When is an artist advocating for the gay community and when are they simply capitalising on it?
Former Disney virgin and current cock-tease Nick Jonas came to visit London last month, after generating a firestorm of opinion about his motives for pursuing his gay male fanbase. The cynical among us believe his PR team are purely preying on us, profting from our apparent innate thirst for the unattainable, straight, cute boy next door. Others argue that he’s only treading the same path well-worn as female entertainers like Madonna and Lady Gaga, who are often considered ‘gay icons’.
So what’s the tea? QX spoke to four pop fanatics about their opinions on Nick Jonas, ladies in pop and the pursuit of the pink pound. Needless to say, they all had VERY strong opinions.
It’s a generalisation but gay men love a strong woman behaving with courage. Actresses like Cate Blanchett , Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Tilda Swinton etc. They love sexy and/or powerful pop women too, Beyonce, Björk, Rihanna, Madonna. We are continually fascinated by examples of enigmatic women. I think its something to do with mothers and super heroes, but I’m not sure what…
Nick Jonas is just a young, attractive, confident man with a PR machine behind him. They are putting him in places that gay guys can see him and get into him. Perhaps those powerful females do it in a different way. Beyonce’s mega sass and campiness in the ‘Single Ladies’ video really opened my eyes and I thought, “Wow, you’re funny too”. So that was a good move in terms of getting the gays on board.
With this guy, he is being flirty and it’s a tease for the gays out there. It’s a PR thing isn’t it? It doesn’t ruffle my feathers because I’m not paying much attention. Is there cause to get irate if we find out he’s definitely straight? Will he have been culturally appropriating gayness? Has he actually sucked off a cucumber live on stage? Have I missed something? I would never buy his music off the back of a concept that he is being a bit gay, therefore might be gay, therefore I should like him and/or support him. But then, I’m 36.
I think, in America, as a pop star you want to reach out and cover as many bases as possible, get a number of audiences. Taylor Swift was a country singer and now she’s a pop star, she’s got all of white America covered (gays, girls and a few grown ups). I feel like J-Lo probably had a good spread of the Latin community, some of the black community, some white fans and some gays. Do you remember when they tried to ‘sex-up’ and make Nelly Furtado a bit cooler ? Hooking her up with Timbaland and Timberlake.
Nick Jonas has got the girls and his team want to get the gays too … He won’t get the straight black guys though, or will he? Watch out for some very ‘urban’ spornosexual videos in the future…
DJ/ Promoter, Push the Button Eurovision Correspondent, Gay Times
I first became aware of the talented Nick Jonas some years ago through the Tumblr nicksbiceps.tumblr.com – and now, thanks to QX Magazine alerting me to the fact, I am THRILLED to discover that Nick also has a reasonably successful career as a pop star.
This weekend I made it my top priority to fire up iTunes and listen to all of his HITS back to back – but 25 minutes in I kind of got distracted by http://nicksass.tumblr.com and lost all interest in the music.
Joking (semi-joking) aside, it’s clear that Nick Jonas is going for the pink pound like a tramp on chips – from promotional tours of gay bars to stepping in to save Prides. And why not? It’s nothing new. Everyone in pop from Take That to Girls Aloud has built a strong gay fan base, because as gays we’ve got the capacity to indulge ourselves in pop like nobody’s business.
The ability to be up front about loving Pop (capital “P”) on a very base level is something that simply gets robbed from people as they age and begin the process of accomplishing a heteronormative lifestyle. If you can’t be free enjoy lip-syncing to Britney’s ‘Toxic’ as you enter a mirror-filled lift at the age of 33, then what can you find joy in? Spotify playlists exclusively featuring the likes of Keane and Elbow? Urgh! No! We want to be able to mix it up a bit, so I welcome the stars who are unafraid of appealing to a ridiculously wide spectrum of fans.
I’m making sweeping generalisations here, of course, and it’s possible to like all sorts of music (I grew up listening almost exclusively to an entirely normal mix of Radiohead, Daphne & Celeste, Aphex Twin and Steps), so it’s hardly surprising that when a combination of a star’s image, lyrics, music and personality clicks with fans, the fans get behind them.
Marvin Humes from JLS was always upfront about their gay audience: “it’s a market like another other market – you appeal to as vast majority as possible”, and it just so happens that gay men have a lot more spending power than teenage girls, and are a lot freer than straight men to indulge in the joyful sexy pop nonsense of boy bands, Nick Jonas and the like.
The interesting part is when a singer’s star is no longer in the ascendancy – when they are no longer untouchable – and whether the gay fans can call upon their hero’s support in the same way the gay community supported them in their career.
