Feb 042015

friends_706_ross_joey_napLast Call was published in 1993 and is set in the then-present day, so it’s now a period piece. The most fascinating part of reading it came when the protagonist had to cross-dress as part of a disguise. Nowadays that’s no big deal. In the book he is so repulsed by the idea that he seriously contemplates a far weaker disguise that would likely get him killed. Take a great-than-50% chance of being killed, vs dress like a queer, was actually a serious dilemma. He’s grossed out by it, and he gets non-stop harassment from everyone. Literally random people on the street threaten him simply for being there. A cab driver first extracts a promise that the protagonist won’t rape him before he agrees to drive him anywhere.

It wasn’t because Tim Powers is homophobic or anything, this was required to make the story believable in its day.

I was reminded of the pilot episode of “Friends”. I saw it when it first aired and laughed. When I saw it in reruns years later, a scene jumped out and punched me in the face. Chandler and Joey had to share a blanket/bed for some reason, and one of them had to quickly assert that this doesn’t mean he’s gay (because back then sharing a bed made you insta-gay), and that the other one should not take this as an invitation to butt-rape him (because that’s what gay people do!). The other guy quickly asserted that he was also absolutely not gay, and he’s also expecting no queer stuff! Studio audience laughs.

This was just good family fun back in the day. It was so ubiquitous that I apparently didn’t notice or think anything of it in 1994. It was only watching it later that the insane homophobia of the joke was apparent, and I felt awful that I hadn’t seen it before. Even at 14 I should have seen that.

But this is the same series that later on had the napping episode, pictured above, where the guys discover that cuddle-napping on the couch is the best thing ever. During “Friends” 10 years on air, the culture shifted that dramatically. That’s kinda surprising. We’ve come a long way, and I’m old enough now I can even see some of the progress in my life time. It’s weird.

  3 Responses to “Dispatches from Aging”

  1. I always took those jokes to reflect the sexism of society and not just homophobia.
    A man and a woman sharing a bed is assumed as implicit consent. So when two guys share a bed and one of them is gay, that’s implicit consent too, right? So you have to loudly assert that you don’t consent before you get into the bed.
    Same situation as showering together: a women showering in front of men(/a man) is just asking for it, right? So a man showering with a gay man is too.

    I’m pretty sure those jokes were run with men and women too. Having to share a bed and then establishing the rules; that no one is to molest the other one.

    The main remaining homophobic joke that I hate, is the one about prison rape. I thought we were over that already, but I still hear/see it often enough. (Not only as jokes, but often as threats. See also every reddit thread about a terrible crime.)

  2. I remember one of my classmates crossdressing as a woman on Fasching (uh.. german carneval, for kids it basically means you put on a costume of whatever you want). That was either 1996 or 1997 and it was in third or fourth grade (we were 8-10 years old).
    We thought it funny but not that unusual, which may have more to do with innocent childhood than with culture, since the community in highschool was definitely homophobic.
    I was always dressed a cowboy on those occasions because I got to use toy guns (even at school) then and we got to play cops and robbers with them.

    I don’t think I’m trying to make a point here, just wanted to add that as data. Also, I think nowadays pretty much all schools prohibit toy guns. Times have changed in that regard as well.

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