Alex Blaze

What's Dan Savage's problem?

Filed By Alex Blaze | March 19, 2007 9:38 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: Dan Savage, Garrison Keillor, Jimmy Kimmel, Midwest, pam spaulding, reading comprehension, stephen colbert

I mean seriously.

Last week Dan got all worked up over this Garrison Keillor column on Salon, which was a Stephen Colbert-esque satire on the religious right's 1950's nostalgia. I explained it at length and ruined the joke here. Now Garrison released a statement saying that it was satire, and Dan responds to it here by saying that, basically, he acknowledges that it's meant to be satire, but when taken literally it's homophobic so then it's bad. Then he goes through the column, and, sentence by sentence, points out that the logical end of what Garrison is saying is ridiculous and incorrect. Ummm, yeah, Dan, that's what satire is. Ridiculous and, when taken literally, incorrect.

Yep, seriously, that's about as deep as Dan gets. There's no explanation as to why it probably wasn't satire (except for when Dan says that he personally knows more gay men than Garrison, and don't ask me how that proves that Garrison wasn't doing satire), or why when read as satire it's homophobic. He just sort of glosses over that fact and continues to beat up on Garrison. I mean, it's pretty much like responding to Stephen Colbert by taking his show literally. And even the Rev. Fred Phelps isn't stupid enough to do that. (You can google that response, because I'm not linking to Phelps' page.)

So this begs the question, since a column was written as satire, the author has said that it was satire, the author has generally worked for gay rights, and Dan still takes it literally: what is Dan Savage's problem? I can understand how, just coming off of Coulter/Pace/Hardaway, someone could speak too quickly and too harshly, but then I would expect him, under more careful scrutiny and a cooler head, to retract his original attack. Why won't he? I have some ideas, after the jump.

1. Dan Savage has reading comprehension issues. I mean, this is the first thing that comes to mind. He just might not know what satire is or how to read satire. This explains a lot, because Garrison said that it was satire, and Dan mysteriously ignores that and then responds to it as if it weren't. He might have thought that "tongue-in-cheek" meant "I whole-heartedly believe this". In that case, Dan should read his comments, because a lot of people explained what satire is there.

2. Dan Savage just plain doesn't like Midwesterners. We're a pretty scary bunch, I guess, to some of those coastal-urban folk who have yet to talk with the primitive people who live in Fly-Over Country. Remember Dan's column just after the 2004 elections where he said that urban-coastal folks should see the US as an archipelago of cities and avoid the nasty parts in between? Here's a bit:

John Kerry won among the highly educated, Jews, young people, gays and lesbians, and non-whites. What do all these groups have in common? They choose to live in cities.
As a non-white, gay, educated young person who went to a college that was pretty much in between two wheatfields and now lives down the street from fields of soy, I say, "Thanks for doing your research, Dan!" Here's some more insightful political commentary:
From here on out, we're glad red-state rubes live in areas where guns are more powerful and more plentiful, cars are larger and faster, and people are fatter and slower and dumber. This is not a recipe for repopulating the Great Plains.
(Good on Governor Dean for doing the exact opposite of what Dan suggests in his column and winning back the whole Congress in the process.) I think this quotation goes far in explaining why Dan is so knee-jerk against Garrison. Garrison lives in part of the country where Dan thinks the people should just die out, so anything he says has to be wrong and homophobic, even if it isn't. And he'll never bother taking anything Garrison says into consideration (or asking Garrison to explain himself, and Dan's probably well-connected enough to do that) because he can't take anything a Midwesterner says seriously.

He makes his point even clearer when he cites other bloggers that agree with him. Guess what? They're all bloggers who are gay, white, male, and coastal-urban. Not there's anything wrong with being those things, but we can tell who Savage is reading. Wouldn't it have made sense for him to mention the post done by the two-years-running winner of the Weblog Award for Best LGBT Blog, Pam Spaulding, who basically agreed with him? Or can he not stand that she's a lesbian who chooses to live in North Carolina, outside of his little Seattle bubble? Or maybe she left open the possibility that Garrison was doing satire in her post on the matter, and that brings me to possibility #3:

3. Dan Savage is an egomaniac who can never admit that he's wrong, even when he makes an assumption about someone else's intentions that is plainly wrong and then that someone says that Dan is wrong and explains his intentions and Dan has nothing to prove his point but still won't admit that he's wrong. I can see how this could happen. He has written a great column, Savage Love, for sixteen years, which has appeared in publications where the readership would probably agree with most things that he says. So he gets a bunch of letters and emails telling him that, and people defer to his opinion on love, relationships, and sex often enough for him to start thinking that he's infallible. Some letters that say that he's wrong, most likely a small number compared to those that say that he's right or ask him for advice, implying that he's generally right, and in sixteen years he's learned to ignore that sort of criticism, as he generally should. But that doesn't mean that his opinions are always right, it just means that it's understandable how he can think that.

And, well, there's this fourth possibility:

4. Dan Savage wants to live in a world free of satire. So I have a few more ideas for protests for Dan.

What about this bigot on ABC who thinks gays are promiscuous predators who'll have sex in public?

What about this one that implies that people choose to be gay and repeats a bunch of homophobic stereotypes?

Or how about Comedy Central's raging homophobe who thinks that gay and lesbian soldiers are working with the terrorists to decrease troop morale?

Oh, wait, this whole last point is satire on my part, so I guess I'm now a raging homophobe.

