Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Speaking of Homoeroticism...

I know this is a little old, but given the earlier post about "No Homo" and homosociality and homoeroticism in Hip-Hop it seemed appropriate. So I told you all about Laurance Ralph's panel presentation at the Race, Sex, Power conference, and one of the points he made is the fact that often hip-hop marketing will take play with homoeroticism in order increase profitability. He spoke about the fact that when you see 50 cent without his shirt on, that is marketing to men (gay and straight) as much as it is directed at women.

To demonstrate this point I present Lil Wayne's Strapped Condom ads...

This one eventually got pulled because of the way that it was being coded as queer. There are a lot of visual codes of queerness in this add from the cop bending Wayne over the hood of a car (a very common fantasy that Wayne actually talks about in "Mrs. Officer", but with a "lady cop" instead of a male officer), to the tag line "Go down strapped" (um, hello?).

On hip-hop message boards people were saying that they couldn't believe that the people that made these ads didn't catch the blatant homoeroticism in these ads, but whats to say they didn't? Yes the ad was pulled and replaced by a more benign ad (see below), but maybe that was part of it.

The ads have queer visual cues and innuendos that are very easily accessible to young queer men. Even the new ad still relies the physical interaction between Wayne and a male officer. After criticisms that the previous ad was "too gay" it would make sense for the male cop to be replaced by a female officer, but then the ad wouldn't be effective. The new ad is able to be read by multiple audiences and can be extremely effective in promoting safe sex among youth of different genders and sexual orientations. Bravo for latent homoeroticism.


Anonymous said...

But aren't you even a little worried about being naive in your readings of homoeroticism in hip hop? Don't you feel at all that there's a qualitative difference between homoeroticism delibrately injected (ahem) into advertisement/art as opposed to homoeroticism which can be inferred or interpreted or otherwise imaginatively descried by a tiny, clever minority of the ad's/art's audience? I mean, you don't seriously believe that Lil Wayne would willing participate in creating an ad that had intentional homoerotic subtext?

I guess I'm so concerned about some of your readings because they actually seem to obliquely SUPPORT homophobia by trying to recoup or redeem some portion of the work of essentially and intentionally homophobic artists as, actually, cleverly ladened with complex subtextual inclusive messages. I question this. For real.

Kai in NYC

p.s. Love the blog! Keep up the good work/fight!

Marisol LeBron said...

Hey Kai,

Thanks for the comment. I get what you're saying. A lot of rap lyrics are disgustingly homophobic for sure, but I think there is merit in discussing the way that certain artists, artists like Lil Wayne are repeatedly coded or appropriated as queer despite the homophobia of their lyrics.

I think there is a difference between whether homoeroticism is deliberate or accidental, but regardless of intent the relationship that queer folks might feel to the ad could still be the same.

They fact that we don't know whether the homoeroticism in the ad is deliberate is exactly what I think makes it so interesting given the discourse surrounding Lil Wayne's sexuality. If that discourse wasn't there we probably wouldn't be discussing the homoerotics of this ad right now, but since it is we have to. Because the discourse around Lil Wayne's queerness is well known, and has repeatedly been addressed by hip-hop heads and Wayne himself, you have to wonder if the homoerotcism in the ad wasn't deliberate.

Either way I think an interesting process of disidentification takes place when queer folks identify with hip hop culture, and I think appropriation and transforming of homophobic imagery or lyrics is part of that process. I see these ads as part of that messy and complicated process.

I'm not interested in recouping or redeeming Lil Wayne's masculinity or homophobia, but I am interested in ways that people might try to appropriate his figure as a role model of black heteromasculinity or as a rapper on the DL. Like I've mentioned I think Antonia Randolph at Delaware is doing a lot of really interesting word on the specter of Wayne's sexuality in hip-hop and I definitely encourage people to check out her work.

I hope this addresses some of you concerns you pointed to in your comment. Thanks for pushing me to clarify these points and thank you for the support.

Anonymous said...

That does make things clearer for me. I try to remember that, of course, you're only tossing off interesting ideas in a blog post, and not necessarily trying to flesh out idea of Lil Wayne and the homoeroticism of these particular ads vis-a-vis the larger context of homophobia which Wayne and his primarily heterosexual defenders/fans have perpetrated ... but sometimes I forget!

Clearly I need to read more on this idea of disidentification. I only know and understand the concept through what you and Frank have written online; but the implicit approbation with which I've heard it discussed has given me grave pause, to the extent that I've understood it. For example, queer folks' disidentification"\ with mainstream hip hop culture has contributed decisively to the hypermasculinization / no-fats-no-fems / sexism and transphobia in present day black gay culture, wouldn't you say? Maybe disidentification provides a route by which gays can participate in the larger cultural investments of our heterosexual brothers and sisters. But in certain cases, you have to ask, is that really a good thing?

Kai in NYC

Marisol LeBron said...

Hey Kai,

I would definitely of course recommend Jose Munoz's Disidentifications if you haven't read it yet. I think the theory that Munoz puts forward is extremely complicated because initially when I first read about it it seemed like it wasn't really challenging anything, but Munoz does an excellent job pointing out that there are degrees of resistance, and that disidentification is only one piece of a wide spectrum of action/thought. I think disidentification is powerful because it is a way of creating a space and history for yourself in a previously prohibited space. So where maybe and out and proud Black male rapper like Tim'm might represent one side of the spectrum of resistance to homophobia in hip-hop a kid who identifies with the homosociality and homoerotism in hip-hop and disengages from homophobic/heterosexist lyrics might represent another end of the spectrum.

I feel you though, it is definitely a really really fine balance.

cocolamala said...

this is not lil' wayne's first foray into homosocial behavior. a google search will easily pull up a photo of lil wayne kissing the rapper Baby (Cash Money Records) on the mouth. Baby later explained the kiss as an aspect of their father-son relationship.

Da Kitteh Korner said...

hey marisol, I just started reading your blog and feel it's really interesting and am excited to read more as you post more. I just wanted to mention that i think the visual queer codes are easily accessible to a lot of queer/trans people, and not only young queer men.

Marisol LeBron said...

Da Kitteh Korner,

Thanks for saying that, I wanted to go back and fix that after I posted it and didn't get a chance. I think you're absolutely correct that the cues are accessible to a more general queer audience not just queer young men. As a queer woman the visual cues were definitely obvious to me and when I showed them to some straight friends today they also recognized them.

Thanks for pointing that out and please keep reading and giving me feedback i truly appreciate it.

Marisol LeBron said...


I actually spoke very briefly about the photo in a previous post "The Brief and Wonderous Life of No Homo" in relation to Antonia Randolph's work on Lil Wayne. I would definitely suggest checking out her work it makes you look at that photo in a whole new way.