Stop Calling Elton John "Flamboyant"

Categories: Commentary

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Part of why I write is because I think words are important. They are similar to songs in that the right one in the right place at the right time can absolutely change your life. Words are not meaningless or forgettable, no matter what Depeche Mode might claim.

By Jaime Lees

I was writing a preview for Elton John's latest tour. And while I was doing research, I was reminded of a word that makes me absolutely crazy.

I swear, in nearly every single article I read about Elton John, the writer calls him "flamboyant." Clearly, the dude is flamboyant. In fact, he might be the flamboyant-est. But to call him flamboyant (especially when that word is put into quotes) usually reads less like an accurate description of his stage show and more like a "wink-wink" comment on his sexuality.

Maybe you think I'm exaggerating, but I'll be damned if I can find more than a few articles (ever) about Elton John that don't use that word. A Google search of "Elton John" + "flamboyant" turns out almost 1 million results -- and that just reflects the items searchable since the Internet became a thing. He had a career, and an untold amount of press, for 20 to 30 years prior to regular Web documentation.

Because it is applied almost exclusively to homosexuals, "flamboyant" is one of those words that rides the line of being offensive. Like many other words in this complicated language, it carries a subtle meaning far deeper than its dictionary definition. How much weight a word carries usually depends on the context. And in the context of Elton John or any other homosexual, "flamboyant" is a dangerous word. It's a literary limp wrist.

When articles say that he is flamboyant (or "fierce" or "fabulous"), it frequently comes across as cheap writer shorthand for "I did mention that this guy is a queer, right?" Though he is, proudly, all of these things, these words subtly perpetuate stereotypes and it both bores and angers me to constantly see them in print.

Normally, I'm not really down for too much political correctness. (I'll choose humor over good taste any day, trust that.) But the fight for gay acceptance and equal rights is ongoing and important -- and I think it's something that we should all be supporting. But if you want to outright call Elton John a faggot, that's fine with me. Do it. Then I'll know that you're a hateful ass and that I shouldn't value any of your writing or opinions. But don't hide your discriminatory bullshit behind barely concealed innuendo.


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7 comments
msbcez
msbcez

Id have to agree, with Steve. Flamboyant doesn't reference his sexuality as much as it does his nature, and demeanor. He could be straight and flamboyant.  However flamboyancy unfortunately goes hand and hand with being gay a lot of the time, but not all the time. And some a lot more than others.  No one is pointing out that hes gay, everyone out of the media already knows that.  They are pointing out just how fancy, drag and drama queen, and extravagant he is.  Which although its pretty obvious how he is, maybe a little less to some how much he is that way off stage.
When doing interviews or articles on people, the writer needs to describe that which he is writing about, and if the shoe fits, don't not wear it just because, some idiot feels its offensive to gay people.  Stop being overly sensitive.
Flamboyant wasn't a term invented for gays, its just an adjective. 
Some gay people choose to act that way,as do some straight ones.  It isn't a gay word tho, they chose to play the roll, because they like the attention being flamboyant gives them.  So whats wrong with calling them on something they are probably proud of?

keithdylan
keithdylan

Over the years I have noticed this phenomenon too, but I didn't really think it was solely a gay reference.  I really think the term is a lazy holdover by writers to describe Elton as a call back to his early days where he wore outrageous costumes, glasses and shoes.  He hasn't done anything like that for years/decades.  As to the comment that his lyrics show a bit more depth to the man, he doesn't write his lyrics.  As a result, there are almost no "gay" songs in his repertoire, Tom Robinson collaborations excluded.

1984
1984

How about hose hound?

ChrisYu
ChrisYu topcommenter

Elton John's on tour?

Steve
Steve

1.  You are sexualizing the word, in this context.  The guy played shows in a Daffy Duck suit, was The Pinball Wizard, and promulgated his glam image with extreme clothing choices.

2.  The first sentence of your "article" is unintentionally hilarious.

markzero
markzero

The lyrics to some of his top songs ("Candle in the Wind," "Tiny Dancer," even "Rocket Man") certainly attest to the fact that people are more complicated and interesting than the costumes (literal or figurative) they might wear in public, or the stereotypes by which they are seen. But I think any exploration of the question of why that's a relevant, recurring theme in his work is incomplete without mentioning his persona and sexuality in at least broad terms.

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