Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Mission: World Domination...and ruining the rainbow for everyone

Hey gaysters!!! What?? Don't like being called "gaysters"??? Alright...but, since we're living in the days of "way-too-gay", I thought you'd get a few yuks out of being included! Ha ha...isn't that what everyone wants? To be the star of their own personal episode of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, or Straight Girl, or Straight Thing, or whatever?


Hmmm...well, I can understand. Life shouldn't be about a singular group or movement or pair of jeans. And since I belong to the gay community by definition, I think I'm allowed to bash it now and then, just like how black people can bash the black community and get away with it.

As you can see, my illo above does just that. I did this back in art school (1998), as a reaction to what I was seeing more and more of in the younger gay community. It's sort of Stepford Wives-ish (but this was thought up before the cheesy remake came out). I had thoughts about doing a comic strip based on a world takover by mindless, work-out-a-holic, robotic gay men. Their Earth would be one where original thought was wiped out completely, and a superficial herd mindset was firmly set in place. Your brain would be replaced by a computer chip programmed to care ONLY about appearances, working out, shopping, labels, circuit parties, and hooking up.

Where are the lesbians in this takeover, you might ask? Well, I hadn't figured that part out yet. But, I digress.

The point is, I enjoyed the idea, but in the end, I felt the strip would ultimately come off as a bitter rant. I didn't want to shame the gay community any more than it was shamed by our larger society. Sure, as a group, it has things to work on, but why focus on the negative? Why reveal the negatives and make them obvious to other groups? Ultimately, it was a fun exercise; an idea for use later, when society and the gay community could laugh at themselves. And frankly, only the gay community (and a few sharp observers) would REALLY get the jist of the self-effacing humor in context anyway. Besides, I'm finding that a little gym exercise here and there is quite good for the spirit and the mind, when done in moderation. Therefore, how could I admit enjoying such things when this comic strip would prove me to be hypocritical?

These were all reasons the idea for the strip didn't stick with me, and the biggest reason is next: I didn't want to limit myself to a narrow slice of society. I've seen too many talented people come out of the closet, only to be sucked into a world obsessed with all things GAY. All their art ideas are consumed by it. And that's what they become...a "gay artist", rather than "an artist who happens to be gay." Why, I ask, as humans, would anyone want to be refered to by what or who they have sex with? Now...don't get me wrong, some titles and labels are necessary, but why a title that defines you by a sexual act?

I never want it to be my one and only soapbox issue, or to be something that defines me before anything else.

So, in saying that, I thought I'd share the illo for laughs. I look back on it with a newfound understanding for how I felt at the time, and to my surprise, it still cracks me up, because in some social circles this idea is still VERY relevant (perhaps just add crystal meth to the mix). After my last post, I think it makes for a good follow-up.

Taste the rainbow, people, but don't wrap yourself up and suffocate in it.


Ward Jenkins said...

This was a very poignant post, Justin. Several years ago I was in Piedmont Park, taking Ava on a little walk in the stroller back when she was still a baby, and I noticed that there was a big shin-dig going on at one section of the park. All these gay men were walking that way and at one point I realized that they all looked the same: short short hair, wearing wife-beater shirts and short shorts (most of them were jean shorts, of course), and every one was buff. It did look like something from an old 50's horror film: "Attack of the Clones," or something. (I got a couple of snide looks my way, where I'm sure that most of these guys were mumbling under their breath, "Sheesh, breeders....") I thought to myself, "It looks like these guys are dating themselves." There was no variety at all. It was very strange.

I think that it's good for you to be able to poke fun or call attention to your own community, as long as it's with a concerned, critical eye. You notice certain patterns and fads that seem a bit ridiculous, and you want to do something about it. I like the idea of a comic that would do this sort of thing, but you're right -- it probably would've come across as being mean-spirited or like you said, a bitter rant.

But that doesn't mean you still can't rip on your own kind -- that means you care about your community and that maybe these guys need to turn the mirror towards themselves from time to time to see just how ridiculous they might be coming across. Similar to when I rip on certain aspects of the animation community on my blog, I only do it out of love.

Great thought-provoking post.

Jazzy Justin said...

Hey, thanks Ward. I really appreciate your lengthy comment. I know it takes a lot to type that much into the tiny little spaces they give us to write comments on these things!

I remember you telling me the story about seeing all those gay men at the park. The part where you filled in what they were thinking cracks me up: "Sheesh, breeders....".

It's comforting to hear that we all have our gripes about the groups we belong to. And you're right, the criticism is all out of love. I like how you stated that it's important to turn a mirror towards these people from time to time. And I guess it's equally important to turn a mirror towards ourselves, too. This sort of thing is important for growth.

