I recently wrote about Ross Mathew’s talk show, “Hello Ross.” “Hello Kitty” was tossed into the mix for good measure, and there was feedback.
Actually, there was a litter storm of feedback. Clearly, “Hello Kitty” and “Hello Ross” are both blessed with a highly devoted and loyal fan base.
The “Hello Ross” column got a lot of attention. I haven’t been called so many names since I gave “Glee” a three-yawn designation many moons ago.
Whenever a column touches a nerve to this degree, there’s feedback from friends, family and strangers. Boy, did I get feedback, and we all know that “feedback” is more often than not a euphemism for bitch slap.
A stinging swat is the ultimate wake-up call. Popular-culture writers need to hear, really hear, what people truly think, and I got an earful.
So let me be clear: My commentary was snarky. It was about the irony of celebrity packaging, not Ross Mathews per se. This was not a personal attack on the man nor will it be a concession to, and I quote, “my self-loathing attack on Ross’s celebration of the gay lifestyle.”
Clearly there is far more than mere nerve fondling.
A nerve wasn’t merely touched. Instead, it would seem that an entire nervous system was criminally assaulted. The “Hello Ross” column garnered everything from rage to outrage to, well, outrageous outrage -- and now I’m afraid that Hello Kitty really does have an AK 47! And she’s Ross’s bodyguard!
So, let’s talk …
Honestly, I feel bad that some folks took this as a homophobic, personal attack on Ross Mathews; I really do. That was not the intention. I applaud Ross for riding a wave and taking full advantage -- and more power to him! But here’s the hitch: Not for a New York minute do I think Mathew’s handlers and publicists don’t have fingerprints all over the “Hello Ross” franchise. Mathew is a gay icon for being a gay icon, and it just doesn’t feel genuine, and this leads to a broader discussion of something far more substantive than Hello Kitty or Ross Mathew’s pink pants.
The LGBT, GLBT, queer or enchanted community is in flux, and there’s no better testimony to that flux than our inability to agree among ourselves as to what to call ourselves. We are transitioning from the extraordinary to the ordinary at light speed and with that comes a certain sacrifice. In some ways, it’s easier to be bold and out-loud-proud from the outside looking in. Once you stake a claim to the mainstream, then shouting just seems indulgent and thus, the price of inclusion.
Of course celebrities exist in a different world. They are not to be taken too seriously. Celebrities are generally a commodity and a product, a package marketed to a targeted audience and naturally, the bigger that audience, the better.
I want more for Ross Mathews and I want more for me, the aforementioned-targeted audience.
I don’t want Ross to be a commodity. I want him to be a genuine, happy, flippant, sarcastic and sassy gay man who is happy in his own skin. I also want to be certain that what we see is Ross’s actual skin and not a preconceived stereotype of what the marketers think America wants to see from its gay celebs.
I’m just saying, but more to the point and to quote Bill Maher"
“I kid Ross Mathews!”
And perhaps more to the point, I kid you too, dear readers. I don’t want our community to take itself so deadly serious. The price of inclusion is also the ability to laugh at our own sense of insecurity.
My mission with Screen Scene is to entertain and in the process, hopefully persuade viewers to indulge in a little clear-eyed thinking. It’s a given that entertainment is all about manipulation: persuading the audience to laugh or cry or stand up and cheer. That’s what good depictions do. And, pointing out the writer’s art of manipulation is an occasional and healthy exercise.
Whether it’s Ross Mathew’s camping it up in pink trousers or a visual arts columnist creating a dialog about inclusion, it’s all meant to entertain and hopefully provoke thought, but at the end of the day there are far bigger fish to fry.
I stand by my original observation that Ross in his present form would have been more profound 10 years ago. Ross is a brilliant interviewer and is clearly intelligent, and if pink trousers are his sincere shtick, then more power to him. But still, I think there’s more to Ross and I only hope to encourage more.
To all who were offended by the first Ross column – and that appears to include Ross, who complained via Twitter to me and my editor -- please accept the reality that homophobia was never the intent. Sincere and robust humanity that’s enlightening, amusing, inclusive and informative is the true hope and at the end of the day it’s all about being real. “Real” is simply an aspiration and never ever, anything more.
Kurt Niece writes about visual arts for SDGLN. He is a freelance journalist from Lakewood, Ohio. He is the author of "The Breath of Rapture" and an artist who sells his work on his website.