On the Notion that Gays Like To Dress in Fashionably Narrow Jeans and Velcro Sneakers

22Sep07

Nor, with regard to the Times’ coverage of the murder trial in Brooklyn, can we resist commenting on the following description of the courtroom:

“All of them [i.e., the defendants] were watched by a vibrant cultural divide of a spectators’ gallery. To one side, dressed in conservative attire, sat supporters of the defendants, arriving from the middle- and working-class neighborhoods of Sheepshead Bay. To the other side, dressed in fashionably narrow jeans and Velcro sneakers, sat friends of the victim, Michael J. Sandy, 29, a designer from Williamsburg.”

It seems to us that in the context of writing about the murder trial of a gay man, the reporter, in the puerile attempt to inject some “color” into the piece, has reinforced the exact sort of stereotype with regard to gay men that led the defendants to think they could dispose of one with such ease. Our fears in this regard were only inflamed by his continuing description of the scene:

“From the witness stand, Mr. Timmins [a defendant] described sitting around Mr. Fortunato’s house that night, discussing a displeasing marijuana shortage. Mr. Fortunato, he said, devised a remedy.

‘He started talking on the computer; he went to the gay chat site,’ Mr. Timmins testified.

When Mr. Sandy offered marijuana, ‘Anthony got all excited, because that’s basically what we wanted.’”

Yes, we initially laughed at this, which seems rather too satirical to be true. Yet as we returned to consider the entire article and the event it purported to describe, we could not help but be struck by a certain levity, if not ridicule, we detected in the prose, as if to imply that one deserves to be killed for associating with those who wear fashionably narrow jeans and Velcro sneakers. Have we gone too far in our accusations? Perhaps, or perhaps not. It is not our intention to overreach, and we even wonder if our reclusive state has led us to extremes of paranoia; but surely there are very few murder trials whose descriptions — at least in The Times — are so blatantly Onionesque. We will, in any case, admit to holding a particular sensitivity to the issue, having once — and we say this with less shame than wonder — felt the same ourselves.



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