When I was 5 or 6 years old, I recall seeing on tv that there was a talk about George Michael coming out as gay, and I asked my mother, what does that mean? She explained to me that “some men decide to marry men” and George Michael was one of them, and I didn’t think any more of it. I understood that being gay was something that happened to men, white men, who lived in America.
Now looking back at his music videos, specially Careless Whispers, a song he wrote the lyrics to when he was 18 years old which was probably written as a love song to a male partner, and not like how it was represented in the video, which shows him being intimate with women. You might think well it was in the 80’s, so obviously it wasn’t ok to show gay men being affectionate on TV, but moving forward to 2014 mainstream singers such as Sam Smith still suffer from the same prejudice views in the media.
In his music videos, specifically looking at “Leave your Lover”, he is singing about how he’s asking a man he is in love with to leave his lover for him. However, the music video instead of using three male characters shows two men and one woman. Therefore it tricks the audience that doesn’t want to believe in the queer reality, that he is, in fact, singing to the girl, and asking her to “leave him” for him. A very smart play on the use of pronouns and siding with heteronormativity.
The second male character in the video besides Smith, is a black man, and I guess by introducing race, the creators thought they were being radical enough and didn’t need to add the “gay” situation, because “shock horror” showing a black gay man in a music video would simply be too much! Later on, we see a very small glimpse of male and male intimacies in Smith’s videos, but very small and almost missable.
If it has taken over 20 years for us to see a glimpse of relationships between men in mainstream media, when will we witness the representation of relationships between queer women? We know that in LGBTQ politics, men always come first, since unfortunately the patriarchy cannot be taken out of LGBTQ.
The saying goes; diversity starts for white men first, then white women, and then come men of colour and lastly women of colour.
By applying that to the queer representation in the media, I see a future of frustration for women of colour like me who are attracted to other women. Will we ever be able to see our relationships represented in the media? Or should we give up on being validated by the media as a whole?
Personally the mainstream is not something I look up to for inspiration, however, I worry for the 5 year old brown girls who are growing up and still only being offered the same concept, no alternatives and having their identities denied in the future as the result.
Here are some musicians who represent their queer selves in their videos:
Also check out her earlier work with Anthony and the Johnsons