What does "manly" mean on TV?

Posted on 12 Apr 2008 at 7:05pm

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Does this man look gay to you?

OK, bad example. But my problem is, that seems to be a BIG DEAL on Bravo’s new fauxality competition series, “Step It Up & Dance.” 

The new series pits a bunch of leg-warmed terpsichoreans against each other in that manliest of schoolyard taunts: who can keep a time-step best.

The problem is, the judges seem to be the only ones who don’t know how gay Broadway style dancing is. Of the six male contestants, they have commented on how “womanly,” “feminine,” “unmasculine” and “not butch enough” four of them appear when they dance. The fact that those same four male dancers have basically admitted to being gay or bisexual only emphasizes the notion: We want our dancers to be light on their feet, but not light in the loafers; and those who seem gay are, by definition, effete.

Now of course there are many gay men who tend to come across as — ahem — “flamboyant;” the gay rainbow comes in many colors and we all know what butch and femme mean. What bothers me is that somehow these traits in male dancers are characterized as sissy-ish.  These guys can leap higher, spin faster and do it all longer than most pro football players, they get costumed in tights and open-neck clingy shirts and the likes of Elizabeth Berkerley are passing judgment on how convincing they are at being “straight-acting”? Does anyone even use that term anymore?

I guess what I find offensive most is that the fey label seems to bother the dancers. As one said, and I’m paraphrasing here, “I know she thinks I’m a fag but I’ll show her who I sleep with doesn’t matter on stage.” And when they do butch it up, they get loads of praise.

I guess we’re all used to straight people making generalizations about gay people. I just assumed a show on uber-gay Bravo, set in the dance world, would be more tolerant. 

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