I know people who are totally creeped out by Hello Kitty.
“It’s that blank, vacant stare,” they say. “No pupils are just wrong, like how old Little Orphan Annie cartoons used to look kind of disturbing. And what’s really off-putting is that jaunty pink bow. It says, ‘Trust me, I’m cute!’ But then your gaze shifts to those cold, dead Hello Kitty eyes and it’s like looking into some dark, pitiless abyss.”
I think Hello Kitty has an AK 47 under her bed.
Now I’m not saying Ross Mathews has Hello Kitty eyes, and I’ll be the first to admit that this is a leap. I’m hard-pressed to connect the dots, but here it is:
I have a similar response to Ross Mathew’s new series, “Hello Ross.”
I kid Ross! He’s not that creepy, but by so blatantly ripping Hello Kitty he deserves a little flak. Throw in pink slacks the exact same hue of Hello Kitty’s bow and Ross, you’re just asking for it.
“Hello Ross” is the love child of E! and Chelsea Handler. Ross Mathews first hit the national radar as "Ross the Intern" on the "Tonight Show" and as a frequent guest on Handler’s “Chelsea Lately.” The audience response was so positive that Mathews hosted the show several times in her absence. Riding the Handler wave-o-fame, Mathews was ripe to fill the over-the-top gay guy void that was frontiered in previous generations by the likes of Paul Lynde and Red Buttons. Our parents would wink and nod and acknowledge those enchanted celebrities as, “not the marrying kind” and leave it at that.
Ross, on the other hand, makes no bones about it -- and no pun intended. He’s a parade float of gay, the grand marshal of an assemblage so frothy that Ross makes Pee Wee Herman look absolutely butch. Mathews is as subtle as Bugs Bunny in drag. Paul Lind would have felt like the lumberjack Brawny paper towel guy by comparison.
The old wink-and-nod bachelor celebrities of our parent’s generation are long gone. They were witty and funny and edgy and announced that they were profoundly enchanted without actually saying so. Ross Mathew’s doesn't mind saying so at all, God love him, and in case you didn't get the memo Ross pounds it home in the aforementioned Pepto Bismol pink pants. And then he opens his mouth and, well there it is.
Ross built a career around being the out, snarky, sweetly in-your-face gay guy that every A-list straight party roster includes to achieve the street cred of an open mind, and thank God for Ross. The straight entertainment world needs the likes of Ross and now, everyone can have a new gay best friend!
But then, the conundrum, the subtle discomfort I feel when I watch “Hello Ross” and Ross Mathews in action.
Ross is 10 years too late. In 2013, it feels painful. It feels like, “I’m out and proud and not threatening, so please accept me.” In a word, “Hello Ross” sometimes feels as contrived and packaged as a boy band but more to the point,
When does a stereotype go from funny to offensive?
So there it is. I like Ross as a TV personality. I think he is probably a sweet guy but he makes me a smidge uncomfortable. Clearly, that discomfort isn’t about being way enchanted. It’s about the perception of pimping that enchantment.
I can’t help but think about every racial and ethnic stereotype over this past century that’s been exaggerated and paraded on stage to entertain the masses, and there’s something mildly embarrassing about the spectacle.
I don’t want to see the wink and nod of the bad old days rear its ugly head ever again. But Ross, what would happen if you turned down the volume, just a little? You can be as expressive as your big heart wants to be, but once again I’m reminded of another gay icon that would benefit from dip of the toe into the mainstream.
I’ll never forget nor forgive Ellen Degeneres for wearing a pants suit when she hosted the Oscars. That was just wrong. We know she’s lesbian and abhors all things fluffy, but just this once a little Dolce Gabbana wouldn’t have killed you. It was the Oscars, for God’s sake.
If we, the enchanted, really want full inclusion then sometimes we, the enchanted have to suck it up, get out of the comfort zone and play the same game our straight brethren and sistren have to play everyday. That’s just the way it is.
Ross, I’d love you all the more if you ditch the pink pants.
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Kurt Niece writes about visual arts for SDGLN. He is a freelance journalist from Lakewood, Ohio. He is the author of "The Breath of Rapture" and an artist who sells his work on his website.