Fight to the Death: Using Gladiators to Explain the Black & Gay Media Struggle
By Jonnie Dixon - Resident Scribe
I recently came across a snippet of the Jerry Springer Show. The storyline of this episode featured two gay best friends fighting amongst each other. Apparently, one of them started seeing this guy, and his friend got jealous. So, the friend started seeing the boyfriend behind his friend’s back. Now, they are all on the Jerry Springer Show, and as an open and proud gay person, I couldn’t feel more embarrassed.
I know I may be a bit dramatic here. But, as I watch this clip, I see two gay men sporting ridiculously distasteful costumes, blindly iterating our culture’s jargon, and speaking with painfully forced flamboyant accents. Don’t get me wrong. I am aware there are some people, gay, straight, and beyond, who happily live flamboyant and androgynous lives. However, in the context of a show such as Springer’s, these personas- the mad black woman, the adulterous black man, and the effeminate homosexual- have become dangerously repetitive.
By sporting the loud, overtly feminine, irrational, and violent persona, these people do more than just fit the stereotype- they perpetuate it. Every episode carries the same plotline. Jerry welcomes a variety of guests. They all tell the story of the wife they no longer love, the boy that turned them gay, the oblivious boy in the midst of an affair with an undercover transwoman. These walking stereotypes exchange strong words, compete in contests, sporadically breakout into fights, and most importantly keep the audience entertained.
This, in my eyes, is the modern day reincarnation of gladiator culture. What were once deadly weapons used in legendary wars, are now fists and untraceable exchanges of words. Instead of coliseums filled with spectators and emperors, there are now stages and live audiences. And the people replacing the original gladiators- the people now taking the place of war prisoners – are members of the black and queer community.
There are a scary amount of similarities between something as ancient as gladiator culture and something as far-fetched as the Jerry Springer Show.