conflict contraversy

In Defence of Hard Gay

4:34:00 PMPaul

You might be wondering who the leather clad action hero on July's wallpaper is:

Well, the answer is that it's HG Razor Ramon Sumitani, a Japanese wrestling icon and television ubiquito.  Here is a sample of his work:

If you haven't yet been distracted by his theatrics and his style, then you may have noticed near the bottom of the article dedicated to this character, the derision his antics have received from the gay community.  Here is the quote provided:

The way the media treats [sexual minorities] makes me angry. This morning I saw [comedian] Razor Ramon for the first time. I never watch TV. I’d only heard about him. He’s not homosexual. He just uses gayness for his act, to make people laugh. I’m afraid that people will get the idea that gay people are all like that, yelling and pumping their hips.

What made me angry is this quote.  Although it's nearly or about or almost 5 years old, I feel like this attitude is univerally pervasive and persuasive, its validity hardly ever called into question.  To sum up what I've read, it appears the major issue is that HG Razor Ramon is a stereotyped homosexual used for the sole purpose of getting laughs through mockery of a (self-appointed) minority.  I have a lot to say about this topic, but I'll keep it short and to the point (how novel!) and avoid emulating the trolling style that expands below any HG video on YouTube.

I would say this clip is fairly representative of Hard Gay's work.  I believe that he, or the actor who created him is being wrongly villified as presenting a one-dimensional cartoon that takes shots at an oft maligned community for the sake of a cheap laugh.  So, where to start where to start:

1.  I think it's clear to tell from just looking at HG that he is representative of a subculture, not a sexuality.  In fact, that is made clear by his use of the HG monacre.  He isn't simply some random faufins polluting our streets.  The easiest way to make this point resonate is the comparison between a "Gay Bar" and a "Leather Bar" or a dance club.  The humor comes not from the fact that he is gay, but that his street clothes are unusual and his behavior is outlandish.  He is frantic and loud and, more importantly, has catch phrases (wouldn't the Kardashian's be so much more bearable if they shouted "Domo kado shian desu Hooooooo!" when appearing on screen?).  He has appeared in a suit only to rip it off immediately, proclaiming his uniform superior.  This all operates independently of sexuality.  The comedy of his street scenes comes from how people react to him, not his sexual preference

2.  While this may be so, I won't deny that he puts his gei-ness at the forefront his unique and the somewhat (though momentarily) legitimizes the complaint that all breeders will mistake his behavior for that of all in the LGBTQ community.  I think this is a ridiculous overexaggeration, since as with any sensitive topic, no one's opinion is lukewarm.  No one is without their own preconception and I think anyone is blind enough to think that this one person represents an entire community (how he is a stereotype, I fail to see since I never even in my youth thought of leathermen when I thought of a gei).  So I think this argument is without substance and just a preemptively persecutory attitude.  If people assumed (lovingly or despisingly) that all geis acted like this, then there would be no humor in the act.  The comedy comes from the fact that he doesn't act like a normal person.  So anyone who thinks all gays are like this are probably predisposed that way anyhow against the community.


So this is how children react to this character, without any true preconception of what "gay" is.  While there are various reactions, I would speculate that on the whole, he is an approachable and pleasant guy and kids not only have fun with him, but have no qualms with emulating him.  Which is point

3.  I've been judged both lovingly by members of the community and derisively by insecure ballpark types to be gay many times (another difficult one to grasp, I'm sure) and even told by theater chicks and by older gei men that I'm gay but "don't know it yet." So, even allowing that without questioning it, do I act or dress anything like HGRR? So it doesn't appear that people think it is a universal stereotype.  Let's assume, though, that for once I'm wrong (a hard assumption, no?)  And let's say that people do think this is how gays act around the world.  Is it even a remotely bad persona?  His purpose in the vast majority of his skits is social service.  At least half the times he succeeds.  He exhibits strength directly related to being gei (Hado Gei Power!!) and unswerving determination to reach his goals.  It appears to me his only crime is being out and loud.  I don't argue this is an inaccurate portrayal of geis (if we're to assume it's intended as one), but what is then?  I'm assuming it would be okay if he dressed in leather and read a weekly chapter from Go Tell It On The Mountain...?

