So You Think You Can Tell?
During the past few weeks, I've been watching this season of So You Think You Can Dance?
(Without getting into reality-program justifications and such, let's just assume, for this entry, that watching RPs is ok.) Anyway, as the cast formed, I had my eye on one particular guy who perplexes me—Benji. On the one hand, he's talented, funny, expressive, and cute as hell. On the other, I think he's gay. I don't make this observation because of any antipathy toward gay people; indeed I'm accepting of alternative lifestyles (though even saying
"accepting" implies inequitable power structures and lack of civil rights protections—quite frustrating and a whole other blog entry in and of itself). On the contrary, I make this observation for two reasons: 1) I'm kind of crushing on him, and 2) I don't think he has any idea that he comes off as homosexual.
So, these are my interior arguments about why he might or might not be gay:
Maybe: he's non-masculine in the way he dances...
Maybe not: but in a pre-pubescent way.
Maybe not: he said he was engaged and that his girlfriend left him.
Maybe: did she leave him because he's gay?
Maybe not: he's religious...
Maybe: but he could be Episcopalian
Maybe: he collapsed onto the floor crying when the judges accepted him...
Maybe not: but his legs could have just given out.
urse, in answer to my first point, whether or not Benji is gay, I can still crush on him. I learned this lesson long ago by liking Alan Cumming, who I later found out is bisexual. As for my second point, I think that Benji needs to own
the gay aesthetic if he isn't gay or own up to
gayness if he is. I think this distinction explains the confusion he seems to generate on the show. Plenty of dancers on the show are gay and have no problem with their sexuality. Then again, Benji could be just plain goofy. Either way, I love his quirky style, but y'all know how I love the humor.
All of this speculation brings up another point about SYTYCD
that I find fascinating. Most of the time when the dancers go to learn a new dance, they are asked to portray some
idealized aspect of masculinity or femininity. Benji isn't the only dancer who has been asked to be "more masculine" and has occasionally failed to do so. This really gratifies my sense of "gender as performance" in action. Judith? Judy B? Are you watching SYTYCD
? Call me! From my sense of the dances, only krumping and possibly hip-hop don't ask for traditional femininity which I find totally cool; perhaps contemporary doesn't ask for traditional masculinity... except for the lifts. As the dancers learn what nuances of gender they are expected to portray, it's clear that they don't all fit into traditional categories themselves except perhaps Joy and Aleksandra who are pretty feminine (and who've been voted off) and Dimitri and Musa who are hella-masculine (and are still competing).
Ultimately, I am of two minds about this show. I think it is inherently, thou
gh unknowingly, subversive because it presents dancers with a range of sexual preferences and gender performances. Even so, it presents them in order to standardize their behavior to the expectations of dances, many of which are patriarchal cultural expressions. You're neve
r going to flip on the TV and see two men dancing together or two women dancing together on Dance
. You're probably never going to see people dancing in drag. For as much as I love dancing and the premise of SYTYCD
, to me, at least, this is a bummer. Gay or straight, bi, trans-sex or trans-gender, or asexual: we should all be dancing.