As you know all too well, possums, Bravo’s self-promotion is relentless.
But during Wednesday night’s premiere of Top Chef, it seemed that the promos for Kathy Griffin’s show were coming at the rate of one every other minute (we surmise even the Cubans don’t have to put up with that much Fidel on their televisores). As such, we think Miss XaXa can be forgiven for channeling Bravo’s seemingly new Fearless Leader halfway through the TC3 premiere and yelling the party slogan, “Where are my Gays?!”
Ubi sunt her Gays indeed. Hell, where are ours?
Not that she’s fickle, but Miss XaXa pressed the point, “Where is my Carlos for this season?”
It made us check and replace the batteries on our gaydar, for we heard only the faintest twittering during the show. No immediate sexual tension, no knives-as-phalluses metaphors, no bunkbeds (though that hot-tub does bring with it the hope of a new Mike-Melissa-and-Flora thing, but if we were you, we wouldn’t admit to getting that allusion).
(Yes, of course, there is Dale, he of the faux fauxhawk, but if you recall our screeds on the hermeneutics of homo hair from last season with respect to Marcel and Ilan, you will understand our dismay at the fauxhawk as a gay signifier. As Miss XaXa put it, “I mean, is it ‘cause he’s from Chicago?” And don’t even get us started on the whole Dickensian urchin look he sported during the Elimination Challenge, with those Oliver Twist manpris and boot-things. We’re all for “food, glorious food,” but how can you “consider yourself a [Gay], consider yourself one of the family”?)
Does that mean, then, that Hung might just be our Great Gay Hope?
(Mind you, we’re not discounting Sandee as a possibility for this season’s Josie, down to the twee ‘50s first names. Though her Bravo bio doesn’t say anything on the subject as such, the four people for whom she wants to cook a meal are Angelina Jolie, Gina Gershon, Jennifer Tilly, and Anna Nicole Smith. As Miss XaXa says, “I mean, come on.” So you have Jenny Shimizu’s ex-girlfriend, the stars of Susie Bright-approved, cult lesbian criminal sex romp Bound, and Anna Nicole Smith. Alright, we’ll give you Anna Nicole Smith, but, really, come on. But, again, even if it’s true, we are distressed by the fauxhawk. Hedi Slimane, what hast thou wrought?)
Now let’s talk about Hung for a moment. As we’ve complained in the past, Bravo breezily traffics in stereotypes, both good and bad (don’t get us started on the whole “spicy Latin” thing; we got a cramp when we heard the Bravo announcer on one of the promos say, like some drunken frat boy, “Moo-ee caw-lee-en-tay”). But there’s something altogether admirable about Hung so wholeheartedly embracing the stereotype of the (Potentially Gay) Asian Villain. He says as much himself.
Having just finished The Book of Salt, Monique Truong’s rather splendid novel about a gay Vietnamese chef who cooked for Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, we were looking forward to Hung as a gay Vietnamese chef who, well, you get the point (though in his case, the novel would probably be called The Book of Vinegar).
And yet, vinegary as he is, Hung still lacks something in the villainy department. We admire the way Hung playfully subverted the whole Asians-are-good-at-math stereotype by saying he is a “CPA…[beat]…Certified Professional Asshole,” but there was something a little forced in the quip. An asshole is usually just an asshole, and it takes more than monomania to make a good villain. It’s a question of style.
Take last season’s Marcel Vigneron, for example, whom Hung knows. Though we in the end concluded that Marcel is not gay, he was the superior Gay Villain. (As for Ilan….)
Of course, we have our doubts about Hung. Miss XaXa convincingly argues that no gay man would call himself “Hung”—too much pressure—and would instead have changed his name to “Jimmy” or “Ken.” It’s a powerful argument, though we note that Hung also has a little fauxhawk thing going on, throwing us further into despair.
Look, Hung, possum, it’s like this. We want you to succeed. We want you to achieve your villainous goal. And we think you could benefit from a little instruction. Let us tell you a story.
Recently we picked up an old magazine that had a piece on the actress Gong Li and her first English-language role as Hatsumomo, the bitch goddess villainess in gay Rob Marshall’s version of Memoirs of a Geisha. According to the piece, when Gong Li did her first scene with the child actress who was to play her nemesis, Gong Li had only to look at her and the child started crying. In fact, she couldn’t stop crying and had to be replaced. Gong Li didn’t have to say a word; all it took was a look. Now, that’s how you play (Potentially Gay) Asian Villain.
So we ask you, Hung, please, take a tip or two from Gong Li, if only so that we can make “Hatsuhomo” and Memoirs of a Gay Chef puns.
But regardless of what stereotype you want to embrace—whether you want to be known as Hung the Merciless or as Hatsuhomo—we support your endeavor. (If we were you, we’d start by burning the hat that the Vince Vaughn wannabe from San Diego is always wearing; trust us, it’s what Gong Li would do.)