The latest issue of GQ makes some winks and nudges about how it’s totally cool to be gay. Buzz Bissinger writes that he’s on his third (presumably hetero) marriage before gushing that “I would marry the television version of Kyle Chandler in a second.” Choire Sicha contributes a sidebar about how this has been “The Gayest Year Ever” in pop culture and national politics, then asks, “You bros sure you’re okay with this?” But the most interesting nudge is an NCAA-style bracket about “High-Bro-Crushes-of-the-Year.” A high-bro, says GQ, is a highbrow bro. And a high-bro, says GQ, likes his crushes to be “brainy, quirky, and cute-sexy, but not drool-sexy.” Of the 16 sweethearts in the bracket (Carey Mulligan, Zooey Deschanel, Emma Stone, etc.) only 15 are female. The 16th is Ryan Gosling, who gets knocked out in the first round.
Bravo to GQ for slipping a dude in there, for saying it’s okay for a man to crush on a man, for embracing (well, bro-hugging) the idea that human sexuality is a broad spectrum, and so on. We need more of this.
But there’s an equally progressive flipside here. By telling its “high-bro” audience that crushing on Ryan Gosling is on par with crushing on Emma Stone, GQ reveals just how shallow the whole rhetoric of shared celebrity crushes is. Does anyone, after the age of 14, entertain more than a shrugging interest in celebrities as sex/life partners? Of course not. The crushing is a metaphor. It means that we recognize these celebrities, we approve of them, and we’d be okay with hearing more about them in the future. In that sense Ryan Gosling is every bit as crush-worthy as Emma Stone. If you’re a “high-bro” who likes the new Emma Stone movie, you might also like the new Ryan Gosling movie. (It might be the same movie: they star together in Crazy, Stupid, Love.) This is not a crush-fest; it’s a product recommendation. But sometimes it’s easier for a certain kind of person to say he wants to fuck a female actor than to say he enjoys and respects her work. The GQ bracket implies that it’s fine for men to feel sexy about Ryan Gosling, but it also implies that we’re not really talking about sex at all.
We can be more honest about sexuality by letting bros crush on bros. We can also help by toning down the sexed-up rhetoric that we use to talk about what are, essentially, consumer topics.
Elsewhere in the same issue, GQ says “we’re crushing so hard right now” on St. Vincent and her “heart-collapsing appeal.” Don’t worry, St. Vincent. You probably don’t have a mob of randy, impressionable GQ readers at your heels. Just a bunch of men who have a hard time saying they like your music.