Macho, macho Jan

So over the last couple weeks I’ve been binge-watching all the new I Kveld Med Ylvis clips as they hit the web..

And of course as I ran out of new ones I started watching old ones.The “Jan Egeland” video gave me pause, for a couple of reasons.

(In another interesting collision, the episode of South Park where they redefine “fag” to mean “Harley rider” is on tonight. Context.)

On one level, “Jan Egeland” is a testosterone-soaked love song to the Norwegian politician. On another level, it’s a playful poke at the male sexual gaze. All the hard rock tropes are out in force in the video – hoses, motorcycles, funerals, nudity – but it’s aimed at the male subject, by the male singers, with innuendo a-plenty. And then, in the middle of the song, this line:

He breaks down just like a homo

And starts crying just like a girl

But I guess you can cry and still be a man

If your day job is saving the world

At first I was like, “WHAT THE HELL, YLVIS” because “homo” is of course still a pejorative against gays. But then I thought about it a little more and remembered that their songs are typically genre parodies, and the hard rock genre is rife with sexual imagery, machismo, and a particular sort of hero-worship that treads the fine line between homophobic and homoerotic.

“Oh how I wish that I was Jan Egeland” Vegard sings*, as he rubs his chest and hips provocatively. Sometimes we think we want to be someone, but sometimes we simply want to have them, and it’s not always completely obvious which one it is. But for the repressed heterosexual male, anything that might even have a slight WHIFF of desire for another male HAS to be squashed under a thick layer of hero-worship and “no homo” dissembling.

Then there’s that South Park where the adults are scandalised by the children saying “fag” because they’re thinking of the homophobic definition but the kids think it means “lame, annoying Harley riders.” This is a parallel, of course, to the kids saying “gay” when they mean “lame.”

I was in junior high when that craze hit. “Gaywad,” “Gaylord,” or just the drawn-out “Gayyyyyyyyyyy” were used to insult pretty much anything. I even find myself thinking it reflexively, sometimes, when something especially stupid is happening. “So gay,” my brain whispers before I can even consciously react. It’s obnoxious, it’s irritating…it’s like I’m punching myself in the face.

This was really just a ramble about how internalised homophobia can make language do weird things to people and also how language can also be used to attack that institution, like in the “Jan Egeland” song. Good on ’em for pointing out that a guy pretty much has to be the most heroic manly man EVER in order to be allowed to cry. It sounds ridiculous when you say it out loud, which is exactly why I love it.

Say it out loud. Shine light on the stupid. Get it out of you and it can’t hurt you as much.

*good god can he sing, he hits a high note that would make the guy from Queensryche shit his pants in envy.


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