You ever wonder why there are certain male stereotypes that go down well with some cultures, and others which don't? For example, most of us have seen when foreigners take the "brothers in arms" credo literally and walk down the streets hand in hand. Are they gay? Are they so civilised that they are able to accept their sexuality and feel comfortable enough in their own skin to be able to walk proudly through KLCC with their shorty on their arm?
I'm not sure. They still ogle the girls like pieces of meat. Hmmm.
So I was thinking about it all when hubby boo bought me an Eros Ramazzotti CD. I'm not a particular fan of Eros, but I love a couple of his songs and I love that Euro pop a lot, and I love the idea of loving an Italian pop idol (albeit not a spring chicken) and having vaguely Continental tastes.
So I check out his CD cover, and.. well... Eros looks really gay.
He's buff and tanned. He has jeans on quite high on his hips, a black leather jacket and a naked torso underneath. The female eye is drawn to the skin, but overall you can't help but think how happy this guy must really be. Further inspection of the CD cover reveal Eros in various costumes like tight white shirt and school boy tie, hands outstretched and gazing up at the sun (fully dressed), in mod suit, staring wistfully at the ground, and a few other pictures of him close up where he never looks at camera.
Two pictures remain, which I think, depict him as a family man. One, is him with a lady, I assume his wife, and the other him lounging on a deck chair, fully clothed, in the shallow waves, with a small boy at his feet, who looks directly into camera - dressed exactly like him. His son, I suppose, who's a real looker and could be described, if he were older, as an Adonis. A picture which could be either hetero or homo in content, depending on how luscious you are in inclination.
So, I get that he's not really gay. But I also get that there is a certain image which appeals more the the designers and producers (and obviously Eros himself) and the audience, which is why they get chosen for the cover.
I've read that females are the driving consumers in this world. Even if guys are buying whatever item, it's all because the girl wants it, or they think the girl wants it. So how do you get the guys to buy too? Purchasing power also lies in the hands of men, particularly young up and coming and possibly gay guys with lots of cash. So, the choice of picture is a very important thing. It must appeal to both the girls (tanned naked torso) and the guys (tanned naked torso in jeans high on the hips).
So, after musing on the public image of male sexuality in Italian music industries, I then turned to how male sexuality is marketed here in Malaysia. I definitely have a limited knowledge of album covers etc, but I do see magazines and tv programmes a lot, and I feel that the Malaysian male sexual identity in the public eye is a difficult one.
Firstly, I do not see many images which push for a very heightened sexuality - i.e. there are few images where the man in the picture is extremely jantan or extremely gay. Sure there are lots of stereotypes of masculinity, such as garang pictures of men in rock or hip hop bands, as well as watered-down punks of boy bands. But striking visual images of male sexuality? The only ones I can really think of are Anuar Zain's cover for his first CD, where he stares lasciviously out from a smoky green background - and I think it is sexual because his look inspires desire in the person who wants to buy the album - and perhaps M. Nasir, but I think most of his albums which I have seen have artistic covers and not pictures of him.
Anuar's cover seems to me to have a very focused idea of what it would mean to the buyer - here's a guy, not only obviously talented but extremely desirable to a certain kind of woman, and a certain kind of man. Anuar's androgyny is a wonderful tool in the Malaysian consumer market - he's both desirable and non-threatening at the same time. Go Anuar!
Oh, I also thought of Zahid AF's cover - but that had absolutely zero sex appeal with no hint of any kind of sexuality (this way or that). An extremely neutral (is that an oxymoron?) cover which was the product of some gelded male in the A***o management team.
In Malaysian movies, I would say there are a few males who exude sexuality in buckets. But however charismatic they may be, the stories always seem to cut short their masculinity. I feel as if the carrying through of real acts of gentlemanliness, chivalry, bravery or morality is never allowed to reach its fruition, as if real expression of the self is anti-social. So the real good guys seem to lose out. The real bad guys get castrated (story-wise, I am talking about). The middle of the road, shifty, sniffley, piddly guys kind of get the best deal. It's a real stinker and I really want to see a real hero one day (that's why Sumolah! is going to be a whopper of a movie, especially in terms of meaning for the audience and the Malaysian public), who does everything it takes to get what he wants, and even if he doesn't get it, he can be proud of trying his best.
I sometimes despair of the commercial image of males in this society. THey seem to be getting softer all the time. Even the really rough, buff guys are portrayed in a gay way. Nothing wrong with that, but real women need some eye candy too!
Where have all the cowboys gone?
Don't answer that.