Yesterday my wife, on a whim, brought me home three semi-trashy magazines for my casual reading: Guitar World, Maxim, and MacAddict. (Okay, it's hard to call MacAddict "trashy," but it has addict in its name, at least for now.)
I take those magazines for what they are: light reading that you can skim when you have a spare moment. They each have some funny and interesting stuff in them, from MacAddict's "trick out your Mac with free stuff" to Guitar World's wide-ranging interview with Pete Townshend to Maxim's analysis of the global economic impact and money flows of the cocaine trade (no really!). Plus scantily-clad babes, of course. Can't complain about that.
But both Guitar World and Maxim (though thankfully not MacAddict) included something disturbing: either in interviews or editorial content, they repeatedly use "gay" as an insult, without any comment or qualification. I didn't think that was mainstream usage, especially beyond the grounds of high-school, and although in both publications it appeared to be a mild insult, it still seems corrosive to me.
I've mentioned before that Guitar World is the most "hey dude" of the mainstream guitar mags (they've recently taken to using porn stars as models in their gear guide editions, for instance), and Maxim's demographic is obviously about 99% straight men—much as the reader base would probably like to think that a lot of hot bisexual chicks read it, I'm sure. So I'm guessing the publishers presume they can get away with having Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Zakk Wylde call something "gay" in a tongue-in-cheek way, or calling delicious but frou-frou restaurant cuisine "slightly gay."
But why? Sure, there's a whole anti-PC contingent that wants to use potentially controversial language to stir the pot a bit, and Wylde, while a talented guitar player, doesn't come across as the most enlightened chap. Yet the word "gay" flies by so casually. Do these magazines have no interest at all in attracting gay readers, or, more pointedly, straight readers like me who have gay friends, and whose opinion about the publication drops every time the word appears that way?
Is it really the case that among those magazine's readers, using "gay" as derogatory is acceptable? Do I live in West Coast Vansterdam Fantasyland by thinking that it shouldn't be so in 2006?
It's disappointing. Then again, I have no interest in the Maxim power tools and sports articles, nor in Guitar World's metalhead-and-fishnets emphasis. I'm obviously on the fringes of their audiences anyway. I'm glad my wife bought them for me, because I had a good read and learned something: all three are fun reading, but I'll likely keep up only with MacAddict, and not pick up either of the others again.