On Thursday, The Hollywood Reporter tried to make "stromo" happen, with an article about "straight white male stars going gay (ish)." After chucking their laptops into the sea, HuffPost Entertainment editors Matthew Jacobs and Lauren Duca got new laptops so that they could discuss what this means for society.
Lauren: Hey, Matt! I just wanted to pass along a quick congrats to you and all gay men. According to The Hollywood Reporter, we are the lucky witnesses to the rise of the stromo -- a(n offensive) term referring to straight actors catering to gay audiences (which sounds a lot like something a lax bro would make up in the late '90s). Apparently, the evidence of the stromo is that the vagina-appreciating likes of Channing Tatum and Chris Hemsworth are totally cool with gay men liking them. Isn't that great? Y'all used to be stuck with Barbra Streisand and, I don't know, Liza Minnelli, but now it is totally fine to like straight men, too! Are you writing a thank-you note to THR as we speak or ... ?
Matt: Since THR's New York offices are in the same building as HuffPost's, I've already hand-delivered flowers. I wanted to express gratitude for validating all the deep V-necks I own (thanks for making that okay, Adam Levine!) and for reminding us that Robert Pattinson could have filed a lawsuit all those times the media made him the subject of a "bromance." THR knows those guys are the true trendsetters, paving the way for us gays to feel comfortable in our own skin.
Lauren, I'm not sure if you and I should continue debating the merits of this trend piece, if one is generous enough to give it such a label, or if we should just rank the most clueless quotes about what its sources claim as progress. (My favorite: "Straight men now want to be sex objects -- and what better way to get objectified than by other penised human beings?") In truth, the idea that straight men in Hollywood are now embracing gay audiences isn't offensive, and there are thoughtful arguments to be made about how that's evolved in recent years. But Nick Jonas taking his shirt off at a gay bar and James Franco being sexually fluid "up to the point of intercourse" does not give them some amalgam of hetero- and homosexuality. That's not how that works, but I'm not sure the author of this piece understands that. Welcome to 2015, where the "stromo" is the true freedom fighter!
Lauren: "Penised human beings" is just how I refer to all men all the time anyway, so that didn't really stand out to me. But what did is this insistence on a microscopically stereotypical understanding of gay men including, but not limited to, the phrase "butts, gym-molded or otherwise." As if choosing to go to SoulCycle and, according to this piece, the nail salon is some metric of sexuality. There are scenes featuring Stanford Blatch in "Sex and the City" that are less mind-numbingly ignorant than that.
The idea that we would need to coin a phrase, and that that phrase would combine the words "straight" and "homo" (unless it stands for straight FOMO, which, I guess, also works?), is gross. It's totally missing any conception of gender fluidity and assuming that being gay requires a small arsenal of V-necks. (Also, LOL, does Merle Ginsberg think it's chill for her to write this because she was a judge on "Drag Race"?)
Matt: Right, and the only straight allies worth mentioning are white, well-sculpted men anyway. Thank goodness we have someone to highlight the bravery of pretending to be gay on a movie set for a few months or riding on a float at a pride parade or, you know, just generally being willing to associate with the LGBT population. But what about the "young" moviegoers? Channing Tatum better put in overtime on "harder workouts" to catch their attention, or I'm afraid they'll send America right back to the '50s with their homophobia. Praise be to straight men in Hollywood for advancing LGBT rights!
In case the Internet commenters want to attack me for implicating Chan-Man and Mr. Jonas in my vitriol, just take a step back. I'm not criticizing any of the celebrities mentioned in the article -- their open-mindedness is nothing if not a step forward, even if there's an element of slight pandering at times. But the media must be held responsible for how we see celebrities, and employing a crass portmanteau like "stromo" misplaces the progress that both Hollywood and larger society have made. Tatum does not need a round of applause for being polite to his gay fans, and we do not need trend pieces that imply there is profitability in being an LGBT ally. If that is considered progress, then it is a phony, reductive version of it. But what do I know? I'll just keep sending photos of my chiseled eyebrows to Ryan Gosling's fan-mail address in hopes he'll switch teams. This article makes all my dreams seem more plausible!
Lauren: Yeah, no shade to all the beautiful, famous white men and their eight-packs mentioned here, but it's insulting to discuss these shifting images as though they are solely geared at taking advantage of an LGBT audience for profit. As if the only reason to be an ally is limited to selling tickets specifically to those gay men that shave their chests. Acceptance is great, but what THR is describing here is more like "non-homophobic pandering."
Maybe, if we decide not to burn this article to the ground and then scatter the ashes in the sewer, there's a tiny nugget of something good buried under the trash attempt to make "stromo" happen? Straight cis gods like Channing Tatum definitely don't need praise for their trailblazing "gayish" (also Ginsberg's word) appeal, but maybe this kind of marketing, however cynical, is a sign we're moving away from heteronormative standards.
Matt: It surely is, for better or worse, and there's no doubt that celebrities can do wonders for steering cultural discussions in progressive directions. I want to see someone think through that transition carefully and not rely on formulaic ideas of gay men's bodies to emphasize its relevance. Also, can we stop with the Twitter-hopeful buzzwords? The "dadbod" moment was cute, but "stromo" is a bit desperate, even before we weigh its tactfulness. The next time someone wants to discuss this, let's remember that a cute new word does not expand the spectrum of sexual identity, just as "big-lipped" Eddie Redmayne's willingness to play a transgender character is not a substitute for the actual advancements needed within that community. But hey, this is just a one-off article, and we can at least give it credit for attempting to celebrate the strides we've made. Now, off to yoga!