Gay History, Personal Essay

I’ll take what’s behind Door Number Three, Monty

“… if you removed all of the homosexuals and homosexual influence from what is generally regarded as American culture, you would pretty much be left with Let’s Make a Deal.” — Fran Lebowitz, “Tips for Teens” in Social Studies, 1981

By Scott Ross

Well, they removed us. And that’s pretty much what we have now.

Someone, years ago in a Premiere magazine piece on the effect of AIDS on Hollywood, gave — and I fervently wish I could track this statement down but a copy of the article continues to elude me — what to me was a perfect definition: That, historically, gay men had functioned in popular American culture as a “buffer” between art and commercialism, and that the buffer was now more or less gone.

I think it perfectly plain, when you look at the post-’80s product, on screen and in New York, that this is absolutely the case. Sadly, many of those gay men in the creative arts who lived through it, have either been co-opted into the appalling state of things by lure of money or further fame or both, or see no difference. Some of them once did astounding, even revolutionary work and now contribute mainly to the utter creative ennui (an oxymoron, I know) that is the norm. Maybe they’ve just been exhausted by the strain. But those who arrived on the scene after the peak years of crisis apparently join in enthusiastically, out of sheer lack of will, talent… and taste — the one essential attribute in which we artsy fags once wrapped ourselves, and took justifiable pride in.

I am fully persuaded that the three greatest blows to American popular culture in the past century were, in chronological order, the Production Code, the Blacklist, and AIDS. We’ve never fully recovered from any of them.

Do we, as a nation, even care to?

Text copyright 2013 by Scott Ross


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