“My position is that if you are a politician or a celebrity, you're making a choice to live your life in the public arena. And when you're a public figure, you need to be prepared for the public's talking about you. … In my own subservient way, whether people agree with me or not, I'm trying to make the world a better place.”
— Gay gossip hound Perez Hilton to the Chicago Tribune on Nov. 19, 2006
“Seriously, this is sad. Do you really believe you're some kind of Rosa Parks of the gay movement? … You forcing people out of the closet isn't heroic, in fact, you're just as bad as the people who want to force gays and lesbians to stay in the closet!”
— A post on perezhilton.com in response to a blog entry by Hilton in which he listed celebrities whom he believes are gay.
Perez Hilton, the gay blogger whose real name is Mario Lavandeira, is trying to better the world for his queer brothers and sisters. His endeavor is noble. The world could certainly use a big, gay makeover with regard to the treatment of gays and lesbians. In some countries, such as Iran, gay men are routinely executed.
But does his digitally drawn dribble of semen on Clay Aiken's face really make a positive, global impact on those who refuse to see the rainbow light? Or do Hilton's shock-and-awe outing methods merely reinforce the stereotypical belief that queers are selfish, spiteful folks who live and play in an outhouse?
I doubt that anyone, including Hilton, believes he has the power to transform the world. But I don't doubt that the 28-year-old Cuban American has power, because he is already abusing it. And like the most notorious abusers, he mistreats under the guise of benevolence.
In his efforts to get the closeted in Hollywood to come out and pave a Great Gay Way for others, Hilton humiliates while dishing the daily dirt in his popular blog, PerezHilton.com. Along with the more-often-crude-than-not commentary on his favorite and not-so-favorite celebs, he posts pictures (some of which he's been accused of stealing) that he's digitally doctored. He routinely draws beards on photos of the wives of actors whom he suspects are gay. And on the actors themselves he simply scrawls, “I'm gay.” Sometimes he writes those words on an actor's crotch.
To the actresses he believes are lesbians, Hilton is somewhat kinder. He's also much less prolific. But I sense that's just because he's too busy reporting that Lindsay Lohan cuts herself and Britney Spears doesn't wear underwear. Unfortunately for Jodie Foster and Cydney Bernard this week, however, Hilton must have some time on his hands. On Monday he asked readers to choose nicknames for the pair. Choices include “Dirty Barnyard Dykes” and “Silence of the Clams.”
No one would call Hilton mature or gracious, that's for sure. His scribbles and frequently vulgar prose suggest that he's rather childish and bitter. Sill, if you haven't yet been to his site, it's likely that you'll be amused on your first visit. I was; his gall is initially hilarious and somewhat freeing. But if you're anything like me, you'll find his act similar to that of a comic who demeans and insults for laughs because that's all he's got. You'll tire of it quickly, because the absence of proper wit on his blog is as apparent as the presence of hostility.
While there's no law demanding that gay gossip columnists be clever and have at least some decorum, there should be a law preventing gossipers from reinforcing the timeworn stereotype that gay men are pissy queens who'd rather demean others than say anything nice. OK, maybe not a law, but at least a loud, collective, "Knock it off, already!" from the gay community.
Still, it's not Hilton's clichéd persona that most troubling, it's his uncommon methodology. And that presents a dilemma for some queers. Is he an effective enough advocate for coming-out that we should applaud his vile vigor?
Hilton obviously thinks so.
It might be just coincidence that Lance Bass, T.R. Knight and Neil Patrick Harris, all targets of Hilton's vituperation, came out publicly this year, but just in case it's not, Hilton used Harris's coming-out to lead a queer cheer and issue a gay fatwa of sorts.
On Nov. 3, he wrote:
Today is a victory. Today is another step towards full equality under the law for gays and lesbians. We are so proud (despite the naysayers) in having a hand in bringing about change. The closet no longer exists if you are a celebrity or a politician! We are throwing down the gauntlet and issue a challenge to all the closeted celebrities out there: Come out. Come out NOW! Come out in droves!!
Hilton then listed 10 celebrities he was "talking to": two women and eight men. He didn't list the lawmakers or right-wing lobbyists we all suspect are gay, just the usual Tinseltown suspects — people who have very little or no effect on public policy, but a huge effect on how much popcorn we all eat.
If Perez Hilton wants to be our knight in shining armor, he should stop looking for the Loch Ness monster in an aquarium, and work harder to gain our respect as both a journalist and a cultural attaché. But respect doesn't seem to be something he's interested in.
Hilton is no Liz Smith, that's for sure, and he does a very poor impersonation of a diplomat. He isn't interested in behaving tastefully or tactfully, respecting anyone's right to privacy, or even in being admired; he wants to be feared, and he wants to be rich. And he's reached those goals in a very short time.