Unpopular Opinions: Leave Prince Alone

Unpopular Opinions is a weekly column written by Flavorpill’s resident music curmudgeon and esoteric record-bin enthusiast, the Beard. His opinions do not reflect those of Flavorpill, Flavorwire, or any of their affiliates…

It might make me unpopular, but I think… that the anti-Prop 8 contingent can be just as bad as Prince when it comes to steeping their condemnations in stereotype.

Before I court your reactionary (though, hopefully, non-violent) responses, what say we really explore the issue? Pop legend and longtime purple enthusiast Prince recently gave an interview to the New Yorker where he intimated that he does not support the rights of homosexuals to wed.

As he told writer Clare Hoffman, “God came to earth and saw people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever, and he just cleared it all out. He was, like, ‘Enough.'”

While Prince’s people immediately accused the publication of quoting out of context for the sake of sensationalism (erm, guys, this is New Yorker not US friggin’ Weekly), other passages make his point seem even more clear:

“And then on the opposite end of the spectrum… you’ve got the Democrats, and they’re, like, ‘You can do whatever you want.’ Gay marriage, whatever.”

Since the interview’s release, countless journalists, bloggers, and activist orgs have made an example of the singer, publicly vilifying him for what is being considered an outrageous outburst. While I’m all for public debate, I think it’s important to point out that, in this particular case, they’re the ones that are stepping out of line.

Now, before folks start winding their whiskers (and plotting ways to relieve me of mine), let’s be clear: this Beard believes in equal clips for all kinds. But, I’m also bound by trade to the defense of everyone’s opinions (lest I lose the right to my own). What’s unique about this case is that I don’t have to defend Prince’s right to a minority view. However abominable and close-minded his outlook, he’s in the majority.

With that in mind, I’m at a loss as to how it’s helpful to the cause to make a public pariah out of someone holding a view that mimics that of the majority of Americans. Why exactly do we care? Why are his views more newsworthy or worth commenting on than the millions of others who agree? Oh wait, is it because he’s Prince? As the Guardian (and many, many others) have asserted:

“Now we’re talking about Prince here, not Cliff Richard. You know, dressing in women’s blouses, high heels, eyeliner Prince.”

A man in women’s clothing… so the assumption is that he has to be on one side of the issue? Isn’t that steeped in stereotype? While Prince’s gender-bending aesthetic might cause surface observers assume a liberal view of sexuality, the actual argument is pretty flimsy. Prince is a member of a generally fundamentalist-conservative faith with an end-of-the-world doctrine that ties spiritual transcendence to the rejection of traditionally “immoral” actions. Before that, he was a hyper-sexualized rock star with lyrics that traded ad nausea on the virtues of heterosexual, masculine stereotypes. Viewed through the prism of his actions rather than his aesthetic, he’s always been more meat-headed frat boy than progressive pundit.

The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana — all of these bands wore dresses and other attire in a manner that juxtaposed their rough masculinity with that of the feminine mystique. And how many musicians wear mascara? A lot, and their actions weren’t necessarily about embodying femininity or taking the further, distinct leap of endorsing and encouraging homosexuality. No one really assumes anything about their sexuality. Whether or not he has a high voice, whether or not I agree with him on the underlying issue, why is Prince automatically subject to different assumptions?

Basically, what the whole issue boils down to is that people are particularly pissed that Prince made these anti-gay statements, because a lot of people have erroneously assumed he is gay. It’s a shame they didn’t read Question 2.2 on his fan Web site’s FAQ. Whoops. When you’re immersed in a fight for equality (and I truly believe that’s what this is), is it too much to ask that we steer clear of stereotypes?