It’s easy to criticize obviously unfair or grossly inaccurate coverage. Then there’s the kind of coverage that’s technically fair and accurate, but still feels off base. “I Love You, Man (as a Friend)” is such an article.
Written by Douglas Quenqua, who is often tasked with cultural trend stories, it was on the front of the Sunday Style section of The New York Times. The premise is the “trend” of straight men becoming more comfortable being friends with gay men.
It starts off with an anecdote about how much openly gay American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert liked the winner Kris Allen, who is married to a woman:
“Mr. Allen’s cool, self-assured response to being the object of his gay roommate’s affection doesn’t exactly qualify him as a civil rights hero, not at a time when straight men march against Proposition 8 in California and the most anticipated gay-themed film of the year, ‘Brüno,’ is coming from a straight (if highly waxed) comedian.
“But do give him credit for overcoming one of the most common deal-killers in friendships between straight and gay men: the awkward crush.”
Quenqua eeks across the fair and accurate line by adding “one of” to the phrase “the most common” but it still seems like a stretch. Is “the awkward crush” truly “one of the most common deal-killers”? Or am I, as a gay man, not wanting to believe that it is indeed true, therefore I’m questioning whether it’s really fair and accurate?
After an anecdote of a gay man hitting on a straight man, which leads to the straight man distancing himself from the friendship, the article does pull back a bit:
“The notion that gay men can’t or don’t refrain from hitting on straight friends is, to many, the biggest stereotype of all. It’s simply not true, say most of the men in gay-straight friendships interviewed for this article.
“A more common source of friction, some gay men say, is the tendency of straight friends to see them only through the lens of sexual orientation.”
The article spotlights several interesting gay-straight bromances, but then as it runs to the finish line it hits a few more speed bumps:
“Ritch C. Savin-Williams, a professor of developmental psychology at Cornell University, recently completed a survey of 160 men, straight and gay, and found that gay men provided valuable social insights to straight men.
“The idea is that a gay friend will be more in tune to women and more likely to have female friends,’ Professor Savin-Williams said. ‘And it’s a stereotype, but straight men also feel they can talk to gay men about fashion and ask them if they’re looking O.K.’
“One conclusion Professor Savin-Williams drew from his conversations with young men was that there was a direct correlation between how ‘straight acting’ they were and whether they had close straight friends. Sports, he said, were a common area for bonding.
“I find very few straight men really wanting to be friends with really obvious gay men,” he said. “They’re afraid other people will think they’re gay because their friend is so obviously gay, or there’s a feeling of almost slight disgust with feminine behavior in a male body.”
The professor’s quotes are what they are—an informed opinion by a relevant expert. However, what makes me sad is the message that the reader leaves with—only “straight acting” gay men are welcome as potential friends to straight men because straight men feel an “almost slight disgust with feminine behavior in a male body.”
This article is perhaps fair and accurate in the letter of the law, so to speak, but I am unsure if it qualifies when measured against the spirit of the law.