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my friend emily (yes, the horny hillbilly emily) sends me this link regarding the infamous details magazine 'gay or asian' scandal.. i thought i'd written on it.. i'd been meaning to for some time now but it slipped by me.

the article is interesting because it's one of the few that actually looks at the perspective of the editors of details, which i think is important. i have much enjoyed 'gay or cowboy?' 'gay or jesus?' 'gay or trucker?' 'gay or professional wrestler?' and others.. and i found myself quite amused by 'gay or italian,' so why did 'gay or asian?' rub me the wrong way? is it because i'm gay and asian? ..or is it because the jokes in the 'gay or asian' piece are particularly lame?

i think what happened is that all the previous 'gay or..?' pieces in details focused on ultra-masculine targets. for the italian piece, the man pictured was dressed like a sopranos goomba, and he was rightfully compared to a chelsea gym queen. nice juxtaposition. had the 'gay or asian' piece skewered a built, chiseled asian guy in a judo outfit, mid-kick, i'm willing to bet there would not have been the firestorm of complaints. the big mis-step with the asian piece is that it uses tired, feminine cliches about asian men to make its gay parallels, rather than masculine ones. the purpose is lost when it seems to be making fun of femininity (and gay asian men) rather than putting machismo on the chopping block.

which taps into the deeper problem - that other than martial arts, there are so few masculine associations with asian men, which is really what the protests are about: the article furthers the immasculization of asian men, whereas previous targets were in no danger.

so ultimately i think details has the right idea - just very poorly executed in this case. usually i turn to the 'gay or..?' page and feel that the magazine is cleverly winking at their gay audience, but this misfire is easily taken as racist and homophobic, especially viewed out of context and with no prior knowledge of the feature's history. it shows just how fine a line racial and stereotype-based humor draws, and how easily it can backfire.

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