If I see another article in a publication oriented towards gay men proclaiming how hot Nick Jonas is, I might scream. I get it, he’s packed on some muscle mass since the last time he was relevant—and it’s always nice to have eye candy—but his recent appearances at gay clubs in New York seem a little disingenuous.
Jonas has a self-titled album coming out soon, and because the rise of One Direction and Justin Bieber has diminished his influence in the lucrative teen girl market, he needs to find a new group to promote his material. It looks like he’s found his audience: gay men.
His marketing team must be having a gay old time, if you’ll forgive the pun, because it’s a little too coincidental that Jonas has started popping up at gay clubs to take his shirt off, stripping down and emulating Mark Wahlberg for a photoshoot and tweeting “I love my gay fans,” around the release of the new album’s second single, “Jealous.” As a slight cynic, this doesn’t feel like a genuine way to attract fans—it feels like a marketing ploy.
Jonas isn’t the only high-profile act that capitalizes on the seemingly untapped mainstream market of gay men. The MTV show “Teen Wolf” has been working its werewolf-fueled magic in queer baiting since the show premiered in 2011.
Creator and head writer Jeff Davis, a gay man, spun the show in a 2012 interview with AfterElton as a “Utopia ... a world where there’s no racism, there’s no sexism, there’s no homophobia.” I’d love to watch a show where that’s the truth, but after watching all four seasons of “Teen Wolf,” that’s far from the truth.
Take the openly queer characters in the show. Introduced in the first season, Danny Mahealani is gay, a computer genius and lacrosse goalie, which the main characters happily accept. Unfortunately, Mahealani has been relegated to a side character, popping up when the characters go to a local gay club, or to serve as the boyfriend to a character introduced in Season Three.
Instead of characterizing a queer character and bringing him into the fold of the supernatural world of the show, Davis and the other writers crafted titillating scenes of showing off the well-developed bodies of the show’s main werewolves to attract and retain viewers. It seems as if Davis checked off the box of having a queer character somewhere in his show’s canon, and moved onto showing off the new eye candy for that season.
Davis is the king of teasers, stating in interviews before Season Three that he’s trying to work in a transgender character, and if he stuck around for Season Four, he’d introduce a lesbian werewolf. Season Four has come and gone, and there’s no lesbian werewolf. Also, spoiler alert, Danny was nowhere to be found in season four.
Instead of completing his promise, fans got a slew of new characters, including a black, gay freshman student named Mason, who is a friend of one of the new main characters, Liam. Davis’ supporters pointed to Mason to try and show that Davis is being more inclusive, but Mason was featured only as an assistant to Liam’s transition into his werewolf life, and received a backstory about as flimsy as tissue paper.
Davis may think that in his world tolerance is the word of law, but his propensity to showing off abs versus queer characters goes against his claims. He can pull in gay fans through statements of having queer characters, but if we as gay men can look past the flurry of shirtless men, it’s clear that Davis is being disingenuous to a community of which he’s a member.
The division between pandering and marketing is a fine line on which to teeter. Jonas may genuinely enjoy and respect the attention from gay men, and he came out in 2012 in support of marriage equality. Davis, as well, may actually be trying to create a world in which sexuality isn’t a taboo, and his inclusivity waxes and wanes with each season and he may hit his stride next season, or the season after that.
Until I can see some hard evidence that Jonas is trying to connect with gay men through other ways besides our body-conscious, eye-candy-seeking needs, or that he’s gay himself, I’m going to chalk up his pandering to an odd marketing scheme. As for Davis, he’s a lost cause, seeing as he’ll continue to tease about the role of queer characters in his show and simply use attractive men to retain gay male viewers, which is extremely disappointing.
I love seeing a hot guy as much as the next gay man, but I’m not an idiot. Dangling an attractive man in front of my face doesn’t make me stop and question what he’s doing, especially when that man has a single or new show to promote.
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