By Mtí Q.
This last weekend I was in Mérida, the capital of the Yucatán state. It’s a completely different world compared to the City of México. Mérida is very hot and beautiful, almost Caribbean. It’s also a much smaller and conservative society.
I was lucky enough to assist to a couple of performances –one in the street and one in a restaurant- that were totally amusing and entertaining, mixing a bit of folklore with jokes. But in both of them, homosexuality in its most girlish way was used to make people laugh. Laugh a lot.
I’d like to analyze this fact: ¿Is it good or bad for the homosexuality and the homosexuals to be depicted in public this way? ¿Is it positive for gay men to still be commonly represented as effeminate guys?
I will explain the first situation: While walking in the street I saw the show of “Lucy and Calabazo”. Calabazo was a fictional character played by a chubby boy. Dressed typically as the town people of the region, Calabazo liked to make spicy comments to any daddy watching the play and to walk along the stage moving his hips from side to side.
It was funny as hell. But a little too much obvious. Why is it always so entertaining to see a guy acting like the feminine queer? Can’t we gays be funny without acting like divas?
That was just a brief thought, because the show kept going, and it was really hilarious. Just to tell, Lucy ended up impersonating the Spanish singer Mónica Naranjo… no words for such an abundance of out of tune screams.
So we left the scene after having had a very good time. It’s normal, I thought, to make some humor using the most used clichés of the gay community. I still remember some of the gags of a legendary late TV night show in Spain called “Noche de Fiesta” (Party Night) or the classic Billy Wilder’s movie “Some like it hot”. A bunch of innocent laughs, after all.
But then I went to this cantina where there were some live performances going on. The first one was a band of mariachis, quite cool. But the second one, a couple of guys impersonating singers like Raphael or Rocío Durcal and dressing like a prototypical 70’s gay -shorts tight jeans and tops- and during the show there were some interludes where they were acting like foul-mouthed divas. The best scene was when they changed the lyrics of one song and started shouting “Marica tú, marica yo, marica na na” (Faggot you, faggot me).
For most of the people this was the best moment of the whole show. And kept on cheering and applauding them. But what was in the viewer’s mind? Were they laughing because they were funny or because they were playing the gay part?
These situations made me remember about one documentary that I saw a few years ago. It’s called “Celluloid Closet”, directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman in 1995, and is a research about how motion pictures, especially in Hollywood, have portrayed gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender characters.
There’s a particular part where it describes that from the very beginning cinema relied on homosexuality as a source of humor.
“The idea of who you are comes not only from inside but also from the culture, and especially in our culture it also comes from the movies. Movies tell you how a men and women are, and how sexuality is”, says film historian Richard Dyer in the documentary.
“Celluloid Closet” explains one gay figure that I think is still defining the gay culture: The Sissy.
The sissy was the first gay character: “The sissy made anyone feel manlier or more womanly by occupying the space in between, he didn’t seem to have sexuality, so Hollywood allowed them to thrive”, explains the documentary.
Today, more than 80 years after than the first sissy appeared on the cinema, new forms of sissies and other gay characters emerge creating new stereotypes, usually funny but also pathetic. And these stereotypes are still being used to make people laugh.
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I don’t think so. And we shouldn’t see it as a way to normalize a sexual condition, but as a way to turn us gay people into a kind of buffoons.
And we should keep this in mind; buffoons were funny and even socially accepted in the old times, but they were NEVER treated like equals.