Um, Woo . . . Hoo?
2003-08-22 - 2:17 p.m.
Last night, in a victory for sexual minorities everywhere, married gay couple Chip and Reichen took home the $1 Million dollar (say it, SWAT villain: "ONE MEEEELLION DOLLARRRR!") prize, becoming the first gay couple to win The Amazing Race.
Well, okay, they obviously won. And for that matter, they won fair and square. By being a little bit more efficient in planning air travel and locating important landmarks, they managed to stay a little bit ahead of their closest competition, Jon and Kelly, and when their mountain bikes pulled up to the finish line, they could absorb the cheers of their competitors (many of which seemed genuine) in the knowledge that they won because they had the combination of luck and skill that wins someone a million dollars in this situation.
But a victory for sexual minorities everywhere? Not so much.
First of all, some background for those of you who are not Amazing Race fans. The premise of the show is that 12 two-person teams race around the world, navigating through various cities and countries--on everything from car to boat to subway--and complete various "national-themed" physical tasks--from swimming with sharks in Australia to riding elephants through the streets of Mumbai to lugging a cello to Beethoven's house in Vienna. At the end of (almost) every leg of the race a team is eliminated, until the final three race for the grand prize.
All of this would make for a pretty decent show, but the race earns its "Amazing" adjective by requiring every team to have an established relationship, and to complete an application/interview process to be on the show. The relationships have been interesting ones this season. There were a number of "Best Friend" teams. Two friends were wives of NFL players, while another team was a pair of models, and yet another was a pair of air-traffic controllers. The most beloved team in the race, and perhaps in the history of this show, was a pair of best friends who had met while both worked as clowns for the Ringling Bros. Circus (more on these gentlemen later). With the exception of one father-son team, any team that wasn't best friends was romantically involved. There were married couples, dating couples, engaged couples, and one particularly horrifying couple that had been dating for 12 years, were still not engaged, and were still virgins (more on them later, as well). Then, of course, there was Chip and Reichen, who were listed, to my great pleasure, as "Married" rather than as "life partners." They were the latest in a long line of gay characters on The Amazing Race. The first race had a gay couple, the second a pair of gay best friends, and the third had two gay men on separate teams (one with his brother, another with his best friend).
It's these relationships that provide the drama of the show, because there is no better situation than running a race in a foreign country where you don't speak the language and have no conception of local geography to exacerbate every flaw in a person's psyche and spark bitter, venomous fights between people who would otherwise care for one another. Really, it's delicious. There are often betting pools on which relationships will collapse by the time a team is eliminated. The producers of this show know that it is the combination of exotic locals, acts of daring-do, and human drama that makes the show so great, so they are very careful about choosing teams that will keep people watching. On the application to participate in the race, there are questions like, "What three words would you use to describe yourself?" If the participants in the race are any indication, the correct answer is apparently: "psychotically competitive, pretty."
Chip and Reichen fit that description perfectly. Without question, they were both very handsome men, although Reichen's notable cheekbones made him look like a skeletal freak when he was sky-diving, but what can you do? They were both extremely fit and muscular, as the shot of them rising out of a pool in the opening credits reminded us every week. So pretty was taken care of.
As for "psychotically competitive?" Well, for me, I think it all comes down to the leg that began in Korea, in which a Chip driven so insane by the thought of losing any advantage in what was unquestionably a crucial leg of the race, began yelling at his Korean cab driver for not speaking English, and then threatening not to pay him. I believe at one point Reichen echoed his sentiment with a "DOESN'T ANYONE SPEAK ENGLISH?" directed at Korea in general.
Of course they don't speak English. Maybe try speaking Korean, dimwits.
This of course, was not the only instance of their psychotic competitiveness. They seemed, in particular, to have a lot of problems relating to cars. At one point, Chip ran over Reichen's foot. On the final leg of the race, Chip sent the car spiraling out of control in an ill advised attempt to pass another team on a wet, curvy Australian road. Although they managed to win some friends in the models and NFL wives teams, they also managed to alienate a lot of people with their intense, driving desire to conquer, social graces be damned.
Not that they didn't have a defense. Chip and Reichen were men on a mission. It was their goal to prove to anyone that gay men can do anything that straight men can do. Oh, wait, no, let me get more specific. They also wanted to prove that "not all gay men are queens."
Yeah . . .
A lot of people are talking about this turning into an interesting, even memorable year for the gay community. For one thing, we are no longer breaking the law when we have sex (Ooooh, I had legal sex for the first time last week! Woo-hoo!). Bravo seems to have reinvented itself as "The Gay Channel" with Boy Meets Boy and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Now, Chip and Reichen's victory could become the latest in the line of symbols of gay triumph.
Well, you can keep Chip and Reichen, and every other gay man out there who feels the need to point out that he is DIFFERENT from the queens, and that America needs to be educated about the way gay people "really are." You can keep a pair of guys who get off on the idea that other racers are intimidated because two gay men are "more masculine" than the straight men. You can keep these boys, and when you come back, do me a favor.
Bring me a gay man without rock hard abs, and who's okay with himself despite it. Bring a gay man who can dress in grungy jeans one minute and put on fishnets and high heels the next. Bring me a gay man who's dealing with poverty, or with discrimination as aperson of color as well as a sexual minority. Bring me a gay man who isn't sure about the term "gay" or, for that matter, "man." Bring me a gay man who can go on television and break down a stereotype without making a "stereotypical" gay man feel like less of a person.
Chip and Reichen were not my gay heroes. Besides their need to be as masculine as possible and NOT QUEENS, they were often rude, mean, and shallow. They were, in fact, a lot like Millie and Chuck, who I hated far more than Chip and Reichen. Millie and Chuck were the professed virgins, the only team who reacted negatively when Chip and Reichen came out to the other teams. They showed no sign of respecting the religions of other cultures, and their arguments with other racers and with each other made them both look about as mature as a child star on aderol. It annoyed me to no end that these two didn't get that wearing their Christianity on their sleeve and being awful to everyone around them was called HYPOCRISY. The same way that fighting against homophobia and taking a moment to insult "the queens" is HYPOCRISY.
My heroes were the Clowns, Jon and Al. These two were perfect gentlemen throughout the race. They were always polite to anyone they met in any foreign country, and chastised Millie for giggling during a Malaysian blessing ceremony. Even when they were losing the competition, they took time to aid their fellow racers and kept their sense of humor. When they were finally eliminated, they said that they hoped they had set a good example for their kids.
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