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What To Do With 'Gay' Click-bate

 

The Interplay is a special biweekly series exploring the intersections of sex, pop culture, and current events.

BY CHARLES PULLIAM-MOORE

Over the past few weeks Buzzfeed’s squad of “Try Guys” have made a dent in the internet with a series of videos designed to go viral. The formula for the series is fairly straight forward: each video features the guys trying something you’ve probably never seen the average man doing in the middle of a work day.

As a series Try Guys reads a lot like your average TLA coming of age dramedy: lacking in plot, but rich in fleshy, softcore nonsense. It started with the guys trying to out drink one another, and then waxing philosophic about the hottest male celebrities. Soon they were trying drag, seeing each other naked for the first time, and experimenting with same-sex kissing.

The guys in these videos are coded as straight, and that same straightness is meant to make the clips as “funny” as they are titillating. Whether or not Try Guys accomplishes either of its goals is open for debate, but what seems rather obvious is Buzzfeed’s newfound fondness for queer clickbate (it’s like queerbait and clickbait but...racier.)

Try Guys both is and isn’t standard fare for publications like Buzzfeed. We’re no strangers to sharing clips of hot guys doing silly things here at Towleroad. Content like this drives traffic, and hey--who doesn’t like little bit of eye candy? There comes a point, though, where one questions the intentions of content like Try Guys that isn’t clearly operating from expressly queer-positive perspective. As J. Bryan Lowder writes in Slate, BuzzFeed’s clickbate reads simultaneously as provocative and laughable:

"The men are clearly feeling bashful about activities that, from a gay point-of-view, are laughably low-stakes, so it’s hard not to feel a certain amount of puppy-dog pity for them. That BuzzFeed’s producers have been able to cast and shoot these micro-docs in a way that encourages responses both erotic and tender is a credit to their powers of manipulation."

Though Lowder sees the Guys’ “first time” experimentations as endearing, there’s something inherently off about treating gay intimacy like a low-budget episode of Fear Factor. We’re living in a gilded, glittering age where depictions of gay men kissing, touching, and being close with one another have almost become the rule, rather than the exception. Not only that, but today’s objectification of the male body is infinitely more open.

That shirtless guy baking cupcakes? Cosmopolitan knows (and is banking on) the clicks of gay men and straight women alike. The actors and models vying for our collective attention may not be gay themselves, but their intentions are clear. Our gaze as gay men is invited, and in that invitation there’s an implicit affirmation of gay desire.

Though it isn’t setting out to be malicious, Try Guys is trafficking in an all too common narrative. The intended hotness of the videos is undercut by the fact that the guys in it, and the overall theme, is supposed to be a spectacle. “Look at this straight guys doing gay things, how novel!”

That isn’t to say that gay sex and the media built around it can’t be funny--quite the opposite. Rather, when we’re mining the internet for scantily clad guys who can give us a good chuckle, we’ve got to make sure that we’re thinking with two heads as opposed to just one.


The Men of BuzzFeed Try Drag For The First Time; Tucking, Shaving And Throwing Shade Ensues - WATCH

Buzzfeed

Buzzfeed's 'The Try Guys' try drag for the first time, and as expected, face the difficulties of strutting in heels, the pains of tucking, and the weight of heavy makeup. Surprisingly, the guys get pretty into it, even throwing shade and getting down in their performances.

Watch Kornucopia, Champagne Canne, Ginger Vitis and Cheyenne Pepper make their stage debut with the help of veteran queens Cupcake Canne, Allusia, Misty Violet and Mayhem Miller, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Teen Becomes Instagram Sensation Cross-Dressing As Celebrities - PHOTOS

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Seventeen-year-old Liam Martin (aka waverider_) has amassed over 1,559,656 Instagram followers over the last eight months and has appeared on the Today show and ABC News websites by posting low-fi recreations of celebrity photographs.

He has mimicked Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Selena Gomez, Kim Kardashian and even Effie Trinket from The Hunger Games. Some of the celebrities have followed and complimented his work, and he uses his platform to discourage cyberbullying and encourage people to be more creative.

Yahoo shares more about the young mimic:

Make no mistake, a lot of time, energy — and money! — goes into each one of Martin's photos. He posts a new picture pretty much weekly and it takes that much time to execute his vision as far as coming up with a subject and buying the supplies. The teen estimates that he spends about $45 on props for each shoot, which take place at his family home "against one wall we use all the time."

The hardest one to recreate so far? "The Katy Perry photo from her 'Dark Horse' music video. It took me three hours" to get just right. The headpiece was made out of "M&Ms and string," he reveals. The shirt? It featured hand-cut pieces of paper attached to the nude-colored top. Fortunately, all his hard work paid off — the photo has 439,000 likes

"My mom and my nana were helping me with that one and it took hours," Martin recalls, adding that he often leans on them for assistance. "Most of the time my mom helps me get dressed up and she'll take the photo for me. If my [extended] family is over, my nana and my pops — my grandpa — will help me. The whole family loves it too. It's now become normal for them."

Check out more of his photos AFTER THE JUMP...

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Teens React To Bizarre '90s Internet Instruction Video: WATCH

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"Email? I heard that's really neat!" Only in 1997 would a prepubescent kid utter such words, and now, we have the pleasure of watching modern-day teenagers react with awe and glee to this and many other gems.

YouTube users TheFineBros have brought back their web series "Teens React To..." with this 90's internet edition, and the results are hilarious. "If that kid were standing right here when he said that," says one subject, "I would punch him in the face." Technology may change, but the teenage ability to overreact never will. 

Get a blast from the past, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Al Gore Just Can't Win: Prince Declares The Internet "Over"

Princeclosestheinternet

The Internet is over. So, apparently, is underwear.

Via Dlisted: Prince has declared that the Internet is "over," likening it to the '80s fad that was MTV:

"Anyway, all these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that can't be good for you."


Chris Crocker: "I'm the Key to World Peace"

TMZ ran into Chris Crocker emerging from Mr. Chow on Saturday night. Crocker appears to be thoroughly enjoying the temporary window of fame his wailing rant about Britney Spears has afforded him.

CrockCrocker also gets a profile treatment from the Associated Press:

"It's tough to be openly gay in a conservative Southern town, he says. There have always been death threats, bullying and glares at his clothes and makeup. Oh, and he's always pushing someone's buttons. 'My grandparents can't go to their church any more,' said Crocker, his spunk clouded momentarily with genuine concern. He's fiercely protective of his grandparents, Pentecostal Christians who took over raising him when his teenage parents couldn't. Crocker said his outrageous behavior, a stark contrast to the rest of the family, started when he was in kindergarten. He raised eyebrows that year for bringing Barbie dolls to class for show-and-tell. 'What I do affects them, and I feel bad for that,' he said of his family. Crocker's grandmother, who declined to be interviewed, is seen in a handful of his videos, appearing as an uncomfortable bystander. In one, Crocker is imitating a Christian woman interviewing his grandmother, who says she loves her grandson. In another, his grandmother is patiently arguing with him over his attitude. Crocker said that when she agreed to be taped, 'she didn't really grasp the size of the audience.'"

Has Andy Warhol's "15 minutes" quote ever seemed more prescient?


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