Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hating Dustin Lance Black or Can Humans Be Role Models?

Small confession: I hate Dustin Lance Black a little bit, and this was before the unprotected sex pics spread like kudzu over the Internet, except on Towleroad, where there's an ongoing brouhaha because Andy Towle has--for unspecified reasons--chosen not to post DLB's sex scandal (he posted Sanjaya's coming out as straight and David Archuleta's father's sex scandal instead) but to post DLB speaking with Anderson Cooper about Obama and the gays . . . now he's, allegedly, censoring bitchy criticisms . . . oh, the outrage when bloggers do as they please!

I don't hate DLB in the same way I hate Pat Robertson or Bill O'Reilly or Ann Coulter. I hate them because they're evil assholes. No, I hate DLB--a little--in kind of the same way I hate Angelina Jolie or Justin Timberlake or George Clooney. In other words, in a jealous, petty, insecure, they're-celebrated-I'm-not kind of way. I hate him--a little, only a little--because he's younger than I am, cuter--with that whole Mormony boyish thing going on, has a silly hairdo I could no longer copy even if I wanted to, has an Oscar, and gets to be on TV, never mind that I'd need to swallow a whole bottle of Ativan to get myself in front of TV cameras and speak coherently (if one can speak coherently after a whole bottle of Ativan) with Anderson (uh-oh, do I have any of those pesky gay sex tapes floating around?) Cooper. Yet, a part of me thinks: hell, I'm gay, I can write and think (when not under the influence of major pharmaceuticals), I would have been happy to research Harvey Milk's life and put together a screenplay, how hard can that be? (To which some might reply: if it's so easy, how come you're not doing it?) So, I must admit that even back when DLB was untainted by the glory and indignities of having his very own sex tape out there in the big world wide web, my response to him, say, when he was delivering his earnest, heartfelt Oscar acceptance speech was a mix of: such a sweet and wonderful gay hero, and someone needs to take that little golden boy tearily holding the golden boy down a notch. I'm not proud of this schizophrenic response, but there it is. (And I know I'm not the only one who had it.)

Then, this week, along came that notch-altering someone (the reliably scummy Perez HIlton etc.) in the form of private sex photos suddenly made public because DLB is a big enough star for someone (i.e. an ex-boyfriend apparently, clearly a very classy one) to cash in on a little notoriety. Clearly, if DLB was anonymous like, say, me, the sex pics would be of little interest to the public. (And probably he's only enough of a star for the pics to be of interest to gay men and to right-wing propagandists who'll try to profit off them in their own sleazy way.) Let's face it, they're not news. Any more than Colin Ferrell's sex tape was. Straight people have sex. Gay people have sex. They have anal sex. Too often they have unprotected sex. And sometimes they film it, cause filming it seems fun and sexy at the time.

I'm sure DLB was more than a bit mortified when the pics saw the light of day. I mean, if he wanted them to be seen, he could have held them up at the Oscar podium and gone--hey, millions of people, look at me! Hot or not? Indeed, DLB has made a public statement--he was a man about it and didn't pretend it was some other blond twink who looked just like him, which it easily could have been--regarding the "embarrassment of this incident" and has apologized for "the misleading message these images send." He goes on to emphasize the "importance of responsible sexual practices." Calls to publicist were likely involved.

When I first saw the pics (of course I clicked on them without hesitation), I found them jarring. The guy in those pics couldn't possibly be the same as the innocent looking tuxedoed guy (I'm thinking altar boy, but do Mormons have altar boys?) at the podium who was held up as an inspiration to gay youths all over the world? The podium guy who has become a spokesperson on gay rights and a role model because of his achievements, yes, but also because he does look so very adorable. As if innocent and adorable looking people aren't interested in fucking. It shouldn't have been jarring, but, even to me, a gay guy who's been around the block more than a few times (and cultivated his own innocent look back in the day, though he really was innocent in deed if not in thought), it was. In fact, instead of salivating over the pics (granted, he's not really my type), I gave them a thorough but quick once over, and clicked them away. Almost wished I hadn't looked. Almost. Damn, now I know that not only is he human but he may, like lots of humans, be dumb about condom use. Another bubble burst. What's next? Kris Allen and a hooker?! Now, whenever I see DLB, I'll be privy to TMI and--being the shallow being that I am--I will think more about the images (no chest hair, pity, average penis, not that I'm a size queen, really I'm not) than about what he has to say about slightly more important things, like the human dignity of gay people.

There are a number of odd things about this "incident"--the type of "incident" that is becoming more and more common in this record-everything-share-everything-with-or-preferably-without-permission world. The first oddity is the idea of writers being role models. Like F. Scott Fitzgerald or Norman Mailer or Tennessee Williams were ever considered role models. Well, perhaps they were, but not in the pious sense that seems obligatory for role models today. Nowadays, even Bruno--a fictional satirical character created by a straight man--is analyzed as a role model before the movie even comes out. And, if by some accident of fame and looks, someone becomes a role model, do they have to give up their crown because they've done stupid things in life? Ideally, DLB could use this "incident" as a talking point the next time he speaks to people across the country about safe sex (which he says he's done), and perhaps he will. More likely, it will be hovering over him like a comics dialogue bubble (the dialogue replaced by amateur sex scenes) every time he's earnestly discussing gay issues, until it either blows over (does everyone still think about Rob Lowe's embarrassing incident EVERY time they see him on screen?) or it doesn't (Pee Wee Herman, poor guy, all for harmlessly masturbating in a porn theater!).

Maybe there will come a day when openly gay celebrities can simply be fallible and do what they do (write screenplays, sing songs, host a talk show), without also having to be official gay spokespuppets. But that day hasn't arrived: Instead, the media loves a scandal (how disappointed they were when Adam Lambert confirmed the obvious without blinking a mascaraed eye--they even tried, unsuccessfully, to force him into labeling himself bisexual just to have some "scandalous" headline), and so do we.

Given the choice, which do we click on first:
Dustin Lance Black's body or Dustin Lance Black's mind.