Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Eminem's Fag Jag

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Eminem's Fag Jag

Article excerpt

Eminem, America's rapper du jour; uses fag in his lyrics almost as much as bitch, which is almost as much as a map of Los Angeles uses freeway.

Let us travel back to the days when gay meant happy. We may have to take quite a little schlepp. As far back as the 1930s, Cary Grant used the expression in Bringing Up Baby to describe the emotion that swept over him just before he put on a negligee. A portion of the audience knew even then that when Caw said, "I just went gay all of a sudden," he had more in mind than joie de vivre. Now, of course, everyone immediately knows what you mean when you say you're gay. We own the word, sister, to the point where any other definition of it seems beside the point. Gone is the lighthearted notion that you could be a giggly, bubbleheaded heterosexual girl and have a heart that's young and gay. No more can a torch singer warbling her way through "Am I Blue?" tell the audience that she was gay up until today.

If the campaign to own the word gay has been a whopping success, however, queer may take a little bit more doing. It's a word many of us don't want to take back even if by doing so we neutralize it and render it useless to the opposition. We have too many unsettling memories of just how effectively the opposition once used it. It's a word we want to see in our rearview mirror and not because it's catching up with us again.

And then there's fag. We still call each other "fag," usually when we want to bring each other down to earth. Yes, it's self-loathing, and, yes, it's so politically incorrect you could put a tie on it and call it Jesse, but it does have a way of putting a pretentious, prissy, nose-in-the-air specimen in his place. But that's because we know what it means. Don't we? A gay boy, obviously, and maybe sort of swishy, wouldn't you say? Perhaps a stereotype nelly of the old school. Or any somewhat butch-challenged milquetoast. Perhaps a shade flamboyant, perhaps a shade dramatic, perhaps a shade shady. More important, a man who at least appears to be seeking sex with other men, which somehow diminishes him as a man--a charge not unlike the one that put the first nail in Oscar Wilde's coffin. …

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