OPINION: Is the 'Stromo' the new metrosexual?
I FINALLY got around to watching Foxcatcher this week. You know, the film where Steve Carrell wears a fake nose and Channing Tatum sports a strangely-enlarged jaw, and both of them were supposed to win Oscars for it?
Foxcatcher, a biopic about wrestling, is undeniably homoerotic. Not just because of the men rolling around together in unitards, but also because of the subtle character undertones that try to lead the audience on without being graphic about it.
Channing Tatum is having quite the homoerotic year, actually. When doing the promotional rounds for Magic Mike XXL, he appeared on a float at the Los Angeles Pride parade alongside his co-star and buddy, the extremely fine-looking gay man Matt Bomer.
Tatum is an example of the modern straight man who doesn't want to avoid being confused with being gay. In fact, he loves the attention that being "not obviously straight" gets him. He's not afraid of being painted with the gay brush. In fact, he wants to flirt with it because it leads to more fans, not less.
The straight homo, coined the "stromo" by Hollywood Reporter correspondent Merle Ginsberg, is a heterosexual man whom "amps up their appeal to audiences for pride and profit".
However, the stromo exists outside of Hollywood too. He's in your gym, he's in your office. He is the new metrosexual, he who goes beyond the 2000s-era David Beckham type that uses hair products and buys Dolce & Gabbana jeans.
His goal? A combination being on the receiving end of flattery by gay men - perhaps the highest form of compliment - and proving to himself and the world that he's okay with the gays.
See, we're known to be a scrupulous bunch, us homosexuals. Our standards are stereotypically high; both for ourselves and for others.
While once a straight guy would've gone to every length to avoid prying eyes from gay men, the stromo does the opposite because he's confident in his own sexuality, but loves the attention from the same sex. He doesn't only want women to want him. He wants EVERYONE to want him. And if gay men think he's cute? In his mind, he must be really, really cute.
The straight homo is also extremely proud that, despite our macho world, he has no problem with gay people and he wants you to know it. He's an ally, and advocate, the kind of man who will stick up for gay people in a fight and never feel the need to defend himself if called a "fag".
British social critic Mark Simpson calls today's wave of Instagram-hungry modern men "shameless hussies". He, like Ginsburg, talk about the stromo as wanting to be sexually objectified in the same way as women have been for centuries: by all and sundry.
Is the straight homo then, in fact, a kind of feminist? One who is trying to level the playing field and, as actor Chris Pratt puts it, ensure society does "not objectify women less, but objectify men just as often"?
The jury is out on that notion. In fact, the concept of the stromo and his motivations has attracted its share of criticism since the term was coined last month. Some believe it is exploitation, others say it is yet more perpetuation of gay stereotypes, another reinforcement of the old standard that all gay men should be sensitive, smart, buff and beautiful.
The advent of the stromo, I believe, is less exploitation and emphasis of typical typecasting, and more a sign that the world is moving on merely "accepting" gay people. Being gay is now "cool".
Don't get me wrong; this is not insinuating homosexuality is like an iPhone or a new pair of shoes - something you'll eventually throw away when it stops being desirable. However, it's something you can flaunt, something you can wear on your sleeve, something that will attract more positive attention than negative.
Stromos aside, there is a current wave of female celebrities who are actually IN same-sex relationships (Miley Cyrus, Cara Delevingne, Kristin Stewart...), yet none of them have chosen to publically come out as gay. Instead, and because they want to contribute to the lessening of stigma around fluid sexuality, they don't come out because they don't believe labels are necessary anymore.
For that reason, we should not label a straight homo a "stromo"; even though I've used it throughout the last 700-odd words for explanatory purposes. Maybe he's a shameless hussy, but maybe he's just an open and accepting guy who just doesn't care. Hell, maybe he's both.
It doesn't really matter. The fact that some people are no longer afraid of gay attention and gay connotations can only mean good things for society's supportive, inclusive, egalitarian future. That, dear world, is something I can definitely say is "cool".