I have a disproportionately high number of gay male Facebook buddies (although I may lose some after this post). J and I did a lot of theater back in the day, an extra-curricular activity that seems to attract more homosexual men than in the general population. J’s college theater group, come to think of it, had the additional draw of being all-male, which meant that any female roles were played by guys in drag. That may explain some of my Facebook demographic.
Perforce, I was among the first to learn about Bea Arthur’s passing. It seemed as though half the gay contingent of my Facebook crowd was posting about Bea Arthur before I heard about it from any mainstream news source. For reasons I don’t quite comprehend, Bea Arthur seems to interest to my particular subset of gay male friends. I am sure there is an interesting sociology paper in there somewhere.
While I cannot explain Arthur’s appeal to Homosexual Men Who Know Emily (HMWKE), I can explain why they ought to care about Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. She was a pioneer of queer theory, a woman who helped earn LGBT Studies a place at the table. Yet, only one of the men who posted about Arthur’s death had posted about Sedgwick’s two weeks earlier.
But, you argue, they didn’t know about her.
And this is exactly my point. For all the hoopla about the internet expanding our news sources and Twitter being the way we’ll all get our news in the future, we’re still just paying attention to the Entertainment section. All hail the power of the New Media! We are using it to… gossip about the old media.
Now, before you get all huffy and call me homophobic, please understand that my point is simply that of these two women, both of whom could be for one reason or another significant to this demographic (HMWKE), only one was repeatedly posted about on Facebook. I am not saying gay men are especially vapid; in fact, when I compare HMWKE to SFWAKE (you know, Straight Folks Who Also Know Emily), I find that no straight people posted about the groundbreaking scholar at all, but there were plenty who jumped on the bandwagon to post about the actress.
As far as actresses go, I liked Bea Arthur fine. She was tall, she was funny, she gave good face. Maude was pretty damned feminist, and Dorothy was without a doubt my favorite Golden Girl. And I loved the Golden Girls, although they seemed a lot older back when I was a lot younger.
But, come on, people. Don’t try to tell me the New Media is changing the world in meaningful ways. If you didn’t know who Sedgwick was back in the days when we all got our news from CNN, you still don’t know who she was. No one re-posted my link to her obit, that I saw. We’re all still as celebrity-obsessed as we were back when everyone sobbed over Princess Diana and John-John Kennedy.
Don’t believe me? Go search for #beaarthur and #evekosofskysedgwick or #sedgwick. Go ahead, I’ll wait.