Why the rise of the ironic homophobic meme isn’t a bad thing
Some memes do more than circulate on social networks, run out, then disappear; some are part of a total cultural shift in humor. In 2018, ‘Homophobia Millie Bobby Brown’ was born, a joke that imagines the sweet and reputedly healthy Netflix star Strange things as a source of shameless homophobia. Three years later, a shoot of Millie smiling blankly with a take-out cup captioned, “I just bought myself some really hot coffee to throw on a queer” still appears regularly on Twitter. Just like a Photo of the 17 year old standing in a provocative pose, accompanied by the words: “I hate the word homophobia – why would I be scared of a queer? “You’ve almost certainly seen the memes most ubiquitous iteration: the actress behind the wheel of a car, with words to the effect of: “just ran over a bitch homo xoxo beep beep.
When it comes to creating these homophobic memes, no one works like the homosexuals themselves. This does not mean that everyone agrees that it is a good mood. A 2018 article in Them argues on the contrary, with the big title “Painting Millie Bobby Brown homophobic is not funny, it is despicable”. But, for a lot of people, it was just funny because it was despicable. Even though he belonged to a particular pocket of the Internet, he remains the prime example of a larger trend: homophobic jokes are not regressive; instead, they’re actually really, really funny.
This could manifest itself in the ironic reverence of homophobic public figures, as in the popularity of this gif from former Tory MP Ann Widdecombe, who once suggested that we might produce a scientific answer (solution) to homosexuality, by trying to straighten her hair. The gif is now regularly posted to express the carelessness of the camp. Sometimes that turns into a larger model of problem women, like the enduring popularity of Azealia Banks, despite her homophobic outbursts. A video of her laughing, “queers! I hate you queers, you are therefore boring! ”has become a mainstay of gay Twitter. Other times it involves taking harmless images out of context, like this one clip of Tyra Banks saying, “Get the cigarette out of the TV, I’m do not watch that! “(she quotes a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, disapprovingly) or Ariana Grande shouting “Grandpa, let me hear you make some noise!” (she really says “Vegas”.)
But, before considering Why some gay men like tongue-in-cheek homophobia, let’s see how it’s actually used. This can be a way to piss off your friends, of course, but it can also be a way to signal disapproval of other individuals, factions, or institutions within the gay community. People often refer to this type of intra-gay conflict as “internalized homophobia,” but there is often nothing internal about it. While self-mockery is clearly a common queer affectation, this ironic style of homophobia is not primarily deployed against oneself. (I’ve called myself a “stupid queer” before, but it’s not quite the same thing.) In that sense, it’s different from “slurping” as it’s commonly understood. The idea that taking back a bad thing someone says about you and using it in a positive way is empowering. This is not what happens here: it is less’ I am proud being a queer – and I’m done apologizing ”, plus“ those queers out there are really boring. Which, you know… sometimes they are.
“While ironic homophobia is linked to centuries-old homosexual sensibility, the way it has been combined with the nihilistic absurdity of meme culture has created something new.”
That’s not to say it’s entirely mean or affectionate, and it’s also different from literally viewing other homosexuals as “queers” in a pejorative way. Write in The Guardian last year, André Wheeler argued convincingly that “an inordinate idolatry of rugged masculinity” has led gay men to use the word queer as “a verbal punch”. Ironic homophobia does something different – to begin with; It’s way too much camp defend male ideals. It should be noted that heterosexual male homophobia rarely has the camp theater to make it funny. It also follows a rich tradition that gay men are mean to each other (which marks a refreshing contrast to the ‘be kind’ tenderness that characterizes so many queer online spaces) and see our own suffering. with an ironic distance. Queer theorist David Halperin argued that this tendency to deride our oppression is egalitarian and even subversive.
“To make one’s own suffering a vehicle of parody, to refuse to exempt oneself from the irony with which one considers all social identities, all the performances of authorized social roles, is to level social distinctions”, he writes. in How to be gay. “By rejecting any pretense of being taken seriously and relinquishing any personal right to sympathy, sentimentality or deference, you are throwing a wrench into the machinery of social depreciation. When you laugh at your own pain, you are throwing a wrench into the machinery of social depreciation. you anticipate and anticipate the devaluation of You also invite others to share your renunciation of any automatic claim to social status, and you encourage them to join you in the midst of people whose suffering is still subject, at least potentially, to devaluation – and whose tragic situations are therefore always likely to be mocked. “
While ironic homophobia is tied to age-old homosexual sensibility, the way it has been combined with the nihilistic absurdity of meme culture has created something new. The resulting register can be deeply funny in itself. There is a guilty pleasure in laughing at what is shocking, tearing, and inappropriate. For gay men, tongue-in-cheek homophobia can be a healthy way to indulge that impulse (healthier, certainly, than getting into 4Chan or Ricky Gervais). There could also be an immunizing effect. In a study of Chicago and Kansas City drag queens in the early 1970s, anthropologist Esther Newton wrote that, “Only by fully embracing the stigma itself can one neutralize the sting and make it laughable.” Today, exposing yourself to homophobic vitriol in an ironic and absurd way might well reduce its potency if you encounter it elsewhere. Maybe the next time I’m a victim of a hate crime, my participation in Millie Bobbie Brown memes will provide me with a powerful psychic buttress.
“There is a guilty pleasure in making fun of what is shocking, tearing and inappropriate. For gay men, tongue-in-cheek homophobia can be a healthy way to indulge that impulse (healthier, certainly, than getting into 4Chan or Ricky Gervais).
For me, the main appeal of this registry is the way it positions homophobia as something almost quaint, something we can afford to be irreverent. This is not an entirely accurate impression: while enormous progress has been made over the past 30 years, gay men still face a number of structural oppressions, which is especially true if you are not white, cisgender, non-disabled, or middle-class. LGBT homelessness is disproportionately high, gay migrants and asylum seekers face border violence and deportation, there is a serious lack of infrastructure in place to support the elderly and hate crimes continue to increase. The trans community, meanwhile, is under siege by an insurgent hate movement determined to oppose their basic rights.
We then have more than our fair share of real problems to deal with, and there are, of course, many homosexuals who recognize this. But you wouldn’t necessarily know from looking at social media, where so many of us spend time debating deeply inane and inconsequential issues, whether it is “the exclusion of gay men from Island of love is a civil rights issue ”,“ straight actors should not play homosexual roles ”or“ up / down privilege ”.
These cyclical and self-regenerating discourses lead nowhere and have little significant impact on life outside of the Internet; I not only don’t care about them, but I also find it hard to believe that anyone really cares. But they occupy an undue part of our attention. Rather than talking about the real issues we face, working offline to improve them, or accepting that homophobia may no longer be a powerful structuring force in our lives, many find themselves looking for oppression there. where there is none. For some of us, I think this struggle for victimization masks an inability to accommodate our own changing position in society. The visceral pleasures of ironic homophobia, to me, act as a bulwark against taking these things too seriously. In the face of so much triviality, it’s good to remember that for me being gay isn’t that deep, and that makes me lucky, and my attention is better focused elsewhere, like keeping an eye on Millie. Bobby Brown every time I cross a road.