Thursday, July 10, 2008

Savage Idols

Over the holiday weekend, Senor Fluff and I took a drive around the surrounding countryside---you know, while we still have meager petroleum resources to flaunt. [Let me note, for the record, that we drive a 3 year old Japanese car with 20,000 miles on it. We are not in the same class as the Hummer-driving jackhole I saw the other day with a bumpersticker that read: "Buy a hybrid---I need your gas!" Fuckwad. If there were ever a need for a consumer-grade rocket launcher, that would be it...]

Digression aside, after we had exhausted an ipod playlist, we listened dug into the stream of podcasts that I've been downloading forever, but seldom listen to. For the first time, then, I had the great pleasure of listening to Savage Love in audio form.

Everyone knows Dan Savage, right? The guy who writes the sex column for Seattle's The Stranger, occasionally appears on This American Life and Bill Maher's Real Time? I know that he squicks some people, but I lurve him, lurve him. [And I particularly love listening to him talk about the positions, accoutrements, and psychological issues surrounding anal sex while driving through the most Stepford of East Coast towns---but that's a different story.]

I find myself at times shocked, delighted, and moved by Savage, and if the size and variety of his audience is any indication, I don't think I'm alone. And as I try to put my finger on what it is of his that does it for me (does everyone who writes about Dan Savage begin to realize that all of her metaphors sound dirty?), I think it's his bizarre combination of incredible ability to withhold judgment about those things that American society is often SOOO judgy about, while at the same time having very definite ideas about what he thinks is healthy and "right." For instance, in the podcast I listened to, he fielded a call about disability and sex, in which he addressed the idea that "everyone wants to feel like an object sometimes." Whoa. Beware the lightning strike of disapprobation and ethical reproach! And yet he delivers this statement as if it is the most banal of ideas, the most basic of concepts. Earlier in the show, however, he responds to a 23 year old man asking about sex on his wedding night with a rant about how no one, gay or straight, should be getting married at 23. Amen, brother!

It could just be the case that I tend to agree with Savage's bent, however, it's perhaps more the case that I adore his ability to embody what I have always imagined to be opposite impulses: the avoidance of judgmental behavior and firm beliefs. Savage does a fabulous job negotiating between these two positions. If there is some sort of complicated emotional calculus that underpins it, I'd love to know the formula.

Come to think of it, the other person that combines these traits well? Tim Gunn. Should I be worried that my two idols of ethical behavior are gay men in the media?

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