t ask don’t tell”? Even the New Republic once had some political cartoons about dropped soap bars. And there was TNR’s other spoof called “I wouldn’t want YOU”.

As for Out’s spread of the “perfect male”, you probably have to stimulate the economy and go out to a newsstand and pay the $4.99 for a hardcopy. Sorry, I can’t legally reproduce it here. Gay magazines, just like all newspapers, badly need revenue today to stay afloat. Consumers need to actually pay for some things.

But consider the example “Out” has set. One way out of the revenue mess, at least for media companies, is to offer commercials so good that people will want to pay to see them. That might be the first “ray of hope” for our economic mess. But what you offer has to express absolute perfection, life as you want it to be, in a world of narcissistic fantasy.

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