Metrosocial

George Michael, music’s tragic hero and founder of a new masculinity

While Bowie and Prince pushed the boundaries of androgyny, the British pop star's alter ego played out a bronzed-up, muscular, hard-partying, heterosexual trope.

 |  Metrosocial  |  2-minute read |   26-12-2016
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Eighties’ young adults worshipped Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, their god born to Greek immigrants in Britain. Georgios had by then become George Michael, and his posters ruled hostel room walls, girls’ closets and other intimate places.

His Faith, Careless Whisper and Last Christmas had become lovers’ anthems, and audio cassette tapes across the world would be played over and over till they were blank again.

He made his mark in a decade dominated by some of pop’s all-time bests: Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, Whitney Houston, Phil Collins, Stevie Wonder, The Police, Duran Duran, Blondie, Tina Turner, AC/DC…a very long and illustrious list.

But Michael and his Wham stayed in the top drawer. Until one night in 1998, he was dragged out of a public toilet in Beverly Hills, outed as gay in a sting by police decoy Marcelo Rodriguez.

michael_122616050206.jpg While Bowie and Prince pushed the boundaries of androgyny, Michael’s alter ego played out a bronzed-up, muscular, hard-partying, heterosexual trope. [Photo: Indiatoday.in]

The girls were shattered. The gifted hunk was perhaps never theirs. He cheated on their dreams not with other women, but men!

The boys were befuddled. With his chic chin-shadow or the thin handlebar moustache, the leather jackets and cool shades, Michael seemed macho and straight.

Then it slowly sunk in. With Michael — as with the other two rock stars who died earlier this year, Prince and David Bowie — a new strain of masculinity was discovered and quietly recorded. Boys could now become men in other ways than the one their fathers had told them about.

While Bowie and Prince pushed the boundaries of androgyny with their glam cross-dressing and slinky suits, Michael’s alter ego played out a bronzed-up, muscular, hard-partying, heterosexual trope before he outed.

Journalist Johann Hari wrote for the Huffington Post in 2011 that Michael “was slowly realising that behind the virile heterosexual hologram, there was a gay man pickled in confusion.”

So, when he outed, he showed that same-sex love doesn’t need one to be effete or outwardly different. One would never know how prescient the acceptance of his sexuality was, lives of exactly how many boys who lived behind the normal-male façade he changed.

And perhaps that was how he passed the most scalding test of celebrity; burning in the light of truth, yet keeping that legendary voice still and smooth as ever.

After all these years, one might even see the lines from Faith in another light: “Maybe/ You mean every word you say/ Can’t help but think of yesterday/ And another who ties me down to loverboy rules.”

Also read - George Michael dying this Christmas is a cruel irony

Writer

Abhijit Majumder Abhijit Majumder @abhijitmajumder

Journalist. Managing editor, Mail Today.

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