[Note: the dead-end, tangential “debates” about scripture have sucked all the oxygen out of this thread; comments are closed]
As admirable as it is for Daniel Mount to attempt an intervention into the obnoxious Sister Tenor schtick that afflicts so many hackneyed sg emcees’ repertoire or “jokes” (and I agree, these droolingly dumb jokes can’t stop too soon), it doesn’t seem to have occurred to him that these jokes and his argument against them might be drawing from the same well of flatfooted assumptions among (conservative) Christians about sexuality. Thus Mount:
In today’s society, homosexual behavior has become more prevalent and openly admitted. Some but not all homosexual men think of themselves as women and adopt effeminate mannerisms, including but not limited to speaking / singing in a high voice. […] But this problem is too real–too much a major cultural problem right now–for me to enjoy a joke about it [i.e. how the tenor looks like a man but sings like a woman].
Homosexual panic? Party of one? Your decompression chamber is now available.
Honestly. Mount’s got it all backwards here. He’s right to sense some anxiety about gender-bending in these tenor jokes, but the point of the joke isn’t to legitimize or trivialize homosexuality in a religious culture that is Seriously. Freaked Out. By. Gay Men. Rather, these jokes are part of the mechanism by which evangelical popular culture keeps the “the homosexual crisis” at bay.
First and on the surface, a sister tenor joke is a way of managing a collective fear among your average southern gospel crowd that they might catch cooties from the high-voiced tenor if he’s … you know … [in a stage whisper] one of them … because, as Mount’s comment suggests, it’s a pretty common view in certain conservative quarters that the best way to spot a homosexual man is to look for limp wrists, mincing catty banter, lisping queens or high talkers (which is true, of course, except when it isn’t — “some but not all” — but then you don’t know what you don’t know, and which is which, anyway, and how do you keep it all, uhm, straight?). The joke neutralizes the issue by acknowledging what has been called a “visceral surface revulsion” about effeminate/gay males (and the assumptions it’s predicated on) through humor. If we can all laugh at it – including Sister Tenor – then there’s nothing to worry about, nes café?
More deeply, though, the joke is a way for a macho culture of manly Christian men to humorously act out a not-so-latent distaste for homosexuality. Everyone is only half-joking, after all (the other half of the joke carries with it clear implications: we wouldn’t be jokin’ if you were one of them … and you better not be … it’s Adam and Even, not Adam and Steve). But that half-measure is important. It’s when the jokes stop altogether that you ought to be worried, because nothing is scarier than unsublimated phobias. Then it’s open season on every guy whose voice ranges above middle C and crosses his legs at the knee.
That and, well, the jokes just aren’t that funny.Email this Post