In Defense of Irritants

If you haven’t heard yet, Perez Hilton got punched in the face.

The story is long and tawdry, but the summary is that allegedly asked Hilton to stop poking fun at Black Eyed Peas on his blog, Hilton allegedly called him a “f—–,” and then’s bodyguard allegedly gave him the bruise in this photo. In front of a lot of people.

There’s a thoughtful discussion of the fallout that I agree with. Perez Hilton is crude, childish, incorrigible, and unrelenting. Yes. These are all true things you can say about him. His blog is pure, unadulterated ridiculousness, shaming celebrities for innocuous (or even shameful) behavior, sometimes making fun of people he just doesn’t like.

And I say, Well, so what?

If anything, this alleged incident hasn’t really demonstrated that a large number of Americans would like to see him punched in the face. It’s demonstrated that Hilton has power. It might be dubious cultural power, but it is power serious enough to spur a bestselling recording artist to ask for some critical leniency. I might note this is the same band in which Fergie routinely pees her pants on stage, but that’s really neither here nor there.

Hilton is a kind of antihero for the gay community. Although we don’t all identify with him or the way he very publicly behaves, he’s one of the few people speaking up publicly about gay civil rights issues. He put Miss California on the spot on Prop 8 and started the chain reaction that ultimately led to the reversal of her state title. And, although it was ill-advised, perhaps his use of the gay slur “f-word” has revealed something else: that some men still consider being called the “f-word”–even by a childish, crude imp like Hilton–worthy of physical violence.

If you’ve seen the video, you know the conversation is brief, and that the punch comes immediately following Hilton’s beeped-out use of the f-word. And it’s not like the paunchy, pink-haired Hilton was so much of a physical threat that the punch was made the preempt other violence.

If you read the link above, there’s an interesting discussion of how quickly we can determine whether or not someone “deserved” the violence they received. It was an argument used against Matthew Shepard, that his advances toward the two killers created “gay panic.” Don’t even get me started on “gay panic.” It’s only a slight evolutionary step up from “Dan White ate too many twinkies and, in the sugar rush, killed Harvey Milk.”

Was this anti-gay violence?