4.  Apparently, he has no right to present his character this way, though since he is not a homosexual.  Since he's not of the community, he must be exploiting it.  There is absolutely no sincerity in what he does is what we must assume.  I can't imagine it's very effective mockery of a minority to roam the streets performing social services, but it offends the community.  Essentially, if every other aspect of this character is then acceptable, it's the fact that the actor is not gay which likens the whole performance to blackface.  Unlike the antiquated art of racial defamation, HG does not underscore a stereotype's weaknesses.  I've already noted our hero's qualities above, and don't think I need to reiterate.  I would say his only embarrassing trait is telling others to "Come Get Some".  He isn't shifty, shady or short and always willing to help.  As someone who has dabbled in the arena of alter egos, I don't believe that someone would be so dedicated to behavior he himself hates.

5.  So I feel I have sufficiently defended HG in terms of his portrayal that while it isn't representative (and I still argue not intended to be), it also isn't negative.  But let's clarify,  there is a difference between celbrative and defamatory, apparently... and Sumitani does not in any way represent actual gei culture.  Mario Cantone does, though...

So this is somone the community has chosen or at least allowed to represent them instead (enjoyed him greatly here!).  This clip is great because not only does it promote the same inaccurate portrayal of the com (that they all run around in garlands yelling and singing showtunes) but it exhibits a similar shallow attitude and acceptance/exploitation of people's preconceptions for a quick laugh. Maybe this is apples and kumquats because of the differences in American and Japanese cultures, but remember that HG is intended to be a representation of an American subculture within the Global community.  I feel it is the job of any public entertainer to at least in some small way ennoble our existence and if you want to dismiss my interpretation of HG as a sort of Superhero (he sorta fits the bill I think), then at least he's no worse.

So I conclude

A.  The strongest is that those whose identity is so firmly hung on their sexuality take offense because a (mis)representation of them has found its way into a homogenized mainstream acceptance.  This stance is likened easily to attack on Pop-punk and Emo by those entrenched in the Hardcore scene, that is a bastarization and dilution of the true essence of the culture.  Essentially a separate but equal argument, and like the one used against minority groups, it's equally unsound.  Any counterculture is a growth of or reaction to the pervading mores; it was not created in a lab nor does it exist in a vacuum. So any art is a product of culture is actually equally available to all who care to enjoy it. Therefore, it's equally separatist to say, for example, that whites are not permitted to enjoy rap or straights may not laugh at a leatherman running through the streets of osaka and tokyo. The offense seems to be an exclusionary one taken by people who are fiercely guarding a culture that is their comfort zone.

B.  I suppose the gap between the character's sexuality and the actor's falls into the Stanislavskian critique of inauthenticity.  "How can we believe this character is gei when he is married?!"  Of course, I would find it hard to take anyone seriously who abides by this argument as I would anyone who still utilizes the Stanislavski method, or actually any actor at all...

C.  Something akin to the old Conservative (old, it's still going on!) addage that "Homosexuals will poison our children's minds."  Only here, we're accusing HG of poisoning the majority's minds against a tiny and under-represented section of the milleu.

6.  My final line of defense is this:  I have spent a larger portion of my life identified by 3rd parties as gay than not, so it's unfair to say that I am insensitive or have no clue as to the prejudices levied against certain groups.  I feel that individuals in some groups like to take the easy way out and use their status as a crutch, taking themselves too seriously as a result.  I am not so blind that I can't see when someone is making an insensitive play on gei themes. For contrasting example, I know that a cXnX favorite is riddled with frat humor and shallow stereotypes.  And while I acknowledge that, I do still think it's funny.

So maybe I am completely backwards and maybe I am just an underdeveloped and easily entertained product of American mass media who can't see the damage that Sumitani's character has wrought in the community over the past 5 years.  Maybe I am the problem.  Even so, I feel like the approach is wrong and that instead of maligning HG in a confrontational fashion is only a negative spin on the sitch where his persona could easily be appropriated by the community as a symbol of strength and social acceptance.  Maybe the fact that in 2008 Sumitani stopped appearing as HG is a sly admission that his character was intended in poor taste.  Maybe there is a cultural barrier that I have not gotten past.  But until I hear from a reliable, unbiased source that HG Razor Ramon was conceived as a debasing mockery of a specific group of people, I say Don't Stop Being Hard, Gay!  Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!!!! [And for the record, I think Oscar Wilde was a snob and an ass and not all that great a writer, either.]

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