The Starman Has Landed: Bowie and His Glam Love-Children

Mark Simpson on David Bowie’s ‘men’s lib’ legacy

Lovely – in every sense – piece in the Guardian today by Gary Kemp, guitarist and songwriter and general brains behind 80s New Romantic norf London working class wide boys Spandau Ballet, about how he fell for David Bowie watching his epoch-making performance of ‘Starman’ on Top of the Pops in 1972. (I’d like to imagine it was inspired by my account in Saint Morrissey of how I fell in love with El Moz singing ‘This Charming Man’ on The Tube – Morrissey was to my generation what Bowie was to Kemp’s.)

‘The first time I fell in love it was with a man. It happened one Thursday evening in the bedroom of a flat in King’s Cross. I was a wide-eyed boy of 12 and the object of my passion had dyed orange hair and white nail varnish. Looking out from a tiny TV screen was a Mephistophelean messenger from the space age, a tinselled troubadour to give voice to my burgeoning sexuality. Pointing a manicured finger down the barrel of a BBC lens, he spoke to me: “I had to phone someone, so I picked on you.” I had been chosen.’

The melodic borrowing from Judy Garland’s ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ was probably too subtle for most, but the bit where Bowie languorously and yet somehow mate-ishly drapes his arm round the golden Mick Ronson on the ‘family show’ that was Top of The Pops was a very calculated and inspiring gesture of defiance back in July 1972. I mean, look at them. Only a few months before Bowie had very publicly come out as bisexual (though perhaps to up the ante, in his famous interview with Melody Maker he had actually described himself as ‘gay‘).

If you can’t in 2010, in LGBT Pride week, at a time when the Conservative Prime Minister has gay celebs round for drinks at Number 10, quite understand why this caused a sensation, and why millions of dads went apoplectic about ‘that fackin’ pooftah!’, bear in mind that just five years previously any and all male-male sexual relations were still illegal in the UK. The very first Gay Pride march had only been held a few days before Bowie’s own parade through the nation’s front rooms. This single appearance by Bowie on Top of the Pops, a show watched by most of the UK back then – and every single kid that didn’t sing in the choir – was probably more significant and influential than all the UK Pride marches put together.

He later famously repudiated all this in 1983, the year of the sell-out (in every sense) Let’s Dance tour, claiming that saying he was bisexual was ‘the biggest mistake I ever made’. In 1993 he announced he had always been a ‘closet heterosexual’ and that despite his interest in the culture it produced, homosexuality and bisexuality ‘wasn’t something I was comfortable with at all’.

But in 2002 an older and perhaps less ambitious Bowie was asked if he still believed that. His response sounds more convincing:

‘Interesting. {Long pause} I don’t think it was a mistake in Europe, but it was a lot tougher in America. I had no problem with people knowing I was bisexual. But I had no inclination to hold any banners or be a representative of any group of people. I knew what I wanted to be, which was a songwriter and a performer, and I felt that bisexuality became my headline over here for so long. America is a very puritanical place, and I think it stood in the way of so much I wanted to do.’

Not for the last time, the power of the almighty Puritan dollar had triumphed over the sexually ambiguous English pop star and his fey, spangly, decadent Limey ways. Success in the US – something Bowie didn’t really achieve on a major scale until the Yuppie-suited respectability of Let’s Dance – is still regarded as the benchmark for British acts. Partly because it is such a vast market, of course, and because US music has influenced UK performers like Bowie so much, but also because since we lost the Second World War to the United States we have nurtured such a vast inferiority complex about our colonial ‘cousins’.

But America, we often forget over here in the UK, is a very foreign country indeed. One separated from us by much more than a shared ocean and language.

The UK is a funny little small island, with far too much media per head – which since it lost its Empire takes far too much interest in superficial, ‘effeminate’ things like music and fashion and gossip. And crucially, we’re basically a secular country and have been, more or less, since Henry VIII nationalised the monasteries. The UK is a country where the defunct popular tradition of Music Hall – which Bowie drew heavily upon – is probably of much greater cultural importance today than any of that dogmatic Pauline asceticism that calls itself ‘Christianity’.

