So I’ve begun going to our local Y.M.C.A. to workout a couple of days a week. I use the term “workout” rather loosely, since I don’t really have a plan yet. I like the treadmill (now that I’ve gotten used to walking on a sidewalk that moves), and I use the stationary bike to get my heart rate up for a little cardio. But I’m not quite to the point where I know exactly what I’m doing.
Of course, going to the Y made me think of everyone’s favorite party song (or least favorite; there’s not a lot of middle ground with this one).
Watching this video makes me wonder how any reasonably intelligent (read: breathing) adult could not notice that this was the gayest singing group ever. I mean, I was like 7 or 8 when this came out, so I know how I missed it. I didn’t have any frame of reference or experience. But I seriously remember people being surprised that there were other connotations to what they were singing about. “You can hang out with all the boys” didn’t mean playing board games and basketball in this song. (I was a tad surprised when I figured it out some years later, but only for a few minutes. Then I thought about, oh, everything about the Village People and realized that 2 and 2 actually added up to a very fabulous 4.) Between the costumes and the lyrics and the dancing, it really was apparent.
Now my regular readers know that not only do I not care, I celebrate the open embrace of LGBTQ culture in this song. Sure, they played into a lot of the stereotypes of the gay community (cowboy, construction worker, cop, leather daddy). But they were upbeat and positive, promoting a vision of the community as fun and free. And human. The Village People are one of the earliest mainstream, pop culture representations of gays as something not deviant. They helped put a face on the community. They were non-threatening, funny and charming, with ready smiles and catchy tunes. It wasn’t the whole story, not by any means, but it was one chapter.
This is a story that’s still being written, and I’m still hoping for the happy ending (the one that says “And all the LGBTQ people got all the same legal and civil rights everyone else already had, and they lived happily ever after. The End.”). Without the Village People–and Elton John and Ellen Degeneres and so many others–we might not have gotten this far. So everybody get up, put your hands in the air, and sing along.
“It’s fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A.!”