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What do you get for $23 million? If you spent it on Mediabistro, you got delightful videos like this, in which a freelancer named Joel Silverstein pitches a story to Esquire articles editor David Katz. Young Joel, a recent New York transplant, has a new girlfriend, and is anxious about having to get tested for HIV with her— you know, dealing with his generation's "shared fear of contracting HIV/AIDS." And he would write a story about it!
Needless to say, the pitch doesn't go terribly well. Nor should it. The kid is a well-meaning idiot, recycling some artificial ideas about anxiety that he's clearly taken on for no good reason. But hey! He's about nine months away from a Modern Love column in the Times, so good for him.
But what afflicts him is an extension of the way that straight people have taken on nearly every cultural nuance of gay life. Maybe Joel should have started by dressing gayer, because let's face it, that outfit is so not working out. As straight people began consuming more and more gay culture—half of that thanks to Bravo's television programming, and oh my God, did anyone else catch that advance episode of "Flipping Out" last week, holy Christ, that queen is a mess, and I think they're advertising on this site or something so I feel weird even mentioning it but, whoa, totally insane, it's maybe sending gay dignity either forward or back two decades, who can tell?—they identify more and more with the gays. It's gay brainwashing: Aesthetically, culturally, pharmacologically—and even when it comes to HIV. We're way beyond metrosexuality now. Whatever that was.
Shouldn't there be a word for this already? There's an rude word for the "black-acting" white people of the world: Wigger. But it's always really clear when white people have gone too far in sucking up black culture. It's way more subtle when straight people overidentify with the gays. This Mediabistro kid is just the oddest tip of the iceberg. But look around the water cooler: You'd never have caught a straight person making an AIDS joke ten years ago. (You know, the kind of jokes gays make amongst themselves all the time.) Now they think they own that too.
But unless young Joel has a few surprises in him, the smart money's on that he's never actually met anyone with HIV—much less slept with them. His anxiety is about his own speculative mortality, not about anything resembling actual experience with mortality, which is actually something that the majority of straight people don't experience. Just those pangs of "OMG, I'm, like, 24, maybe I'm not going to live forever? Whatever, off to the gym!" Yeah, the gay gym.
Of the 1355 new HIV diagnoses in New York City during the first half of 2006—and there were 1021 deaths in the same period, by the way—more than a third were among gay men, and another third were "unknown." Among the 33 states with name-based reporting in 2005, there were 18,000+ diagnoses in gay men, and just a little over 4000 cases from "high-risk heterosexual contact," which is so totally not the same thing as Joel's new girlfriend. Unless she's a junkie whore.
And maybe she is.
But we're thinking no. Because then he'd have a good story to pitch about dating a junkie whore. And we'd so read that!
This dumb misconception isn't Joel's fault. The gays can only blame themselves. They just wanted everyone to be their friend. Like a herd of cats out in the alley, tired of dogs and cold, they realized they'd probably be better off if they got everyone invested in both their problems and, along the way, their taste in sunglasses. Seduction breeds empathy! So Carson Kressley (and all those who went before him) was there scratching his ears all adorably and next thing you know, blammo: Little straight kiddies all confused, over-invested, and annoying as hell.
Video Pitch Slam 1-on-1: Esquire [Mediabistro]