Call Me, Gay (Maybe)

(Craig Campbell)–

“And I had just met her, so I wasn’t going to just be like, here’s my number.”

“So call me maybe!” we chimed in unison.

The two of us were taking a study break, lying on frosh quad, and a mutual friend had been asking for advice for a first date with his new crush. He laughed and replied “damn it, you guys are such gay stereotypes.” And I was furious!

Yes, the two of us are gay, and we both instinctively responded to his all-too easy bait. But if I had to assign “Call Me, Maybe?” as a stereotype to any demographic, it would be his. If this song is a cliché for any group, it’s straight, athlete, men. (And surprisingly, not even straight athlete women.)

As a result of the better weather, the past few weekends have been filled with periodic day-drinking on the social quad. From the second floor study room of Chuck Pratt, I had a direct view of Pond and Davis; I could see everyone there, and I could hear all of their music. So, somehow, the campus gays must have snuck in and taken over the speakers, right? Because I heard Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me, Maybe” playing about once every 15 minutes for HOURS.

Not so; it was completely sanctioned by our resident bros. “Call Me, Maybe” isn’t a prototypical gay song – there wasn’t a gay guy in sight in the mobs of athlete/athlete-types dressed up in neon pinnies. My theory is that the kind of guys who are double-fisting beers in #fratastic swag are the kind of guys who have permanently consigned themselves to a hyper-masculine social sphere. So music is their way of expressing their latent femininity. I was offended by this next video when I saw it, but then realized that joke’s on them – they’re just exaggerating their own insecurities.

With the songs of Ellie Goulding and Katy Perry (perennial favorites of socialz’ DJs) there are a collection of remixes that add a thumping bass line under the same poppy vocals. But that just doesn’t work for this song – you can’t add the dubstep WUB WUB WUB to something so innocuously cute. So when it comes on, dancing has to stop while everyone starts screaming “HEY I JUST MET YOU AND THIS IS CRAZY OMGAAAHHAH!”

Way back in October, ConstantLy wrote about straight men and their
fascination with Taylor Swift. Her theories apply to CRJ as well:

The 1800s white performers would apply black theatrical makeup for their shows. It wasn’t acceptable to have black musicians in white venues yet etc, but white culture did (and arguably still does) admire black musical culture and imitate it. They could appropriate elements of another culture while being established as a different group. Similarly, post-teenage men don’t have to acknowledge identifying with the girly-ness of Taylor Swift songs, but listening her music mockingly allows them to culturally identify with girls, without giving up that status claim.

The video has attracted considerable contemplative media coverage. I’ve read all sorts of blogs eager to jump on the “Call Me, Maybe” wagon, claiming that it’s the best thing that’s happened to pop, the worst thing that’s happened to pop; that she’s the new Justin Bieber; that the video is shattering gay stereotypes, that it’s reinforcing gay stereotypes. People seem to have a lot of feelings about this song.

If you haven’t watched the original video, just watch the last 30 seconds. The big twist (!!) is when the super-cute guy she’s been crushing on turns out to be gay. One blogger’s response:

As it turns out, Chad is gay. SNAP! He gives his phone number to one of Carly Rae’s male friends, and then everyone’s like, “Haha! Your gaydar broke!” And she’s all, “Oops! A straight man would never wear jeans that stylish just to mow the lawn!” This is brilliant for two reasons.

First, it means the video celebrates Carly Rae’s sexual feelings without making her have actual sex. Young girls can enjoy the song and not feel overly pressured by it.

Second, it means that gay men can feel included in the story. For once, the girl doesn’t get the guy because we do. Gay men can enjoy the song because it’s a love letter to us.

Holden Nowell is a Canadian model. He’s gay in real life, too.

Others, on the other hand, decry the video for the way it makes homosexuality the punchline. The fact that the cute guy is gay is just an oh-so hilarious foil to end CRJ’s cute schoolgirl antics. He gives his number to an “obviously straight kid,” abating the threat that this video might actually be condoning or even depicting gay romance. And the way he gives his number is so cheesy (and poorly acted) that you can’t help but feel like we’re supposed to laugh at him.

I don’t have an opinion as whether this is a triumph or defeat in the fight to provide a more balanced picture of gay people in popular media. In accordance with NPR’s interpretation, I think that the song replicates a crush and should be celebrated for its retreat to the awkward/exciting days of high school. As stupid as this song is, I don’t mind hearing it; I can actually tolerate it a lot more than most other current Billboard Top 40 singles. And the Internet discussion of it is at least a dialogue. When Rebecca Black’s “Friday” video came out last year, most voices were unanimous: “wow, this is the worst shit I’ve ever heard,” and “someone should save that poor girl from her psychotic mother.” But people have a variety of opinions toward “Call Me, Maybe,” and many of them are making articulate statements (albeit on random corners of the Internet, ie SheBomb). This discussion doesn’t get us anywhere, really, but at least we are actually being conscious of the media we consume. Which is a REALLY good thing. Realizing this may push us in the direction of actually revitalizing the sorry state of pop-culture.

Other blog posts on the subject:
Why “Call Me, Maybe” is so damn catchy

How the song replicates a high school crush