I love the fact that illustration and art can be a great tool for this...caricatures and political/satirical cartoons!!! But, as we create these things, we have to be sure we're sending out the right messages. It definitely requires a discriminating eye. I try to be careful with that, but it's hard.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you shoud think about being more involved in the gay community. I am not talking about expanding your gym card or going out more. Volunteer. There are plenty of clinics, YouthPride, PFlag, etc. that are positive and need help. Instead of writing blog after blog about anti-gayness, gayness, what you dislike about the community that you ARE SO apart of and more NYC NYC NYC, go out there and silently be apart of it. There are organizations that need your energy. You sound on the verge of being a very bitter person.

Anonymous said...

You ask why someone from the gay community would want to be defined by a sexual act, and, quite frankly, I don't feel that's what I'm wearing when I tell people that I'm gay. I would hope that I come across as the individual that I am, who is a part of a community that is, for the most part (I've found), loyal, open-minded, generous, understanding, great with conversation, and savvy with their dress code. I agree with "anonymous"...you are coming across as a very, VERY bitter individual; who died and made you "gay queen", judge of all those who do, in fact, wear wife-beaters and short shorts and exercise 8 days a week? Who cares what comprises the gay community? Live and let live and make your own, personal, subtle difference. I'd hate for you to have to hear what the short-shorts crowd might think of you. And, furthermore, you say that you don't want to be pigeonholed as a gay artist creating "gay art"; well, to be frank with you, just about every illustration on your blog seems to have some sort of homosexual undertone (or blatant overtone, for that matter, ie your "censored" post, PLEASE!), so, welcome to the world of gay art, my friend...you have officially arrived. You could have it much worse...so, my friendly advice to you is to stop compaining and find a real cause. And, in turn, let that find a way into your work.

Ward Jenkins said...

You know, guys (actually, I'm pretty sure you're the same guy), it's one thing to talk the big talk about telling Justin to do this and do that within the gay community, but it's kinda hard to take your advice with any ounce of respect when you are commenting ANONYMOUSLY. I mean, how cowardly is that? Very. Be a man and tell Justin what you think straight up -- it's very easy to hide behind the anonymous veil, isn't it? No worries on your part. But at least Justin is out there and talking about things, no holds barred. If anything, I applaud Justin for being so honest. Why can't he rant and rave about things within his own community? Isn't that what makes our country thrive? And how do you know that Justin hasn't already done his part within the gay community? Telling him that he should go out there and be a part of organizations "that need [his] energy" is very condescending, not to mention very ignorant. An empty comment from an empty commentator.

Justin has never said that the gay community is not loyal, open-minded, generous, etc. If anything, Justin has done more than what ANY Gay Pride parade could ever do -- open my eyes about what being gay is all about. Through our conversations throughout the years, Justin has put a true human face on what was, at one point for me, something completely alien. He's become one of my closest friends and one of the most talented artists I've ever come to know. Gay or not. In fact, it's a bit rude to make rash statements like "...just about every illustration on your blog seems to have some sort of homosexual undertone..." because all that you've seen is NOT everything that Justin's done! He's a very prolific artist and what you've seen on Cartoon Curio is but a mere tip of the iceberg. Don't assume, buddy-boy.

Next time, do your homework. Actually READ Justin's posts and read them ENTIRELY. And check out more of Justin's artwork on his portfolio site. Based off of these comments, it's obvious that you did not do any of this. Because right now, you simply come across looking more like an idiot than any source of authority on this subject.

write on dude said...

Oh, there's so much I could say...

But I'm compelled tonight to send a comment to Ward: Although I don't know you, I enjoy reading your comments and am especially impressed by your intelligent and always-supportive words for Justin. It's clear you understand him completely (unlike certain anonymous respondents) and I know how much he appreciates you and your friendship.

Jazzy Justin said...

First off, I want to say thank you all for leaving comments about this post. I appreciate hearing a variety of opinions about this subject. The great thing about having a blog is that I can communicate with others about my opinions and hear other people's opinions as well.

To Ward and Write On Dude specifically, thank you for fully "getting" me and offering up your insight and wisdom concerning the anonymous responses to this post. You two are true friends, who belong to the group of people this blog was created for. Originally, it was started as a forum for keeping in touch with my friends in Atanta, as well as new friends I've made in New York. I greatly appreciate your support, and much more than that, I appreciate your investment in reading the entirety of my posts to really understand the full perspective of my blog. Thanks for commenting in my defense.

As far as the other comments on this post, I can only say I feel sad that my words were not fully understood. They are all I have, and apparently, this grouping of them incensed a few readers to the point where they felt the need to lash out. I suppose they were offended personally by something? Perhaps they read something that described them? In any case, I'm really interested that certain readers (or maybe, just one reader) took such offense to my point of view, and that they decided to voice their disagreement, rather than "blurking". What's unfortunate, is that they didn't do this in a very respectable manner. In the future, I hope they'll have the courage to step up and discuss their point of view without lurking and hiding behind the safe wall of anonymity. It's cowardly, and ultimately, not very beneficial to anyone.

