A picture is worth a thousand words. And sometimes a lot of those words are homophobic.
Last week, Vanity Fair published an interview with actor Michael B. Jordan and director Ryan Coogler. They’ve collaborated on two films now — Creed and Fruitvale Station. But, as an official picture of Jordan and Coogler from the Vanity Fair interview circulated online, a lot of disparaging remarks followed.
The image of Jordan with his hand on Coogler’s head drew crude sexual and homophobic remarks from commenters on more than one Facebook page. When celebrity gossip blogger B. Scott, who runs LoveBScott, posted it on his Facebook, it garnered almost 300 comments, many of them negative.
Most spoke about their problem with the pose, saying the pose seemed emasculating and effeminate.
When blogger Son of Baldwin posted a response to the controversy that called out the homophobic remarks, most people agreed, but some people even engaged in homophobia on the Son of Baldwin Facebook page, which is a page about LGBT issues.
“Whether Jordan and Coogler are ‘just boys’ or something more: It shouldn’t matter,” the post reads. “Love between black people should always be celebrated given how much violence between black people is always encouraged.”
Baldwin began posting that he would delete any comment that equated the word “gay” with negativity. Some of the comments under his post were, however, very supportive of Coogler and Jordan’s embrace.
These comments might suggest that the black community is more homophobic than others, but that’s actually not the case. The most common anecdote used to point to black homophobia is the role black voters played in the passing of Prop 8 in 2008, a myth that was later debunked. Data showed that their voting was basically in line, if not a bit higher, than most other racial groups. To the contrary, black and Latino voters were directly responsible for passing marriage equality in Maryland four years later.
And most of the U.S.’s remaining anti-sodomy laws — which are unconstitutional and remain on the books more as a display of outright homophobia — are in majority white states.
So, no, this is not a black homophobia issue. It’s just a regular old #MasculinitySoFragile problem. Seeing two men embrace one another in a way that even suggests intimacy is sometimes still too much for America’s eyes.