And America? Well, America isn’t any of these things.

This is why the seriously flirtatious personal style of metrosexuality, which at the very least throws a languorous arm around the neck of bi-responsiveness – and which is much more David Bowie’s love-child than mine – really took root in the UK at the end of the Twentieth Century, largely without the muscular Christian anti-metro/anti-fag backlash that happened in the US in the mid-to-late Noughties.

In the UK, metrosexuality instead produced new kinds of ‘starmen’ such as David Beckham – football’s answer to David Bowie.

As well as love-ly articles like the one above by happily married men like Gary Kemp.

Look out your window I can see his light

If we can sparkle he may land tonight

Don’t tell your poppa or he’ll get us locked up in fright

There’s a Starman waiting in the sky….

 
David Bowie’s Men’s Lib activism began early – here he is at the tender age of 17 being interviewed by the BBC about his Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Long Haired Men 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsNVsvvIfiM
(Special thanks to Paul Burston for very kindly taking me to see ‘The Dame’  – as he’s known in the business- at Wembley Arena, back in the dying years of the Twentieth Century. It was my first exposure to him – and although Ziggy had been buried at the Hammersmith Odeon twenty years past Bowie was still a revelation.)

The End of Heterosexuality (As We’ve Known It)

By Mark Simpson

A bullet-pointed column in the NYT by Charles M. Blow examines a sea-change in attitudes towards homosexuality suggested by a recent Gallup poll which found that, for the first time, the percentage of Americans who perceive “gay and lesbian relations” as “morally acceptable” has crossed the symbolically important 50 percent mark.

Also for the first time, and even more significantly, more men than women hold that view. While women’s attitudes have stayed about the same over the past four years, the percentage of men over 50 who consider homosexuality morally acceptable rose by a by an eyebrow-raising 26% -and for those aged 18-49 by an eyepopping 48%.

What on earth has happened in the US since 2006? How did the American male lose his world-famous Christian sphincter-cramp and righteous loathing of sodomy? Have the gays been secretly putting poppers in the locker-room ventilation shaft?

Alas, Gallup doesn’t say.  So Mr Blow does what you do at the NYT when you’re stumped: ask some academics.  They came up with three theories:

  1. As more gay people come out more straight people get to personally know gay people which makes it more difficult to discriminate.
  2. Men may be becoming more ‘egalitarian’ in general, partly thanks to feminism.
  3. “Virulent homophobes are increasingly being exposed for engaging in homosexuality”.

Now, the first two of these theories seem to me fairly plausible explanations for increased acceptance of homosexuality at any time, but not especially in the last few years – let alone that whopping 48% rise for 18-49 year olds. But the third theory about public homophobes being exposed as secretly gay perhaps goes too far in the opposite direction and is too current-news specific. As if the discovery that famous homophobe George Rekkers hired a rent boy to give him ‘special’ massages could transform attitudes towards man-love overnight – rather than just change attitudes towards George Rekkers.

So I give them all just a C minus.

And, as Blow points out, none of these theories address the main finding – that men now are more accepting than women, reversing the gender split on this subject that has held since pollsters started bugging people with questions about ‘homosexual relations’.

In my own speculative opinion, none of these theories can see the rainforest for the trees. Of course young men in the US are much more accepting of homosexuality – because so many of them are now way gay themselves. It’s not really an issue of ‘tolerance’ or ‘acceptance’ of ‘otherness’ at all. It’s about self-interest – quite literally. About men being less down on the gays because they’re less hard on themselves now – in fact, rather sweet on themselves instead.

It’s about men in general not being so quick to renounce and condemn their own ‘unmanly’ desires or narcissism – or project it into ‘faggots’.