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I was going to send you a link to Garrison's explanation and then you posted your piece. How funny. I still agree with you, Alex. This is ridiculous and just makes Dan look like an ass.

Yeah, I saw it this weekend, but just sat on it since then.

I really wish Dan weren't being ridiculous. I am much more a fan of his column than Garrison's radio show, which I hadn't even heard of until last week.

Sorry, but something's not funny just because the speaker says it is.

Sustitute watermelon-chomping, white-woman-raping black people or money-grubbing, power-hungry Jews and see how funny it is.

I think we can cross out the "Dan hates Midwesterners" idea, since he's from Illinois and visits the place often, and not just to see family.

I agree, I think his outrage is misplaced at best. But we all have our off days. I say wait and see if evidence accumulates that he's slipping into late-Royko-era angry grumbling before we start condemning him.

My two bits...

You realize Dan's a Midwesterner, right?

I'll have to go with #3. I was speaking with a friend about this story; we both agreed that it was satire, and we were rather bewildered to see all this venom directed at GK. I opined that he would probably release a statement, and Savage would insist that he was still 100% correct; GK is still a homophobe.

I hate being 100% correct.

I've never been a fan of Savage or his column, but this whole thing has put him on the ignore list for me.

Oh, and as another Midwest gay boy, can I invite you over to a potluck dinner sometime? ;)

Yeah, I know he's a midwesterner --- from Chicago! That doesn't mean that he's a big fan of the Great Plains - at all! Plus there're a lot of folk who leave here for the coastal cities and have a "The Midwest? I'd only go back there to spit on people!" attitude.

4 was meant to be ironic, 1 and 2 were just kinda possibilities (I've harbored midwestern resentment against Dan since that 2004 column, and those of you who doubt he's a coastal-urban snob, check out the full text), but yeah it's prolly #3.

Yeah, I know he's a midwesterner --- from Chicago! That doesn't mean that he's a big fan of the Great Plains - at all! Plus there're a lot of folk who leave here for the coastal cities and have a "The Midwest? I'd only go back there to spit on people!" attitude.

Yup. That's kind of like saying that someone from San Francisco can't possibly feel irrational hatred for most of the rest of California.

And I think it is fair to say that Dan hates the midwest--it is pretty common amongst people who live on the coast states. We think you're all a bunch of bible-and-fag-thumping fundies, and who the fuck is Tammy Baldwin?

I'll have to go with #3. I was speaking with a friend about this story; we both agreed that it was satire, and we were rather bewildered to see all this venom directed at GK. I opined that he would probably release a statement, and Savage would insist that he was still 100% correct; GK is still a homophobe.

Me, too. I remember a couple years ago, he answered a letter from a man who had complained that, since their recent marriage, his wife had gained a lot of weight real suddenly, ceased to have any interest in sex or her husband whatsoever, started lying around a whole hell of a lot, and stopped taking care of herself. He was baffled and more than a little bit annoyed.

I thought to myself, "Gee, she sounds clinically depressed, and her husband sounds kinda insensitive. Perhaps some counselling?"

Dan's answer? Obviously, the woman had only been grooming and jogging and going down until she could snag herself a may-un, and now that she'd trapped one she figured she could turn into a frigid lardass. Dude should give the ungrateful slob an ultimatum and serve her with papers if she didn't climb back on the treadmill immediately.

The next week, he mentioned that many people had written in. I'm guessing that their responses ranged from, "Gee, she sounds clinically depressed. And he sounds kind of insensitive. Perhaps some counselling?" to, "SHE'S DEPRESSED, YOU IDIOT! AND HER HUSBAND'S A SEXIST LOSER! HOW DARE YOU IMPLY THAT ANY OF THIS IS HER FAULT! WHAT'S SO WRONG WITH BEING FAT, ANYWAY?" Dan implied that none of the letters had been even a little bit reasonable, and ridiculed all the people who felt a little dismayed to read his original advice.

I don't see how this is satire. A lot of satire is "cute bigotry" or "funny bigotry" that people enjoy. Take most stand-up comedy, for example. Someone jokes about gays, retards, blacks, jews, etc. We like it. We accept it. It's done intentionally, and it's funny for a whole bunch of reasons.
Keillor's column doesn't seem to fit this type of humor. There is no suggestion that what he says is supposed to offend in any way. It also doesn't fit the "Modest Proposal"-style satire that pokes some fun at its audience until they "get" the joke. Is Keillor saying the exact opposite of what he means? I really don't buy it. Please prove it. Keillor's column plays around with stereotypes and ideas for effect. No one thinks he meant to make a bigoted comment that would cause any outrage. But is there an "I get it" moment of comedy in his column like the Colbert Report. I didn't think there was. I thought he was trying to make some semi-comical statements about the state of the world that his readers could relate to. Of course it's tongue-in-cheek. It's full of exaggeration and overreaction. It's meant to be funny. But if there's some suggestion that the basic points, stripped of their exaggeration, are complete and total satire, I missed the "I get it" moment. Based on Keillor's work, it doesn't seem like he's a straight-faced satirist. Even the Colbert Report has a little wink for the audience to let you know its satire. Good satire always has an intention, unlike run-of-the-mill comedy. Someone please explain, if you can, what the intention of the piece's satire was?

DSE - I posted about the intention of this satire at some length here. I'm not expecting everyone to agree that it's satire, but let's be honest, you did more analysis in this comment on this blog than Dan Savage did throughout all of his tirades put together.