I was recently introduced to the series PRIDE PUMP 2000X promoting Toronto Pride 2011. The videos, produced by Toronto Convention and Visitors Association (Tourism Toronto, or @seetorontonow) – “the official destination marketing organization for Toronto’s tourism industry” – have been making the rounds on social media.
One particurlar video opens up with a voiceover of toned abs, the sultry voice asking: “are you ready to get in the HARDEST, TOUGHEST, SWEATIEST shape of your life?” My initial answer was as embarrassed no, as I continued to lick the peanut butter jar clean. Why do you ask? I thought to myself. Then, a beautiful, greased up, jockey guy wearing booty shorts and come fuck-me-eyes jumped to the front of the youtube window. “Toronto pride is coming,” he said enthusiastically, “and it is time to tone, tighten and transform your body into an enviable work of art!” I looked down at my little belly and wondered what on earth was not artistic about it. Ok, I admitted, I’m listening.
The video goes on, screechingly, to elaborate that “having a hard core is the key to having a good pride,” and that, “whether you’re LGBT or QXYZ, we all want the same thing…” Right, we want equality and to live our lives free from discrimination in a utopian society of rainbows and unicorns?! Not. “We all want the best chest!” Oh, my bad.
The video illustrates various exercises that are deemed “Pride Pump” worthy. Well placed stereotypes make their cameos: the Asian twink, the furry bear, the jock, and then a lesbian who only gets the line, “get that thing out of my face”, to which Brody responds, looking completely puzzled (as if she just asked him to explain the theory of relativity), “I don’t understand lesbians.” What’s there not to understand? They don’t like cock, just like you don’t like vagina. Gimme a break!
The video ends with the message that in doing this work out five to six times a day, you will turn that flabby six pack into an eight. Do they even make eight packs of beer anymore? Oh, wait, abs! Sorry. My bad (again).
Clearly the video means to parody the P90X series by employing existing stereotypes and socially shared (internal and external) opinions and perceptions of the gay community in order to make the case that Toronto is a fun, sexy and desirable destination for the gay, fit and fabulous this June. And while I agree that parody can be an effective tool, the message is seriously offensive and harmful to the ways in which we see and respect each other in the community.
People told me to relax. It’s a gag. I was even told to “go eat [my] night cheese”. (What does that even mean?)
Yes, I have to understand that context of this video and where and why it was made; the purpose for the tourism industry is to “attract” people to the city. Yet, the harmful message remains and we need to problematize it further. Even if it was a parody, or its intentions were to be humorously “light in the loafers”, I would argue that images and messages like these have social consequences, regardless of intention.
Social and public messaging like this: redistribute and reinforce unattainable body image stereotypes within the gay community; send a terrible message to young gay teens (especially male) about what a gay man should look like, and deteriorates messages of self-acceptance (particularly harmful to a group who, as we know, face incredible barriers to both self and public acceptance); and further diminish the idea that Pride itself is a celebration of inclusiveness, diversity, open-mindedness, self-love and self-acceptance, and rather, reinforces the importance of tight thighs and buns.
How can I prove that? Look at the subject of this discussion: the video itself is a product of the very process of redistribution and reinforcement of existing socially shared views. The writers, actors and producers tap into the common understandings of self within the gay community and use them to construct a “personalized” and or familiar scene to which they can relate. However, I can’t relate to Brody and his hot sexy man-meat bod. *drool* The only thing I can relate to is the residual feeling of insecurity and weakness I feel as a gay man because I don’t look like him. Arguably, instead of tapping into the pride, diversity, and strengths of the gay community, the video taps into negative preoccupations with looking a certain way.
If the video was truly a joke, it would have contained far more elaborate methods of satirizing the stereotypes and deconstructing the message to illustrate that Pride really is about loving yourself, being who you are, and celebrating Canada as one of the best countries to live in if you are lesbian, gay or transgender. But it did not, at all. It’s not inclusive – or even celebratory. It’s not my pride.
Lady Gaga, perhaps the epitome and personification of pride in self (and that is what Pride is), says: “Don’t love yourself in regret, just love yourself and you’re set!” Why are we perpetuating regret and physical self-loathing and not self-love?
That’s what pride is about.