In 1978 rock critic Dave Marsh famously proclaimed, “Queen isn’t here just to entertain. This group has come to make it clear exactly who is superior and who is inferior. Its anthem, “We Will Rock You,” is a marching order: you will not rock us, we will rock you. Indeed, Queen may be the first truly fascist rock band.”

provocative.

It’s easy to dismiss this critique as the ramblings of a hater who can’t figure out any better way to knock Freddy Mercury and Co. than to misuse a political metaphor; but truth be told, I can’t help but think he has a point.

When I was in 3rd grade, my very bestest friend everr was a little boy who lived a few blocks away from me. He had attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (…) and despite being heavily medicated at all times, he would—tweak—out—to anything “sports”. He played on every team, clicked away all night on his NBA Nintendo game consul, talked constantly about how Michael Jordan, like, drinks other people’s milkshakes, and most memorably blasted his “Jock Rock” CDs every morning when we carpooled to school (needless to say, our friendship was doomed).

Jock Rock compilations consist of a selection of songs played at sports games to lubricate the audiences’ transition from normal human beings to foaming-at-the-mouth lunatics compelled to wail something to the effect of, “[home team] is going to fucking MURDER [rival team] so hard they’ll beg for the comforts of hell’s eternal flames! Yaaaaarrrgggg!”

I’d say there are about 50 stock songs you’ll hear played at games for this purpose and any combination of 12 or so have a shot at making the next Jock Rock volume. But it must be noted that Jock Rock just isn’t Jock Rock without at least one offering per comp from the genre-defining tunes of Queen.

As Dave Marsh aptly observes, “the only thing Queen does better than anyone else is express contempt”.

And he’s absolutely right. Consider:
Queen

[Translation to all of the above: “You suck. I rule. Eat it.”]

Dave Marsh would add Let Me Entertain You to this rubric, and I’d even suggest the operatic Bohemian Rhapsody’s head-banger finale surrenders to masculinity as usual.

I thought it was hilarious when I first realized that the ultimate sonic expression of brutish he-man athletics was set to the soundtrack of Queen: queer group extraordinaire. And yet the more I think about it, the more I realize how natural this union may be.

Most of us buy into a vague mythology that queer men are feminized and thus women’s allies, but given any serious consideration, this assumption doesn’t stand. Some of the worst misogyny I’ve ever experienced has been from queer men, who often don’t think the rules apply to them. It’s true that queer men face oppression themselves, but they are still men and quite susceptible to the unfortunate phenomenon of “displaced abjection” upon the ever-present target: women.

Just because the front man of Queen was openly gay obviously doesn’t negate Queen’s stadium-rock status, but I’d even take it farther and proclaim Queen is one of the more “masculinist” bands in pop history. They court traditionally male aggression and return again and again to the eroticized theme of total domination.

I am aware that not all sports fans are drooling war-mongers with hard-ons (nor am I suggesting that women aren’t capable of aggressive impulse), but I exaggerate mainstream stereotypes in order to highlight the strange cultural tension between the gay-icon status of Freddy Mercury, and that of “Queen” who churns out fodder for hetero-masculinity like chili-fries night at Hooters.

Even in the controversial video for I Want to Break Free, Mercury and the boys start off positioning themselves as housewives, supposedly acting in solidarity with plighted middle-class white women. And yet, in the centerpiece of the video background men and women appear as Tiller girls circa 1920, forming a mass ornament to be utilized (read: objectified) for not only aesthetic purposes, but as Mercury’s mechanized platform for his extravagant self-display.

That’s not to say feminism can’t get use any of the materials Queen provides for its purposes. In fact, Freddy Mercury’s iconic status as an out androgynous HIV+ gay man is all the more significant given his singular talent for expressing stereotypically hetero war cries. Here is a space where the even the homophobic straight can connect emotionally to the art of a queer man in sharing masculine thrills whereby the myth of the “sissy” or “fairy” homosexual man is (at least momentarily) dispelled.

That said, the favors to women are few. Beyond complicating sexual essentialism, Mercury’s “gender-fucking” fucks over women who remain more or less on the losing end of the cultural mainstays Mercury champions.

Homophobia, of course, can be seen as another form of misogyny mobilized by the “sissy” myth. If Mercury’s “transcending masculinity” is bought-in-full by the straight male community, the logical bonding mechanism that follows (within the same race and class) is to rejoice in the shared privileges of patriarchy.

This nightmare scenario aside, the banal fact remains that the queer-status of Queen is either not thought about or rationalized away by their homophobic fans. Le sigh.

Well, whatevs. Let’s put all this crap aside and enjoy a good old fashioned head-bang in the car, stomp our feet in the stadium, and raise our lighters in tribute to the arena rock’s King: Queen.

Happiness is:

Advertisements