Have you ever heard of something called the gay-panic defense? According to an article I read earlier this week on The Daily Beast, it’s an excuse for when a man kills another man who hits on him. Yikes. The article discussed country music singer Steve Grand’s new song “All-American Boy” and suggested that the video might be a kind of pop culture sign that this rather gruesome defense tactic could be ending.
One hopes so, given the rash of positive, diversity-friendly legislation and court rulings recently, DOMA being one of the most prominent. Apparently last month the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section announced a proposal to ban the use of the gay-panic defense in criminal proceedings. The proposal could pass at the organization’s national meeting in August.
I’m kind of indifferent about country music as a rule, but I am a journalist, so I would have been remiss not to at least watch the video. It seemed fairly innocuous, though I did note Steve’s confusion as he sees this apparently straight boy flirting with him despite having a girlfriend. I could understand him thinking the man was flirting given all those manly slaps on the back, shoulder rubs, oh, and that bit in the car when straight boy seemed to doze off and let his head fall on Steve’s shoulder …
Anyway, what struck me as noteworthy was the tone and resolution of the little, five-minute visual tale. Spoiler alert: Steve kisses straight boy after they toss their fine, naked selves into a lake. There’s a dramatic pause in the music – my hand flew to my throat as I waited to see what would happen next – and then, nothing. They go back to their country bonfire, separately.
I was so glad there was no violence, I slumped forward in my chair in relief. There didn’t need to be. By all appearances, Steve just made a mistake and read the signals wrong. It was vaguely dissatisfying not to have more information. Was straight boy not straight after all? Was Steve just seeing what he wanted to see based on his attraction to this individual?
But ultimately that didn’t matter. The song stepped back from becoming some big statement and settled into its place as a piece of music with a popular and eminently recognizable theme – unrequited love. That’s a good thing. Too often in matters of diversity, whether they be LGBT, gender or race related, what should be normal is put forth as an oddity or as an example, complete with a spotlight and a big brass band playing loud and occasionally out of tune.
It was heartening that straight boy, despite Steve’s kiss faux pax, did not hold a grudge. I really appreciated that. It said, OK, that was weird, but we can get past it. That should be the unofficial slogan for diversity. When people are afraid to put themselves out there and ask questions or make mistakes, bad things can happen.
So, in this rather sad end, all-American boys can like other all-American boys, but they may not return their affections. I’m still not a country music fan.