Logo debuted the trailer for its new show “Fire Island” last week and the predictable criticism from the oh-so-easily-offended gays immediately followed.
Writing for the Advocate, Jason Wimberly frets, “Documenting the escapades of a bunch of gay men on Fire Island may seem harmless, but what effect could it have on gay preteens who have yet to come out?” Wow, that’s a lot to put on the shoulders of a cable TV show.
Wimberly goes on to wag his finger at those of us less perfect, writing, “I don’t use the f word, I won’t be photographed holding a cocktail unless it’s celebratory champagne and I’ve never even had a speeding ticket.”
Well, fuck, I’ve had many speeding tickets and there are so many photographs of me holding a cocktail that my political career was over before it began.
Wimberly’s concern is that shows like “Fire Island,” which in fairness hasn’t even premiered yet, debase the culture and that LGBT people should “elevate public perception of us as best as we can.” Fair enough. But the overall tone of his piece — and of the many online comments it spawned — points to a larger problem in the LGBT community. Namely, we’ve gone soft.
At the risk of sounding Trumpian, we need to make America’s gays tough, witty and fun again. Growing up in the ‘80s wasn’t easy as a gay teen, but we fought our battles and stood up to the bullies and survived. We didn’t have anti-bullying laws and helicopter parents. I’ve been suspended for fighting in school; when the class bully calls you a faggot, you respond with a withering put-down of his mother. Those experiences made us tough and resilient. It was good preparation for what awaited us in the real world, which was way more real than reality TV.
Today, we’re thin-skinned and seem to be in perpetual need of protection. If you walk through life looking to be a victim, you will not be disappointed.
As for the horrors of trashy TV, our community has always had a unique knack for embracing the best of high and low culture alike. We’ve kept Broadway afloat and always appreciate a good opera, but we also embraced a shit-eating drag queen (Divine in “Pink Flamingoes”) and a long line of scantily clad pop stars of dubious talent. Both can be part of a healthy cultural diet. Camille Paglia understood this about the LGBT community, writing passionately about Nefertiti and Madonna in the same book.
The earnest Mr. Wimberly has good intentions and I agree with him that if all you’re watching is so-called reality TV, then there’s a problem. In industry parlance, “reality TV” means taking 6-8 people and tossing them into an unlikely and unfamiliar situation (like “Fire Island,” or Bravo’s latest escapist delight “Summer House”), furnishing them with alcohol and a hot tub, and voila!
There’s not much to redeem these shows, but their aims aren’t ambitious. Enjoy “Fire Island,” then go read Gide. And lighten up, gays! It’s OK to have a cocktail, to consume pop culture, be silly and enjoy life. Everything in moderation. Now pass the remote and a glass of Champagne.
Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.