Toronto
3 min

We invented beefcake

In honour of its annual Queer Issue (which hit stands June 23), NYC arts weekly The Village Voice opted for a deliciously clever cover twist. Witness, as Vinny Gaudagnino, Ronnie Ortiz-Magro and Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino — the notoriously straight, fist-pumping, party-loving, bling-bling stars of MTV’s controversial reality show Jersey Shore — shamelessly court the camera in true beefcake style.

While straight culture reeled in confusion — Are they? Aren’t they? — the New York Post broke the news that MTV’s most popular Gym-Tan-Laundry thugs had no idea they were peeling their shirts for The Voice’s queer edition.

Online responses to this detail have run the homophobic gamut: indignation (They were duped!); mockery and derision (Looks good on ’em!); and “moral code” concern (They should have been told!).

The things heterosexuality has to tell itself to believe in its own mythology are fascinating. As Village Voice blogger Foster Kamer notes: “[M]ost people in America and around the world go, ‘Hmm, the Jersey Shore guys and (not-closeted) gay people, that doesn’t mix,’ and we go, ‘That’s what they said about peanut butter and chocolate, bitches.’”

Indeed, while Gaudagnino, Ortiz-Magro and Sorrentino posture chiselled chests (and insinuate rocket-in-pocket), the pink crotch–level headline proclaims: “The Guido Ideal.” The kick? “MTV’s surprise hit accents the real situation: Jersey’s shore on the down-low.” The cover’s corresponding article explores both the out-and-proud and “down-low” elements of Shore-based homo culture (think “18-man hot tub[s],” “stealth Guido hookups,” public bathroom “peepholes” and “Golden Hour” — that’s absolute last call at the bar, if you please) — and speaks to the striking aesthetic kinship between MTV’s Shore boys and the real-life Shore men who fuck men.

As gawker.com declares: “Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you’re watching Jersey Shore or walking up Eighth Avenue in gay old Chelsea in the ’90s…. The circuit-party ideal from decades past has morphed into this new macho aesthetic. Yes, the Ed Hardy is their own addition (there are some things that gay men would never allow), but the rest has been co-opted from the men-who-love-men that came before them.”

This juxtaposition — this queering the queer — is particularly intriguing given that back in February, previously unaired footage of Ortiz-Magro throwing a homophobic tough-guy tantrum was leaked on YouTube. The incident — which occurred just prior to the ratings-worthy fisticuffs that MTV did air — sees Ortiz-Magro, girlfriend in tow, exchanging taunts with another young buck during a late-night swagger along the Seaside Heights boardwalk.

“Look at your flip-flops, you fucking faggot,” yells Ortiz-Magro. “Yeah, grow some hair, you fucking queer.”

Post-leak, Ortiz-Magro made a slipshod stab at damage control via Twitter: “I apologize to my fans, In the heat of the moment i said a lot of things i didnt mean and im very sorry.”

It’s a nice spin: homophobe cum Queer Nation poster boy. So far, however, Ortiz-Magro hasn’t responded to the honour.

His cover-mates, on the other hand, have acknowledged with aplomb.

Gaudagnino’s emphasis is on bragging rights versus gay pride. As he tells gossip blog crushable.com: “I don’t think [it’s] that big of a deal. Whatever. I just take the pictures, I trust MTV to send them wherever…. Even these pictures, they look good, you know? So what am I going to say? I’m not looking at the morality behind it. Look at the pictures.”

The Situation — who, in December, told E! Online that he enjoys the occasional queer eye (“I’ll be honest, I like the attention. I’m flattered if there are guys with different preferences that have crushes on me”) — has been a tad more rainbow-inclined, posting his feelings on Facebook.

“As for the Village Voice SitUAtioN – it’s not for me to judge somebody’s sexual preference and in my opinion the SitUaTIoN looks good as hell and that is my main concern. It just so happens that The SitUaTiON has mass appeal and happily reaches a very broad audience.”

He’ll be pleased to note, then, that Jersey Shore adult video shop Peek-A-View boasts in its roster Jersey Score, a jerk-worthy fag flick starring “The Stimulation.”