THE SUMMER'S HOTTEST REALITY SHOW AND THE TV program with the biggest water-cooler buzz continues to be Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. A troop of flamboyant homosexuals-the so-called "Fab Five"-descend on an ordinary schmo, giving him a total makeover. They style his hair and give him a facial. They throw out his comfortable old clothes and garb him in the latest fashions. They redecorate his apartment, cleaning out the mess, reorganizing his closet, and replacing his moth-eaten sofa with a futon. They teach him to appreciate fine wines and how to prepare raw appetizers. They teach him "culture," how to act sophisticated and how to dance.
By the end of the show, what was once a slob has been transformed into a fop. He presents himself to his wife or girlfriend, who is overjoyed at the metamorphosis. Whereupon the Fab Five toast each other for another victory.
Queer Eye has brought more viewers to the artsy Bravo cable network than ever before. Although its ratings pale beside those of mainline broadcast TV, the show is crossing over. When NBC-which owns Bravo-aired an episode, it attracted 8 million viewers, winning its time slot for the coveted 18- to 49-year-old viewers. Its ratings tied with those for preseason professional football.
The show reportedly had its beginnings when its creator overheard a woman complaining to her husband about why he couldn't be like those gay guys, who are always so well-dressed and stylish. Women reportedly constitute the biggest audience for the program, and the motivation for the "straight guy" to submit himself to his flouncing mentors, with all of their catty remarks, is to make himself more attractive to women.
No longer is the male universe divided between homosexuals and heterosexuals. Now we have metrosexuals. These are straight men who act like they are gay.
Metrosexuals obsess over their appearance. They preen in front of mirrors. They love to shop. They try to emulate the look of the pretty boys in GQ and the Abercrombie & Fitch catalogs-buff bodies and effeminate faces, photographs modeled after gay erotica-all, ironically, to attract girls. Though, as the coiner of the term, journalist Mark Simpson, points out in Salon, metrosexuality is a kind of narcissism, the state of being in love with oneself.
Homosexuals have come out of the closet, to the point that they are now rearranging other people's closets and determining what goes inside them. Homosexuality has gone from the love that dare not speak its name to the arbiter of coolness. Gays have always been overrepresented in the culture-making professions-the arts, the entertainment industry, the media-and now they are openly shaping pop culture to their image, and heterosexuals are obediently following their lead.
When Britney Spears and Madonna gave each other an open-mouthed kiss on the MTV awards show, it underscored just how fashionable homosexual behavior has become among young people, even among those who are not homosexual. More and more teenagers, experimenting with a whole range of sexual behaviors, are identifying themselves as "bisexual" (to the consternation of gay activists who insist that homosexuals are born that way and cannot help their identity). Mr. Simpson points out how various acts of sodomy-the sexual practices of homosexuals-have become increasingly prevalent among heterosexuals, even married adults.
In the debates about what causes homosexuality-is it genetic? psychological? a choice?-one factor is commonly left out of consideration: the culture.
Homosexual behavior is rampant, for example, in prisons. Congress has just passed a bill, urged for years by Christian ministries such as Prison Fellowship, to deal with the problem of homosexual rape among prisoners. Wherever people are separated for long periods from the opposite sex into a self-contained culture of their own-prisons, ships at sea, English boarding schools-homosexuality often breaks out. When the sexual segregation is over, as when the prisoner is released, these cultural gays often go back to heterosexuality.
In Ancient Sparta the young warriors, taken from their families as children, were given as lovers to older warriors. Homosexuality was essentially universal among the Spartans, who believed that sexual bonds increased loyalty among soldiers. After the Spartans left the army, they got married, had children, and lived a normal heterosexual life.
The point is, a culture that not only accepts but values and encourages homosexuality will produce more of it. And it will produce even more gay wannabes.