I recently had to catch up on a literary classic -- and by classic I mean one written before the 21st century. You know, one of those books you should've read in high school, but only pretend to know by name? Well, had I read this particularly cautionary tale by Mr. Oscar Wilde (the eminent 'mo of his Victorian day), I might've shaved a decade of adolescent learning off my life.
For those of you like me, who barely knew Dorian Gray by name, I highly suggest you rush out and buy or download The Picture of Dorian Gray for free. This isn't a classic you need to add zombies to make entertaining; Wilde is as witty as Mean Girls.
|You've probably never seen the movie either, it's even more obscure.|
That said, here’s my Spark Notes. It’s about this high-society guy so hot everybody wants to be him or be with him. When a painter captures his hotness in portrait form and his sassy and sinister best friend / devil on his shoulder Lord Henry Wotton puts bad advice in his head (i.e. "the people who love only once in their lives are really the shallow people”), Dorian makes a Devilish deal to ensure the painting ages instead of him. Essentially free of his conscience, Dorian becomes a sleazy, self-absorbed narcissistic hedonist who leaves a trail of heartbreak and suicide in his wake. Until, spoiler-alert, he goes insane, stabs a few people--and then the painting--effectively killing himself.
|Modern-day Dorian Grays, and, no, they don't need magic paintings.|
It's not very difficult to draw comparisons to today. Dorian’s basically the 19th century equivalent of a modern day player douchebag. He's gorgeous, likely grew up in the Hamptons, never had to work a day in his life (unless you count modeling), and gets everything in his life served to him on a silver platter. He even has a name readymade for a CW show. Now we may not have magic paintings that can keep us young, but with convincing botox and mad science telomerase-enhancing pills, we're getting pretty close.
Hollywood movies have taught us that, at least in the heterosexual world, extreme cases of hot assholes who coast through their formative years on their looks generally get eclipsed by smart geeks with robust senses of humor. Eventually these super-hotties get their comeuppance when their looks fade and women become wiser of their disingenuous ways. Or they eventually learn that even though their good looks can get them laid (or better marks, careers and criminal court verdicts), relying on them can be pretty soul-crushing.
|Even Mr. Gosling learned that being a hedonist douchebag eventually gets old.|
But if there is one place where this retribution is so delayed it sometimes never even happens, it's the gay world. And this is speaking from experience.
If you’re young and beautiful you’re immediately ushered into the elitist scene as the belle of the ball – maybe even made the live-in of a richer silver fox “daddy.” (AKA our Lord Henry Wotton). Adolescence into adulthood (the critical period of life where most people learn to stop being shallow, self-absorbed narcissists) is thus postponed. You may not ever need to go through it, depending how good your genes are – and how much capital you’ve got to spend on Botox and steroids. That’s right, we may not have a magic age-defying mirror, but we do have plastic surgery!
Let’s examine some other lessons to learn from Dorian. Take the Grindr meat market – a dating app that reduces human beings into savage animals – where we select our sex partners for their pretty faces and six-pack abs while callously rejecting the fat, femmy or ethnically diverse, with not a second consideration to how these guys might take said rejections. Sound a bit like when Dorian Gray rejects once-fiancé Sibyl Vane and she ends up committing suicide: "You have killed my love. You used to stir my imagination. Now you don’t even stir my curiosity."? Okay maybe we’re not that bitchy, but you get the point.
|Douchebags of Grindr: if only they read The Picture of Dorian Gray|
And what about our canonization of mean-spirited Über-cunts like Cersei “I’ll have you strangled in your sleep” Lannister and Regina “that is the ugliest F-ing skirt I’ve ever seen” George? We love these bitches so much, fellow homo Ryan Murphy made a whole show about them for us with American Horror Story: Coven. Well guess what, before there was Regina George or Fiona Goode there was Lord Henry Wotton, who had delightful one-liners like: "I choose my friends for their good looks, and my enemies for their good intellects" and "Mrs. Vandeleur was so dreadfully dowdy that she reminded one of a badly bound hymn-book".
So why do some of us love these bitches so much? Probably because deep down we're incredibly insecure Dorian Gray-types, so we like to put others down to make ourselves feel better. Why is this beginning to sound like an after school special?
|Bitches: Why do we love them so much? Probably because we identify with them.|
Needless to say, visit any gay scene and you're sure to encounter more than a few vain, self-absorbed Dorian Grays and their enabling, sassy Henry Wottons, and it's a vicious cycle with loads of collateral damage. Sure to call members of the gay community shallow and superficial isn’t new but speaking as one of these self-absorbed, Dorian Gray Biotches, I think it bares repeating.
I think I'm ready to atone for past sins, and this isn't just my bitter, dried-up cynicism talking. Even if I had read The Picture of Dorian Gray in high school, I probably would’ve rejected the wisdom it had to offer. I still wanted to be older, so I didn’t know what it was like to dread age and I wasn’t even out of the closet, so I didn’t know what it was like to appreciate beauty.
But now, as somebody who spent the last decade chasing twinks at Buddies, dropping snarky one-liners to friends and foes alike, and leaving a wake of victims in my douchey wake - basically trying to be or be with Dorian Gray - I'm ready for some change.
And thus I pledge 2014 to be the year I try to become Miss Congeniality.