Which from the point of view of today’s sensually greedy male would be a terrible waste of a prostate gland. Probably most young men are now doing pretty much everything that freaky gay men were once abhorred for doing – from anal play (both ways) to no-strings fuck-buddies, to crying over Glee, and using buff-puffs in the shower while demanding as their male birthright ‘comfortable skin’ (as the recent massive ad campaign for Dove for Men puts it).

And the timing fits almost as snugly as a finger or three where the sun don’t shine. It was after all only in 2003 that the Supreme Court finally struck down the anti sodomy laws still on the statute books of some US states as unconstitutional. It was also in the early Noughties that metrosexuality really took off in the US.

Despite a mid-Noughties anti-metro, anti-gay marriage backlash that helped re-elect Bush, in the Tweenies the male desire to be desired, and his eagerness to use product – and body parts and practises – once deemed ‘gay’ or ‘feminine’ or just ‘wrong’ to achieve this, seems to have become pretty much accepted amongst most American males under 45. It’s consumerism and advertising of course not the gays that has been putting the poppers in the men’s locker room.

Along the way, many young men have twigged that in a post-feminist world of commodified bodies and online tartiness there is decidedly no advantage to them any more in an essentially Victorian sexual division of labour in the bedroom and bathroom that insists only women are looked at and men do the looking, that women are always passive and men are always active – or in the homophobia that was used to enforce it. Men now want it all.  Both ends.

And perhaps American women aren’t keeping up with men’s changing attitudes because some are realising how ‘gay’ their boyfriends and husbands are already and wondering where this is all leading.

There’s plenty to wonder about.  After all, it’s the end of the road for that holiest American institution of all: Heterosexuality. Not cross-sex attraction, of course, or reproduction – but that system of compulsory, full-time, always-asserted straightness for men which straying from momentarily, or even just failing to show sufficient respect towards in the past could cost you your cojones. What, you a FAG??

If metrosexuality is based on vanity, retrosexuality, it needs to be pointed out, was based partly on self-loathing. ‘Real men’ were supposed to be repulsed by their own bodies at least as much as they were repulsed by other men’s. (If they were really lucky they might get away with passionate indifference.)

After a decade or so of metrosexuality a tipping point seems to have been reached. Men’s self-loving bi-sensuality and appreciation of male beauty, awakened and increasingly normalised by our mediated world, seems to be here to stay. Even in the God-fearing USA. And might now, if it’s in the mood and treated right, choose to be consummated rather than just deflected into consumerism again.

When I first wrote about how the future of men was metrosexual, back in 1994, it was clear to me that metrosexuality was to some degree the flipside of the then emerging fashion for female bi-curiousness. I didn’t talk about this much at the time because I knew no one would listen if I did.  (I needn’t have worried – they didn’t anyway.)

In this regard, one of the academics in the NYT piece was (finally) quoted as saying something interesting, right at the end:

‘Professor Savin-Williams says that his current research reveals that the fastest-growing group along the sexuality continuum are men who self-identify as “mostly straight” as opposed to labels like “straight,” “gay” or “bisexual.”  They acknowledge some level of attraction to other men even as they say that they probably wouldn’t act on it, but … the right guy, the right day, a few beers and who knows. As the professor points out, you would never have heard that in years past.’

An A ++ to Dr Savin-Williams. Not so long ago, when Heterosexuality was a proper belief system that commanded round-the-clock obeisance, ‘mostly straight’ would have been a heretical contradiction in terms – like half pregnant. But in this Brave New World of male neediness it’s just a statement of where we’re at.

For today’s young men the fear of faggotry is fast being replaced by the fear of missing out.

Tip: Dermod Moore

Celebrity Big Brother UK Drags It Up For The Final Season

C4 have been running this rather clever new cross-dressing Renault Twingo Sport ad heavily during Celebrity Big Brother ad breaks.

Could this have anything to do with the fact that Alex Reid, Jordan’s transexy cage-fighting beefy boyfriend, is one of the house-mates this year? And rapidly stealing the show, despite being the tabloids’ whipping boy and the way he was loudly booed when he entered the House.