Furthermore, while I'm sad that my point of view was misunderstood, I don't feel the need to apologize for anything I've said. This blog was created as a forum for me and my good friends, and it expresses my feelings and thoughts at any given time, and I will not censor that, nor apologize for it. I am human, and from time to time, I feel the need to complain, discuss, and rant about certain things. If you don't like it, simply read another blog, or at least address a comment to me without anonymity, and we'll discuss it.

But for now, I will say a few things in my defense, because I honestly feel like the anonymous commentors don't understand where I'm coming from. For one thing, it's surprising to hear the descriptor, "bitter" being thrown my way. Pretty much all of my friends will tell you that I am not a bitter person. I rarely wallow in that puddle. Really, I think you're confusing bitterness with having a concerned, critical eye. I love the gay community, despite any of its flaws, they are an amazing group of people, overall. But no group is beyond criticism, and just because I may criticize a part of the community, it doesn't mean I loathe the community. Far from it. I just loathe certain lifestyle choices of some of its members. It's really just a small group that ruins it for everyone. But, to get to the point, I don't feel the need to ridicule parts of it by fleshing out my "Attack of the Clones" idea. If you read my post carefully, you will see that I struggled with the idea, and ultimately abandoned it for fear of coming off as too judgemental.

Along with reading this post carefully, if you had bothered to read all of my posts carefully, you would see that I rarely bash the gay community, and that I have a variety of art interests outside of the gay community. Any illustrations you see on my blog that do deal with issues within the gay community were created as work assignments for jobs. They're not just careless, judgemental exercises, - they are intended to accompany an article. I do these as a favor for a friend, who wanted illustrations for the publication he works for. In truth, they are only a small part of the freelance illustration work I do for a living. Otherwise, I work on a children's show, and do various other things.

As far as putting my energy to use towards bettering the gay community, I feel I already do this. I came out at a young age to my mother, who is also gay, and I have joined her in several P-Flag activities over the years. Not to mention, I was part of a gay youth group in high school, that helped all sorts of young people come out and deal with their sexuality. I've also been involved with many Pride activities and AIDS funding and research studies during and after college. While many guys were unwilling or not ready to deal with their own sexuality, I was getting involved with gay rights and increasing visibility. So, that being said, I've put in my dues, and I continue to.

Ultimately, the individuals who really deserve negative comments, are the guys out there who bring very little positive influence to the gay community due to complacency, drug/sex addiction, or the inability to see beyond the next circuit party.

I'm not that guy.

Anonymous said...

I, for one, am very glad you are "not that guy." Standing apart from the crowd can sometimes seem lonely and leave you more vulnerable to attack, but it allows you to see the world from a different and much broader perspective. You have distinguished yourself -- how many others can same the same thing? Revel in your uniqueness, Juice.

Your latest response to all of the comments was beautifully and evenly written. However, I disagree with one statement you made: your words are NOT all you have -- you have so much more, including your actions, which often do, in fact, speak louder than words. As I've told you before, this is one of the problems I have with blogs or any type of communication on the internet -- without hearing the inflection of the voice or seeing the truth in the eyes of the speaker, words simply typed on to a screen can oftentimes be misunderstood by the uninformed or lazy reader. Those words can also reach individuals who have nothing better to do all day but search blogs and post their comments, knowing this may be the only way in which their voices can be heard.
In this case, I think this may have happened.

So I say to all anonymous readers -- spend just one minute with Justin and you will know he is anything but bitter, you will see how much he loves the world surrounding him, and you will understand that his comments are a genuine attempt to inspire self-examination and open dialogue about subjects that he NEVER pretends to be the ultimate authority on. (Of course, that may be because he knows I'M the ultimate authority on every subject!) And here's the amazing part -- despite all of the mean-spirited comments you've already made, Justin still would gladly spend that one minute (at least)with you, because he respects other people's opinions and is willing to re-shape his own if a solid argument is presented.

So back off, anony-mites. Or else Ward and I will come get you (and Ward is a straight dude, so he probably knows how to actually hit!)

write on dude said...

Now how's that for irony? That last "anonymous" post was from me...forgot to add my name. I've ruined all my credibility now, haven't I???

LaughWhore said...
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LaughWhore said...
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Jazzy Justin said...

Wow! Thanks Write On Dude. I really appreciate you having my back! I'm so glad you feel I responded to the comments tactfully. I tried my best. And you're so right, email and blogging comments limit us when it comes to tone and expression. Ideas get miscommunicated and twisted...and yes, I agree with you, you ARE the ultimate authority on every subject! Haha

Laughwhore, thank you for attempting to leave a suportive comment, even though you asked to me to delete them. They weren't screwed up. I appreciate the love.