Pushy Queers

Two Plays and a Smackdown Augur a New Gay Image

There's a gay neurotic in Take Me Out as well. He's a repressed accountant turned frantic fan, and he also serves as a bittersweet foil. But Greenberg pins the play's most eloquent message on this character, making him a repository for the hunger to connect that all fans share. The queer nerd becomes just another guy, with real sexual desire, but not for an unavailing straight man. The object of his devotion is the all-star, and by allowing a budding romance between the rogue and the wimp, Greenberg offers an image of psychic unity that is much like the one Wilson no doubt intended to project. Burn This wants us to see a relationship between the capacity for aggression and the ability to connect. But in 1987, it wasn't possible to present a pushy gay character; not if you were looking for the audience's sympathy. Today it is. The queer aggressor is an image whose time has come—at least in the theater, that bastion of gay power.

Slam, bam, thank you man: Billy and Chuck bring same-sex unions to a whole new demographic.
photo: Courtesy World Wrestling Entertainment
Slam, bam, thank you man: Billy and Chuck bring same-sex unions to a whole new demographic.

A good play can be an audition for life. Still, watching Burn This in its latest incarnation made me wonder about the inevitability of change. The play actually may have gained credibility in this post-9-11 age of the righteous stud. As for the gay man who clings to his subordination, no one in the audience I was part of seemed to mind. In fact, he got a standing ovation. But what if this brittle little ?it had sucker punched the macho invader as soon as he uttered the word faggot—and teamed up with the woman to throw the stud out? Would the audience have left the theater reassured, or would they have felt the twinge in the sphincter that keeps the order intact?

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