Macklemore, Madonna + Queen Latifah Turn The Grammys Into A Mass Gay Wedding...What Does It All Mean?
Several big things happened at the Grammys last night but the biggest was undoubtedly the big fat gay wedding which unfolded in the midst of Madonna and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis medley of "Same Love" and "Open Your Heart" (watch below). The 33 couples (billed beforehand as 34, suggesting maybe somebody got cold feet?) who were wed by Queen Latifah (whether presiding as the high priestess of hip-hop or a justice of the peace adjudicating "Latifah's Law," it's not quite clear) were actually a mix of gay and straight, representing all three 2-partner combinations you can get with adult men and women. Original diva Mary Lambert and NOLA's own Trombone Shorty added musical backbone and real emotional power to the words and symbolic star presence provided by the bigger-name performers. It was, as Latifah eloquently spelled out, a literal embodiment of the idea that music brings people together...but what does it all mean?
Let's pull back for a second. In case you had missed it, gay rights in general and marriage equality in particular have become the civil rights movement of the twenty-teens. In case you missed the signs of increasing acceptance everywhere you look--Corey Booker presiding over the first same sex marriage in New Jersey, for instance, or Mr. Cee's conflicted soul-bearing on Hot97--if you had any doubts left at all, Jay Z already mansplained that opposing gay marriage is discrimination. In case you thought it was just here in the U.S. that rising consumer (voting power) of a certain segment of the population was making the issue a driver of election cycles, the safety of openly gay athletes and fans at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia has taken roughly the same centrality to international coverage (with Vladimir Putin playing the role of the creepy homophobic gymnastics coach who keeps taking his shirt off for no reason) as black power did in 1968 and Israel-Palestine did in 1972. In other words, the world is talking about it. That being the case, did we really need a white rapper in a bolo tie and an afrocentric MC-turnt-talkshow-host to put it on stage at the Grammys to validate these blessed unions? Given the real life stakes for openly gay couples in countries like Nigeria and India (both of which recently passed or reinstated laws that make same sex associations--let alone marriages--punishable with heavy jail terms)...imagining the trivializing and gimmicky sideshow that would have resulted if burning draft cards or sitting in at a segregated lunch counter had been given a similar musical-theater pageantry in their respective eras..did we really need neon cathedral arches and Madonna in a white cowboy tux to bring us all together?
Well. Maybe in a weird way we did. In some sense, the central issue of our times--and the reason for so much of the far-right freakouts we see in the media everyday--is the passing away of the old moral order and the institutions and symbols that held it in place, helping ordinary people make sense of right and wrong. If we understand this mass TV wedding less as a political act per se, more as a sort of psychomagic ritual, then maybe we should recognize that a public enactment of the laws we ratify, with symbols appropriate to the age, is as important as the struggle and the real-world legwork which made it possible. Macklemore and Cowgirl Madge and a bank of Grammy cameras are for sure as hell not the setting and symbols I would choose (or actually chose, since I am straight-married) to bless my union with my life-partner...but that doesn't mean it's not right for those 33 couples. And what Queen Latifah has joined..."Let No Man Put Asunder."