*cough* Donna Summer *cough*
Cocktails & Cocktalk
Nick Jonas has a huge… fan base. That goes without saying. His number of gay fans over recent years has shot up like Kurt Cobain, but why? Because he groped his dick for Flaunt Magazine? Because he stripped off and danced on a bar in some West Hollywood club? Because he’s now playing a gay character in whatever that TV show is that he’s in? Perhaps. But has anyone paused to think about why he’s done all of this? Because he loves gay men as much as he’s announced on countless occasions. Sure. He loves gay men the same way he loves sacks of dollar bills.
Nick Jonas’ relationship with gay men is as about as genuine as a fur coat from Albert Square. It’s like those straight guys that spend all day flirting with you, but then recoil when you suggest a reach around during a Golden Girls marathon. They’ve got no qualms about fucking with your head, meanwhile theirs is so big they can’t get out the closet. Only Nick Jonas gets a healthy wage packet as well as an ego-boost. He’s basically catfishing your wallet. Prostituting oneself for the pink pound. Preying on your pennies with his average looks and his Goonies voice. “How is that any different to gays worshipping divas of the pop industry?” I hear you ask, with one hand down your pants re-watching those GIFs where he creepily rims an Oreo. Look, you wouldn’t just invite yourself back to a couple’s place for a threesome. The same way you can’t just invite yourself to be a gay icon. You have to earn it. Thus far, one catchy song and few ass shots does not cut it, I’m afraid. Bring out a platinum-selling album, a choreographed routine that would make Bey sweat, and take the level of thirst down a peg or two, and then we’ll talk, girl…
Your Token Black Friend
I just want to clarify I don’t think all gay men like divas like Mariah, Janet and Madonna. I grew up listening to Mariah; I was and still am obsessed with her talent, vocals, and camp-as-Christmas antics and persona. As a young, gay, black male I related to her lyrics of feeling like an outsider, of being ostracized. I loved Janet and Madonna because they were powerful women who had agency over their careers and bodies, their music intersected with multiple oppressions and identities tackling gender, sexuality and race. The adulation afforded these women deemed ‘icons’ comes with a shelf life. They are put on an impossible pedestal and praised while they are ‘fabulous’, beautiful and thin, but heaven forbid they slip up, that they release a bad single, that they have babies, gain weight, or the worst crime, grow old.
Gay men are just as capable of misogyny, and I’ve witnessed the delight of some who seem to revel in the media sensationalised accounts of their previous ‘fave’s’ downfall. Do female pop stars court gay audiences? Artists like Madonna, Janet, and Kylie have been called ‘gay icons’ due to their affiliation with the gay community, they have supported gay rights, often at times when it was not ‘cool’ to do so. Bette Midler famously lent her voice and support to gay people during the 80’s AIDS epidemic. Nowadays all it takes to be bestowed with the gay icon crown is to have a gig at Heaven.
The problem I have with Nick Jonas, and others like him is that his appeal is based on the stereotype that all gay men want to sleep with a straight man. He fits the hetero norm standard; white, cisgender, able-bodied, muscled, and “masculine” presenting. He whips off his clothes, grabs his semi through his Calvins, reminiscent of hyper–masc Marky Mark, and the gays lose their mind and the coppers in their wallet. While I actually think in Nick’s case he might be sincere, I still take issue with him and the batch of straight male reality TV/soap stars plastered over gay publications talking about how much they ‘love the gays’ while flogging their latest soft porn calendars, underwear range, or shitty single. Would gay magazines, and their audiences, care if Nick said he supported gay men but looked like a sack of shit? I think not. It’s all good taking your clothes off for a magazine, I remember there was a time it was considered a brave move for a straight man to do so, but now I feel it’s just done to cash in. Sorry, but it’s not enough for me to hear these guys say the ‘pink pound’ is alluring. Female pop stars and pop music in general have a history of stealing from gay culture, repackaging it, and selling it back to us.
Madonna is a perfect example of this. As much as she’s done for the gay community I also find her problematic. She repackaged Vogueing, a phenomenon started by queer and trans people of colour, then made it mainstream, stripping it of it’s context. She cashed in while black and brown people were left in poverty. These people say they ‘love the gays”? Boo, if you’re gonna be an ally, then be an ally. I need to see more than your semi in a pair of tightie-whities. Show me the receipts, and I’m not talking the one I need to return that workout DVD I foolishly bought ‘cuz you said you loved going to G-A–Y with your gay friends. Bye.