Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Queer Hipster Sarcasm for Frat Boys?

Funny or Die
is a sometimes entertaining website partly started by Will Ferrell. They've included a number of humorous progressive videos which supported Obama's candidacy and were anti-prop 8. They are regularly embedded in the Huffington Post and other well-known blogs. Their March 16, 2010 edition had two videos purporting to make fun of American Apparel. One was a skit which was a satire of American Apparel's owner being on America's Next Top Model and how American Apparel loves to use raunchy photos with natural-looking very young models in awkward sexy poses... as though shot by an amateur. I get the context. Funny.

But there's the OTHER one...
The other video called "Trans Am from American Apparel" (which was featured in the Huffington Post) comes at satirizing their ads from another angle. A young woman model (who is supposed to look, perhaps like a feminist/genderqueer coed one might find on campus) is salaciously posing in skimpy, not-very-attractive American Apparel ware promoting their new line of clothes. She has curly (Jewish/Italian) messy hair, noticeable fuzz on her upper lip, is curvier (aka chubbier) than your average ad campaign model and... most importantly, has a big bulge where a penis would be. Yup, must be a good 5-6" with big balls too! It's soooo funny you'll die.

At one point the self-consciously sensitive male photographer turns to the camera and says, "sometimes people need a little extra room in certain places and we want to be the first national brand to offer that." It's a challenge making out what this video is actually satirizing and who the "Trans Am" line is supposed to represent? Is it for the mythical "hermaphrodite" Lady Gaga with her penis we've heard tell about on the Internet from various 'gender experts?' (50,000,000 hits on YouTube) Is it the genderqueer dyke packing a strap on? Or is it that old standby... the shemale beloved by millions in the porn world and every guy's dirty little secret turn on?

It is just making deconstructionist fun of American Apparel's need for hip cred at any cost... in this case trans/GQ brownie points? That company will do aaannything for a buck, even sell to...ugh. How the company will be exploitive and even offensive in its need to sell to young alternative types who are always out to hook up with the latest trend?

At first it's hard to tell what the joke video is getting at, but as it goes on, it increasingly focuses on, guess what, the penis bulge. The photographer gets more and more involved with showing off his model's tool even touching it at one point. Clearly, the main concept of the video is this "this UGGLLY CHICK has A COCK" which is pretty much equivalent to "In the beginning..." for the frat boys bible of humor and laffs. Note how the Funny or Die site is advertising college basketball's March Madness right above the Chick with a Dick video. Perfect juxtaposition between the intended market and playing "knock the bottle off the freak's head."

In theory satire is supposed to be immune from charges of offensiveness by virtue of its *wink wink* ironic attitude. The idea that "we're not really getting off on this, we're getting off on making fun of American Apparel getting off on this." Honestly though, thinking about the Funny or Die demographic of young male office workers and college students, this video's intentions seem more salacious and suspect. In this case, not only is it ridiculing an "unattractive lesbo/feminist chick" and suggesting "she's practically a guy" but also riding the freak train of dude who looks like a lady. Somewhat similar in nature to the Dave Chappelle trans-bashing comedy routine defended by some as 'social satire,' it uses its audience's self-identified hipster status to assure them "you're not buying into bigotry" at the same time they having a big laff at "titty balls" (Chappelle's term) or the American Apparel model's bulging crotch. Is it great satire or just cheap sexist, mean, misogynistic, laffs at the trans community's expense? You be the judge.

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