Back on 2003, there was a great story in The Onion:
I thought of that when I read the knickers-knotting hysteria over my comparing the boring life that the other guy from Wham! went on to lead after George Michael split with him, to the self-destructive hedonism of Michael, who died on Christmas Day, aged 53. My conclusion was that Andrew Ridgeley’s failure to prolong and expand his fame was likely a great blessing. George Michael’s immense fame made Ridgeley an afterthought, a punch line — and may have saved his life.
I doubt very many of us could handle fame and fortune well. This is why winning the lottery so often ruins the life of the winner. They say that having a lot of money only makes you more of what you already are. It may magnify your virtues, but it’s easy to see too how it magnifies your vices. As my greatest vice (it seems to me) is gluttony, I could see George Michael money turning me into a version of Mr. Creosote. Whether or not I ever blew up physically, I would be at risk of having the soul of a Creosote, for sure. In Michael’s case, his vices were conventional rock and roll vices — sex and drugs — and that excess probably killed him. It certainly gave him an ugly, tumultuous lifestyle: compulsive, risky sex, often in public toilets or shrubbery, substance abuse, run-ins with the law, prison time. It’s not a life anyone could be proud of, or would want their son or brother to have.
Well, you can’t say that. An excitable person at Wonkette, a guy who doesn’t appear to know that I haven’t been a National Review staffer for 14 years, or a Catholic for over a decade, accuses me of saying that George Michael ought to have been heterosexual. Excerpt:
It’s true that George Michael lived hard and had a lot of trouble with substance abuse over the years, which MAY OR MAY NOT have ultimately had something to do with his brave and bold choice to live proudly, in a society that still broadly rejected gayness, as a gay man who wasn’t ashamed to let you know, early and often, that he liked fu**ing. The gay kind. (For more on this legacy, please read our pal Noah Michelson at the Huffington Post! SPOILER: It’s a story about gay fu**ing, and how George Michael liked it a lot.)
The point is that George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, though they achieved stardom together, were dealt vastly different cards in life. We imagine that it wasn’t all that difficult for Ridgeley and Bananarama [Note: Ridgeley’s wife was in the ’80s pop group Bananarama] to look at each other heterosexually and say, “Hey, let’s buy a heterosexual farm in the heterosexual country, the conventional way, and get out of all this limelight.” And maybe if society had been different toward gays in the ’80s and ’90s (you know, the age of AIDS), it might have been a conventional gay choice to meet and fall in love with a fellow gay superstar and buy a gay farm in the gay country. ALSO, MAYBE GEORGE MICHAEL WOULD NOT HAVE WANTED THAT.
So, let’s clarify this: it’s society’s fault that George Michael didn’t choose a stable life (“a conventional gay choice”), but anyway, if he didn’t want that, then we must not criticize his choice. Noah Michelson at HuffPo is even more explicit, saying that, “We could all learn a lot from his unapologetic approach to sexuality.” Excerpt:
Our queer fore-parents worked too hard, and too many died, for us to walk away from the dream of sexual liberation for all of us. That means we must not buy into a broken system that is simultaneously obsessed with and panic-stricken by all things sex. It means we must not accept the sexual status quo that all-too-often results in fake piety in the streets and discreet sleaze in the sheets. It means we must not pretend that Michael never had or loved gay sex. Let’s not sanitize him just because it would make it easier for some of us to eulogize him or love him or play his music for our children or our grandparents.
Michael himself wouldn’t want that. He’d hate it. Consider what he told The Guardian in 2005:
“You only have to turn on the television to see the whole of British society being comforted by gay men who are so clearly gay and so obviously sexually unthreatening. Gay people in the media are doing what makes straight people comfortable, and automatically my response to that is to say I’m a dirty filthy f**ker and if you can’t deal with it, you can’t deal with it.”
Well, that’s just beautiful.
If a straight Christian held the view that at the heart of homosexuality — male homosexuality, at least — is the desire to be a “dirty filthy f**ker,” they would be denounced as the worst kind of homophobe. But that is what these two writers above apparently think. I can think of no heterosexuals who would want their adult children (or siblings) to live by that ethic. I know plenty of people who wouldn’t care if their children were gay, but who wouldn’t want them to live by such an ethic. Because it’s disgusting and dehumanizing.
One of the promises made by same-sex marriage proponents was that it would make it possible for gay men to establish stable partnerships integrated into the broader social order. The idea was that gay men naturally would have done that, if it hadn’t been for anti-gay laws keeping them from doing so. I never believed that was true, because committed monogamy does not come naturally to men. Look at heterosexual societies in which men are no longer expected to be committed to the mother of their children. Most men, when restrained by nothing but their desires (e.g., social custom, religious belief, the law), will behave without restraint.
Noah Michelson even criticizes gay people who would stigmatize rutting in public toilets and under shrubbery, as opponents of “liberation.” It’s a strange kind of liberation that tells people that fulfilling their most animalistic desires is what makes them free. The ancient Greeks had no particular problem with homosexuality, but they knew well that a man that is captive to his own compulsions is not a free man, but a slave.
If George Michael had lived as Mr. Creosote, it would have been perfectly clear to nearly everyone that he was a man enslaved by his passions, and that whatever his musical gifts — and they were extraordinary — the life he lived was in some ways not worthy of emulation. But then, we don’t (yet) have a culture that considers appetite for food constitutive of one’s identity. The p.c. rule of thumb today is that whatever gay people — or any people — decide to do sexually is beyond good and evil, or rather, is good simply because they chose to do it.
It’s a lie that leads to spiritual death, and sometimes physical death too. There are many ways to live a good life — not everybody, gay or straight — has to move to a farm in Cornwall like Andrew Ridgeley — but the way George Michael chose to live privately is not one of them. By the time the Sexual Revolution runs its course, most of America will have become eroticized versions of Mr. Creosote. That clammy old English atheist Philip Larkin had our number.