The Twingo ad is quite a departure for a car commercial, especially one for a sporty hot hatch aimed at young men.  Jeremy Clarkson must be pulling what’s left of his 1970s dad hair out.

Instead of displaying shame, shock, anger or embarrassment at being humiliated in front of his mates the hot-hatch metrosexual son sees his father’s cross dressing as an opportunity to be socially exploited: ‘Dad?  Can you get us in?’.  We live in modern times indeed.

So it’s been entertaining to watch dinosaurs in the Big Brother House like Vinnie Jones give Alex pseudo fatherly ‘advice’ — which boils down to: ‘Don’t ‘ave anyfin’ to do wiv any of that fackin’ queer stuff, my son.’  If you want to be a washed-up bit part actor-thug with sphincter cramp, that is.

I literally spilt my tea last week when Vinnie announced, after getting up sharpish and moving, backs-against-the-wall-stylee, right to the other side of the room when Alex volunteered he was ‘try-sexual’: ‘I wouldn’t be in a movie wiv you if they paid me five million quid!’

Well Vinnie sweetie, you are in a movie with Alex already — it’s called CBB and you did it, according to reports, for just £350,000.

Alex, bless him, looked crestfallen, but then almost all of them, including former Madam Heidi Fleiss, the one with prolapsed lips, were lining up to have a go at him for being ‘confused’. Translation: interesting.  Let’s hope they don’t succeed in straightening him out.

House rule-book memorising Vinnie is playing CBB dad, but a very bad one — with badly dyed hair.  He’s so jealous of Alex you can taste it.  He’s jealous of his youth, his hair, his looks, his tits, and jealous of his cross-dressing, or at least his lack of hang-ups about it. He’s also threatened by Alex’s real as opposed to ‘Guy Ritchie’ fighting ability.

Most entertainingly of all ‘Hard Man’ Vin is shaping up to be a major gossiping bitch — crossdressing Alex by contrast mostly keeps his tongue in his head and hangs onto his sense of fun.  Vinnie knows Alex is his main threat, in every sense: that’s why he keeps needling him and nominating him. He’d make a great Blakey in any remake of On The Buses.

But the bad CBB dads don’t end there.  Mega-swish Stephen Baldwin, who puts me in mind of the crazy camp ‘Begone foul demons!!’ preacher on the make in There Will Be Blood, is completely obsessed with Alex, spending scads of time and energy trying to seduce him — into the ways of Je-sus!– with flattery, love-bombing, back massages, mentalist preaching, and lots and lots of inappropriate eye-contact during endless shaggy dog sermons.  Stephen, who clearly doesn’t know his parable from his allegory, thinks he’s ‘helping’ Alex and showing him and us the viewers at home the revealed truth of the Holy Book he likes to thump so much and his own superior, saved status, but is in fact just making a very convincing case for American evangelism being sublimated – or rather, congealed – homoerotics.

Alex is too nice a bloke to tell him to piss off.  Besides, he likes attention — and I suspect he knows that The Conversion of Alex just gets him more camera time.

I haven’t really watched CBB, or BB, since Pete Burns’ legendary appearance on it a few years back as a mischievous, sometimes downright malevolent, Eastern pagan goddess with a scouse accent.  Nor have many other people, which is why C4 isn’t renewing the franchise with Endemol.  But this final CBB is shaping up to be almost as good.

And I haven’t even mentioned Stephanie Beacham and Ivana Trump….

Buy-Curious: Have Men’s Mags Come Out To Themselves Yet?

by Mark Simpson

This month the metrosexual is fifteen.

Back in November 1994 I wrote a piece for The Independent called ‘Here come the mirror men’ prompted by a visit to an exhibition in London organised by men’s glossy GQ.  In it I claimed to have seen the future of masculinity and that it was moisturised (according to several dictionaries this article was the first sighting of the word ‘metrosexual’ in print).  I also explained the key role that glossy men’s magazines had in spreading metrosexuality:

The promotion of metrosexuality was left to the men’s style press, magazines such as The Face, GQ, Esquire, Arena and FHM, the new media which took off in the Eighties and is still growing (GQ gains 10,000 new readers every month). They filled their magazines with images of narcissistic young men sporting fashionable clothes and accessories. And they persuaded other young men to study them with a mixture of envy and desire.

