Mr. W(hiteness) and the Fear of a Gay Planet
Updated: Feb 21
No, Mr. W, gay narratives are not taking over the media
As if the din of internet noise would lull me back to sleep (despite the dual detriment of blue light and the blood-boiling screams of political extremists), I was scrolling Twitter the other night during a bout with insomnia. I fell upon a retweet from the account of Max Collins, the lead singer of ‘00s-era alt-rock band Eve 6.
In step with the ironic political candor he has mastered since the resurgence of the band’s presence on social media in December 2020, Collins highlights the absurdity of the now-archetypal besieged, white (hetero) male embodied in the avatar of tech bro Glen W (@Glen_Wy) heard below:
Twitter screenshot by author, 12/12/2022.
I’m not sure where Mr. W is getting his stats but as is typical of the right-wing conspiracy machine (or any kind of conspiratorial spin) facts matter less than ideology.
For instance, if “heterosexuals” — i.e. straight (white) men like him — are the “vast minority” than why do LGBT (not including queer) people only make up around 4.5% of the general U.S. population? What makes Mr. W believe he is part of a “vast minority” when straight-identified men make up at least 90% of the general U.S. population? Moreover, since when has homosexual media content become more prevalent than the straight-guy (and gal) narratives that still permeate the frequencies in film, television and music?
Most certainly LGBTQ+ others are finding wider acceptance and more representation in the media. However, one cannot argue with any substance that this implies majority representation. Mr. W prefers to rely on logical fallacy instead, betraying a slippery-slope rationale in his claim that heterosexuals are being smothered by the over-representation of people unlike them. Just because there is an increase in diverse self-representations in the media does not equate to a full-scale gay invasion of the airwaves, Mr. W.
Indeed, according to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s (GLAAD’s) annual “Where We Are On TV” report (2022), LGBTQ characters remain a minority in terms of representation:
[O]f the 775 series regular characters scheduled to appear on scripted broadcast primetime programming for the 2021–2022 season, 92 characters (11.9 percent) are LGBTQ. This is an increase of 2.8 percentage points from the previous year and marks a new record high percentage of LGBTQ series regulars on broadcast. There are an additional 49 LGBTQ recurring characters on the platform for a total of 141 LGBTQ characters on broadcast.
True to Orwellian double-speak, Mr. W steals protest from the mouths of statistically under-represented individuals and appropriates it for his own (hidden) motives, even as he and other conservative Twitter heads spout accusations of a “gay agenda.”
In this way I can’t help but see Mr. W, like all ideologues, as a caricature — in his case an inflated embellishment of white manhood concealing a fragile ego over-identified with a god image toward which he aspires but will never reach because, after all, he will die too. His imago dei signifies a particular strain of millennial masculinity functioning, in the eyes of Mr. W writ large — i.e. a collective archetype of whiteness — as the last vestige of impenetrable “manhood” in a changing social landscape that threatens what he perceives to be his “G”od-given identity.
Underlying Mr. W’s double-mouthed play of identity politics — a game which conservative pundits hypocritically decry yet abuse — is a peculiarly coded racial bias filtered through fears concerning the demographic stronghold of not simply heterosexual men, but white heterosexual men in particular.
We live in a time when white men constitute around 30% of the U.S. population despite majority representation in government — at around 62% of public offices held. The reality of a dwindling white population in general and a shrinking white male population in particular functions as contextual backdrop for the current “othering” campaign we are witnessing among ideologically hidebound groups of largely white individuals concerned with their status in society. Gay people are another group to ostracize in a list of demographic “others” threatening whiteness and its heterosexual exaggerations in the form and function of the idolized and idealized white male body. A body Mr. W embodies.
Thus, what strikes one as a sex-gender issue ostensibly is in point of fact a racial issue embedded in a wider culture war concerning the deified status of the American male as straight, pioneering, supreme and, well, white. Without attacking the non-white other per se, Mr. W, like the structures and habits of whiteness he enfleshes, adopts the persona of victim to justify a defensive stance around his identification as a heterosexual in a roundabout and unspoken way of upholding the image of white male deity.
While he says nothing of racial representation in the media, I’m hard-pressed to compartmentalize his current critique as simply one of sexual identity politics. Rather, it stems from the sense, echoed by other “besieged” white men, that we are under attack (Kimmel 2017) — at once concealing and revealing a deeply embedded “fear of a black planet” (shout out to Public Enemy). That is, fear of the shifting ethno-racial demographic trends on American soil which the gay body, or any body that is unlike Mr. W(hiteness), represents in the white male imaginary.
Mr. W’s grievance is really just an extension of insecurities rooted in the pathology of race, read whiteness, and its classifications of the other — whom- or whatever they may be — as lesser-than the image of god created by heterosexual white men. In line with the likes of Rush Limbaugh, or others of his stature, Mr. W has garnered a following on the basis of successful “translation” to put it in sociologist Michael Kimmel’s words.
Taking Mr. W’s recent tweet as a case in point, he channels the emotional vulnerability straight white men are experiencing in their sociopolitical twilight and transcribes it into “righteous” anger. Again echoing Kimmel:
All he needs is that shared sense of aggrieved entitlement — that sense that ‘we,’ the rightful heirs of America’s bounty, have had what is ‘rightfully ours’ taken away from us by ‘them,’ faceless, feckless government bureaucrats, and given to ‘them,’ undeserving minorities, immigrants, women, gays, and their ilk. If your despair can be massaged into this Manichean struggle between Us and Them, you, too, can be mobilized into the army of Angry White Men. (32)
Simply put, Mr. W’s undisclosed racial anxiety is bleeding out, spilling into panic about the meaning of his maleness vis-a-vis the spectre of alterity he has created of a presently impossible majority. In other words, he has created a boogeyman of an actual minority on the basis of a lie that runs on fear — the lie of whiteness as it has historically functioned. Such is the way of whiteness in fact: Create an enemy of difference (be it black, gay, female, transgender) in the pursuit of sameness embodied by the god-idol of heterosexual masculinity.
I’m sorry (not sorry), Mr. W, but your god is dying. Or, if not that, then taking its place among a pantheon of other cosmic figures.