Watching figure skating is nearly impossible in our household due to shouted “Boring!” objections from the 6- and 8-year-olds (What do they love? Luge crashes, bobsled flip-overs, skiing yard sales, etc.). Eventually they go to sleep, however, and it is time for 15 minutes of replays from the rink. American sensation Nathan Chen was in the news even before the Olympics. “Straight figure skater offers sincere apology after saying it’s a ‘homosexual-dominated sport’” (Pink News, July 31, 2021):
Olympic figure skater Nathan Chen has apologised after giving an “ignorant” remark about the sport being “homosexual-dominated”.
In a video statement released on Tuesday (27 July), he acknowledged that he gave an “ignorant” response on a podcast in answer to a question about patriarchal stereotypes in skating.
Asked whether he’s ever been advised to play hockey because it’s more “masculine,” Chen replied: “Yes, certainly. Especially as a male athlete… as a straight male athlete in a fairly homosexual-dominated sport, or LGBTQ-dominated sport.
“I think that there is that connotation and there is that ‘Well we don’t really wanna watch guys skate around’, and we’d rather watch hockey or we’d rather watch females do that, which I think is pretty messed up in itself,” he continued.
“It’s a genuine sport, we spend our whole lives trying to hone this craft, and to just sort of be belittled like that is not something that is generally taken lightly.”
The clumsy comment saw Chen accused of perpetuating standards of toxic masculinity and homophobia.
“Basically Nathan Chen had the opportunity to use his in-sport privilege to: support queer athletes as an ally, talk about how figure skating is for everyone, discuss the types of expression rewarded at competition,” commented the non-binary figure skater Racheline Maltese.
“Instead he: told us he was straight, equated feminine with queer and implied they were both negative, implied he is oppressed by queerness in the sport.
So… the tabloids follow this famous person around and haven’t seen him with one or more girlfriends. He describes himself as “straight”. What music does he select for his program? I was expecting perhaps Ice Cube, Kanye West, or DaBaby. Instead it was… Elton John.
- a thoughtful exploration of gender roles in figure skating (now more timely than ever; excerpt)
7 thoughts on “Is skating to Elton John the best way to establish heterosexuality?”
“Rocket Man”, the song Chen used was co-written by Bernie Taupin, who seems to have been married four times and had at least two children:
“The song was inspired by the short story “The Rocket Man” in The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury”
“The song describes a Mars-bound astronaut’s mixed feelings at leaving his home in order to do his job. Rosenthal’s account goes on to relate that the notion of astronauts no longer being perceived as heroes, but in fact as an “everyday occupation”
“Among numerous other performances, John played “Rocket Man” at the launch site of Space Shuttle Discovery in 1998.”
Next we’ll hear about the straight male privilege in ballet dancing.
He and Suzy had so much fun!
I grew up when Elton John was at the height of his powers and popularity and I was a child in the 1970s. My first experiences of his music were, of course, FM radio (which I thought was a magic device that music just came out of – for free – because people somewhere were playing it into a microphone.) I also had a rudimentary portable turntable with 33/45/78 RPM capability and later of course a proper Panasonic cassette tape deck player. But some of my first records and albums were Elton John.
I barely understood or caught any of the homoerotic double-entendres in his lyrics – he always sounded to me like a man writing a love song for a woman. Remember, this was the era when you could also see “freakshow” bands like KISS and Alice Cooper, and Elton John seemed like a Conservative compared to them! Yeah, he sometimes wore bright clothes and a lot of sunglasses, but hey! It was the 70’s! You should have seen the Wide Tie and Polyester Business Suits my father once owned. Plus, look so many of the other Giants in 70s pop music – rock was all long haired dudes wearing weird clothes. Bob Seger once immortalized that culture clash with his lyric: “And all the same old clichés – is that a woman or a man?”
Anyway, I loved Elton John for his piano playing and his more subtle and evocative songs like “Daniel.” I don’t think I realized he was gay until I was around 10-11 years old in the early ’80s and by then I still didn’t know what that really meant and didn’t care.
So the case can be made that Elton John is perfectly terrific music for a young, straight, cisgender heterosexual male. Your kids are quite bright and of course have been exposed to “in your face” and “prouder and louder to 11 and beyond” modern gender identity movements, so they’ll probably pick up on it faster than I did.
I just really loved his songs, and I think that explains his cross-cultural and cross-identity appeal to this day. He’s never been a bullshit artist about it, either, which I respect, and he doesn’t care about straight people playing gay characters in movies, TV and film – and has said so – as long as their performance is good in the role, he doesn’t buy into the #Cancel – and has said so.
My father likes Elton John too. That’s why he let me listen to his albums at five and six years old. He’s a Universal Music Donor, as it were.
Aside: I remember an interview with Lionel Ritchie where he was asked why his music was so popular in authoritarian, hyperreligious places like Saudi Arabia. He professed ignorance: “I really have no idea why people enjoy it, I’m just glad they’re happy.” or something to that effect. I immediately thought: “Well, look at the lyrics! They’re very conservative, at least on one level! And they are simple and clear and unadorned.” Some people would call him the Black Neil Diamond.
The film “Blades of Glory”, starring Will Ferrell, documents the hardships faced by heterosexual men in the sport of figure skating. Highly recommended.
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