Some people said unkind things. American GQ, for example, was popularly dubbed ‘Gay Quarterly’. Little wonder that all these magazines – with the possible exception of The Face – address their readership as if none of them was homosexual or even bisexual.

The magazine Loaded had been launched earlier that year and its hysterical heterosexuality was to provide a template for persuading unprecedented numbers of men to buy a men’s glossy that wasn’t Penthouse, without being thought a ‘poof’.

The New Lad bible Loaded, for all its features on sport, babes and sport, is (closeted) metrosexual. Just as its anti-style is a style (last month it carried a supplement for ‘no nonsense’ clothes, such as jeans and boots), it’s heterosexuality is so self-conscious, so studied, that it’s actually rather camp. New Lads, for all their burping blokeishness, are just as much in love with their own image as any metrosexual, they just haven’t come to terms yet.

Nobody likes a smart-ass, let alone a Cassandra, so I was largely ignored.  Men’s magazines and men’s vanity products did become a boom business of course but the media in the 90s remained resolutely entranced by the oxymoronic mirage of ‘New Lad’, determinedly refusing to notice that all this  ‘blokeishness’, particularly in the form of the most successful exponent of it — FHM — was narcissistic and homoerotic: the real money shot was the scads of ads for clobber and vanity products featuring expensively attractive male models.

It wasn’t until I returned to the subject in 2002 for the then popular American online magazine Salon.com (‘Meet the metrosexual’), this time naming names — e.g. that David Beckham guy — that the world finally noticed what I was going on about.

Fifteen years on from the metrosexual’s birth, the men’s magazine market has clearly peaked.  A number of them have closed this year, including Arena (The Face was axed years ago), while Maxim has gone online-only. How the mighty have fallen.  Partly this is because in an online, iPhone world magazines and the printed word in general have peaked and the recession has brought this into sharper — and, for those of us who work in the media, painful — focus.

But perhaps the main reason is because men’s magazines, having done what they were invented to do – metrosexualize a generation of men on the sly – aren’t needed any more.  If men have space in their hectic consumer lifestyles for a magazine at all it has to be one that doesn’t beat around the bush, or the breasts, and instead addresses their narcissism directly: hence tits-out-for-the-lads Men’s Health magazine recently became the best-selling men’s magazine in the UK.  Straight men are now their own High Street Honeys.

So, having achieved what they set out to do and made bitches of us all, have the men’s glossies that remain loosened up? Now that metrosexuality has been embraced by the mainstream and become essentially ‘normal’, have men’s mags finally dropped the straight-acting act and finally come out to themselves?  Do they now dare to acknowledge that some of their readers might be gay or bisexual?  Do magazines full of images of male desirability and products promoted to make the male reader more desirable, themselves now accept men’s interest in male beauty and male sensuality and – shock! horror! – even bi-curiousness?

Earlier this year (before the news emerged about sales of Men’s Health overtaking FHM) I went down to my local newsagents, cruised the men’s mags on the racks and brought a bunch of them back to mine for coffee….

loaded_0409

LOADED

Coverline: ‘How many balloons does it take to float a dwarf’?

Covergirl: Gemma Merna

Concept: Imagine a magazine edited by Guy Ritchie, but without his taste in men or 80s American female pop singers. And even more irritating.

Metrosexual Money Shot: Not a lot.  But there is a back page ad featuring three famous sportsmen advertising Gillette’s battery-powered male vibrator.  The concept for which seems to be based on the appeal to straight men of stroking a buzzing Federer, Henry and Woods across your face every morning.

Buy-Curiousness: Still hysterically closeted – but if you look very closely you’ll find a gay dating ad at the back.

How to bed Mr Loaded: Tell him you shagged Liam Gallagher’s Nan.

