January 21, 2006

As the T-shirt said: Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy

Leather chaps, stetsons and tassled jackets never did it for me, so I have always been avoiding western bars, western movies and western clothes. Too alien, too rural, too American.
Every time I have been to America - only twice for more than one night's stay - it has been a disappointing and depressing experience: I've encountered far more snobbery and contempt for the way I looked, dressed or talked in the USA than at any time in so-called class-ridden, uptight and elitist Britain. And this was not in some forsaken prairie in Wyoming, but in "urbane bohemian" lower Manhattan and "the centre of the gay universe", the Castro. Wearing camo gear and sporting a shaved head was not de rigueur there during the late 1980s - too subcultural, too fetishistic, whatever, it fitted in badly in those rigid beige compartments: the clone look, the western look, the preppy look. Unlike nowadays of course, when even women are starting to complain their men look like faggots: a Marine haircut, square-jawed and blockheaded.
But despite all this invasion of gay looks, styles and sense (more queer eye - the Ivorean, Tongan or Uzbek editions, anyone?) into the cultural mainstream, radical gender or sex politics, as in fucking with icons and meaning, is out, and "culture wars" and marriage aspirations are in.

Liberating male iconography from its perceived sexual orientation - as in all cowboys, soldiers, oil men and sports stars are straight and you fuck with that at your own risk - has been Mark Simpson's major theme in his columns, books and commentary.
So when he reviewed the latest Hollywood attempt to convince middle America there is a love that dares not speak its name on the prairie, I had to sit up and take notice. I don't think I will rush to my local cinema to watch Brokeback Mountain any time soon. If it's as boring as he makes it sound, I'm with the Hun's cartoon character Siggi who can't resist asking when introduced to a frathouse: "When does the fucking start around here?".

I think I will stick with that absolutely wonderfully funny Andy Warhol movie Lonesome Cowboys instead: after watching that one in my youth I have to admit I tried a tassled jacket on for size.

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