If a picture tells a thousand words, apparently to many people the Vanity Fair photo above screams "Michael B. Jordan is gay" two hundred times over. I think we've seen many more gay things than this, i.e. Turkish oil wrestling, Trudeau staring into Obama's eyes, and Michael Flatley. Does the above pose scream "homosexual?" Is it more so homoerotic? Is it anything beyond two men in a picture? And what if these were white men or interracial? Would it be as controversial? Does the fact that they are two black men escalate the argument?
Below is an excerpt from an opinion piece in The Grio by Robert Jones, Jr. entitled "Critics of Vanity Fair’s Jordan and Coogler Photo Reveal Black Masculinity is Still Enslaved."
“I doubt that Americans will ever be able to face the fact that the word ‘homosexual’ is not a noun. The root of this word, as Americans use it — or, as this word uses Americans — simply involves a terror of any human touch, since any human touch can change you.” – James Baldwin, The Price of the Ticket
In a recent article for Vanity Fair, actor Michael B. Jordan and director Ryan Coogler — who worked together on the critically acclaimed films Fruitvale Station and Creed — posed for a glamour shot that disturbed a number of people. The shot portrays a kind of intimacy between the two men — the two black men — that seemingly betrays the rules of patriarchal masculinity.
In an attempt to open a dialogue about this, and explore the anxiety; I posted the image on social media. It didn’t take very long for the comments to pour in. The majority of the comments were positive. As expected, there were a range of opinions, but one thing seemed almost unanimous among them: As long as Jordan and Coogler were not gay, as long as the photo conveyed a brotherly vibe rather than a homoerotic one, then there was nothing wrong with it.
That raised a question for me: What if Jordan and Coogler were gay? What if the photo did convey a homoerotic vibe? Then what?
The answer I received, in no uncertain terms, was that the photo then becomes a politicized item, a gay-agenda/white-supremacist plot to emasculate black men; the opening salvo in the destruction of the black family. It would evoke a sexual relationship between the two that not only doesn’t exist but would be disgusting if it did. Some commenters implored us not to “read too much” into the photo, which was just another way of silencing any opinions they didn’t like. But before any of that, what they wanted was to assure everyone, especially themselves, that neither of the photographed men are queer or feminine and that affection between men, platonic or not, is a sign of weakness and vulnerability. It didn’t matter to them that the very state of humanity is one of weakness and vulnerability, and the fear of facing this very existential fact is precisely why we’re on the precipice of self-destruction. Many commenters believed this plot to be as real as the bombing of Black Wall Street or the Tuskegee experiments.
This is nonsense, of course; a careless, cherry-picked understanding of human existence designed to give certain segments of our communities an inflated sense of self-importance. Human sexuality is much more complex than they will ever admit, and the ranges of genders and sexualities expressed in humankind pre-date any attempt at supposed sociopolitical manipulation. But I’ve been told that it’s natural for black men, in particular, to panic about their manhood and masculinity given America’s perennial violence against us. Perhaps there’s some truth to and justification for that. But I wonder if we’re allowed to interrogate that idea a little more. What I’m interested in knowing is whose notions of manhood and masculinity we’re trying to emulate. -thegrio.com
I go back to my questions above.
And what if these were white men or interracial? Would it have been as controversial?
Does the fact that they are two black men escalate the argument?
What are your thoughts, Instincters?
H/T to The Grio and Robert Jones, Jr.