Verdict: A parody of a parody. But somehow still not gay enough.  And its breath smells — of death.


Nuts

NUTS

‘Britain’s BIGGEST selling men’s weekly!’

Covergirl: Lucy Pinder

Coverline: ‘100 SEXIEST FOOTBALLER’S WIVES 2009’

Concept: Like Zoo, Nuts isn’t really a men’s style mag, more a male version of Heat magazine – with celebrity tits instead of celebrity pricks. Snickersome fare and office-friendly limp porn for those who can’t get online to download mandingo gang-bang flicks because they’re at work/too stupid/mum won’t let them.

Metrosexual Money Shot: As a sign of the times, even Nuts has a fashion and grooming double page spread – apparently because their readers insisted on it.

Buy-Curiousness: ‘Man-Love Corner’ featuring suggestive photos of footballers seemingly bumming or groping one another with captions like, ‘Feeling the pinch!’. In Nuts, anything to do with ‘man-love’ is sniggersome or terrifying. Which is fair enough. But Nuts isn’t exactly heterosexual either: its idea of red-blooded lurving is TV-TS looking women pouting their bee-stung lips while reaching for each other’s silicone.

How to bed Mr Nuts: Wax off all your pubes, hang some water balloons around your neck and say you love pussy. Alternatively, buy him twelve pints.

Verdict: The letter accompanying a snap supplied by a reader of a road sign saying ‘Semenville’ sums up the slightly confused mentality of Nuts: “This has got to be the worst-named place in the entire world. I definitely wouldn’t want to live there!’  I think Adam, Plymouth, doth protest too much. I mean, if you don’t like semen, why buy a wank mag called ‘Nuts’?


GQ

GQ

‘Britain’s Best-Selling Quality Men’s Magazine’

Circulation: 130,000 a month

Covergirl: Clive Owen (am I the only person that finds his face eminently slappable?)

Concept: Fashion supplement of The Spectator magazine.

Metrosexual Money shot: Ralph Lauren Polo fold-out four page ad, inside cover.

Buy-Curiousness: Although American GQ used to be known as ‘Gay Quarterly’ the UK edition of GQ is so glacially pretentious it’s often difficult to believe it’s actually alive, let alone has a sexuality.

Nonetheless, in this month’s issue lady sex columnist Rebecca Newman bravely introduces GQ readers to their prostate gland and anal beads:

‘…as you become aroused you’ll find that, rather than resisting, your backside becomes hungry and takes the first bead…. It may feel peculiar to begin with; the sensation will improve as you become accustomed to it.’

That’s what I usually tell them too! Perhaps that’s why Rebecca is very careful to state repeatedly that it’s ‘your girlfriend’ feeding your arse.

Incredibly important and well-connected GQ editor Dylan Jones meanwhile, sounds here as if he could do with some anal beads in another orifice:

‘…as I was standing in the bar at Brown’s Hotel with Piers Morgan, having just had a gossip with David Cameron, he witters breathlessly, ‘I turned to Piers and said, “You know what? I don’t buy all this stuff about Gordon being bisexual.” We chatted away for a while, both of us recounting the old stories we’d heard, and then after about five minutes, Piers turned to me, gave me a quizzical look and said, “We’re not talking about the same Gordon are we?”

How to bed Mr GQ: Do you really want to?

Verdict: GQ probably thinks itself the most ‘grown-up’ of the men’s mags, and to be fair, it has occasionally covered gay issues (without sniggering), but since it’s generally so dull, who cares?


Esquire

ESQUIRE

‘THE MAGAZINE FOR MEN WHO MEAN BUSINESS’

Circulation: A not very businesslike 60,000

Covergirl: Clint Eastwood

Concept: Snobbery. Here’s editor Jeremy Langmead sniffing about how Britain’s footballers

‘…dress appallingly: they pile on the designer labels with gay abandon (Ronaldo), accessorise with far too many sparkly things (Ronaldo) and haven’t yet discovered that logos a go-go have gone out of fashion (Ronaldo).’

