Michael B. Jordan’s Vanity Fair Pic Raises Discussion On Black Masculinity And Looking Gay.

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.

Robert Jones, Jr. is a writer from Brooklyn, N.Y. He is the creator of the social media community, Son of Baldwin, which can be found on Facebook, Google Plus, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter.

5 thoughts on “Michael B. Jordan’s Vanity Fair Pic Raises Discussion On Black Masculinity And Looking Gay.”

  1. I rather see two Black Men,

    I rather see two Black Men, embracing each other, and not on the streets fighting or Killing one another,it's time for African Americans to evolve beyond this way of thinking, there is nothing wrong with two brothers showing brotherly love and affection.

  2. What a load of ‘crap’ this

    What a load of 'crap' this broo-ha-ha is : There's nothing 'gay' about this photo, except in the minds of some black men, who don't seem to be secure in their 'manhood'…Although this may explain why much of the black community is still 'homophobic' in their attitude's regarding same sex unions, etc.

  3. I don’t know if my opinion

    I don't know if my opinion would be considered bias because I myself am a gay black man , however in the scope of this issue to me black masculinity is so threatened the minute a brotha looks what we called in the hood growing up " soft" whether verbally, physically or around our contemporaries . This is the sad reality for us as black men , for years the assumption has been that a black man = a strong man almost to the equivalent of Hercules and James Bond ; smooth operator but strong as a god compared to a white man , and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Regarding the cover this to me doesn't scream GAY at all. This isn't the first time a brotha has been slapped with the GAY tag for a magazine cover, if my information is correct rapper 50 cent and Souja Boy were called out for their XXL magazine cover back in 2015. I'd like to point out that this is Vanity Fair and not Source or Vibe , so the content of the cover will be taken differently. And not even to insinuate the these magazines would produce the obvious because they over the years evolves their covers and produces iconic one themselves. I think the sad part is that in the black community we look for our black male celebrities who are thriving in their careers to be what we want and expect them to be , it is already assumed that masculinity is there. For all we know MBJ probably wanted this shot to give a different element than the standard black male in GQ-esque attire that we've been used to, yet we chose to throw the photographer under the bus and say it's his fault because he is white ; absolutely shameful . Pointing the finger at someone else is a cowardly move and the real admittance should be we still have a problem associating black men and homosexuality or even homo-erotica in the community . We are proud of our progress as a black people in the entertainment business , but riot once it seems  they're  exploring the opposite spectrum of heterosexuality even in the most subtle of forms . I commend MBJ for this shot , he doesn't seem uncomfortable and he didn't have to go with cover if he didn't want to. if he chooses to speak on it publicly I think people may be surprised by his own comments . Nonetheless it's a beautiful shot there is still a machismo about it even if he's touching another black male . We really need to reevaluate how our morals whether right or wrong interfere with the bigger picture which is supporting our black brothers and sisters. Read on it 

    • Chris, I am also a gay,

      Chris, I am also a gay, African-American male. Your reply is spot on. I must add that a large part of the negative responses stem from the teachings that filled with hate against homosexuality, which many are exposed to on a consistent basis. Within the African-American community itself, this exposure stems from social activities which help define the very structure of it's culture. I agree, there is nothing 'gay' about this pic. However; these teachings (that many are exposed to) against showing or having affection towards someone of the same sex occur within the homes, churches and barber shops of many African Americans. This is a very deeply rooted issue which will require displays such as this to combat the spread of such a negative, misunderstanding and fearful tradition.

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