I rather like Ronaldo – particularly the way that his looks, talent and ability to wear whatever he wants provokes both The Sun and Esquire to call him a poof. Not bad going. (As an indication of where they’re coming from, in the same issue, Esquire’s Best Dressed Man in the World is… ‘HRH Prince of Wales’.)

Diesel

Metrosexual money shot: Diesel double page spread featuring a hustler-like male model in shorts sitting in a chair with a shirtless, fat, bald, middle-aged male punter at his feet, sweating face pressed against his Diesel baseball shoes. (However much the lad was paid by Diesel, Esquire was paid much more to grovel at their feet.)

Buy-curiousness: I wasn’t looking.

How to bed Mr Esquire: Tell him you write for GQ

Verdict: Ronaldo every time.


menshealth april09

MEN’S HEALTH

‘WORLD’S BEST-SELLING MEN’S LIFESTYLE MAGAZINE’

Covergirl: Another personal fitness trainer with either great genes or really good ‘vitamins’.

Coverline: LOSE YOUR GUT! ‘The 60 Minute 6-Pack Plan’ BIGGER ARMS!! (The same ones every month)

Concept: For the man who wants to be a covergirl.

Metrosexual money shot: Too many to mention.

Buy-curiousness: Off the scale. This month’s nipple Count: Male = 73 (two on the cover). Female = 4 (mysteriously covered in ‘superfoods’ berries and honey in this issue). One article is called: ‘How to hide your computer porn files from your girlfriend’ – yes, but what about your copy of Men’s Health?

How to bed Mr Men’s Health: You probably already have.

Verdict: The most flagrantly, fragrantly metro of the metromags but American-owned Men’s Health is still in major pissy-prissy denial about this insisting that all its pec-worshipping, calorie-counting male readers are straight, married with kids and not in the least bit vain.  Which is, frankly, really gay.


mischa-barton-fhm-2009

FHM

‘VOTED BEST MAGAZINE IN THE WORLD’

(Until recently, biggest selling most successful UK men’s monthly )

Coverline: ‘”Lesbian Vampire Killers”: The undead have never been hotter.’

Covergirl: Mischa Barton

Concept: Male vanity made easy – and normal.

Metrosexual money-shot: Fashion and grooming and bodybuilding supplements ads featuring impossibly pretty young men in various stages of undress throughout, but most noticeably the inside cover ad for United Colors of Benetton starring a blue eyed lad way prettier than Mischa.

Buy-curiousness: Wads of it. For all its ‘High Street Honeys’, FHM seems the least uptight of the mens mags when it comes to enjoying/exploiting male beauty and acknowledging it, albeit with a giggle. One photo spread (‘Train like a soldier – FHM hits the gym with real life US marine turned Generation Kill actor Rudy Reyes…’) shows an impossibly buff, shirtless chap in tight pants. ‘Alone at sea, Ellen MacArthur removed her top’, reads one of the captions (FHM’s jokiness, unlike most men’s magazines, can actually be quite funny).

Beneath some pics of him with his bubble butt in the air the copy explains that he’s performing ‘Hindu Push-Ups… or what some people sardonically call “the prison push up” on account of where your bottom goes…. It’s also a big favourite down at the gym with the US Marines.’

How to bed Mr FHM: Dress well, work out, moisturise, have a sense of humour. And do the prison push-up.

Verdict: Although FHM like most if not all the men’s mags reviewed here, still officially assumes its readers are all straight, its highly buy-curious pumped-up metro content, along with its cheeky, flirty sense of humour suggests that it’s anything but narrow.

(Full disclosure: I’m a contributor to men’s bi-annual fashion mag Arena Hommes Plus — I don’t review it here, partly because of my self-interest, and partly because it’s a men’s fashion magazine rather than a men’s general circulation magazine.  But generally speaking, as the fact that I write for it might suggest, it has no problem about ramming homosexuality down its readers’ throats.)