Notes on Pride

Gen-Z Is Gonna Be OK: Lil Nas X's "Montero/Call Me By Your Name"

June 27th, 2021
Lil Nas X’s “Montero/Call Me By Your Name” is the queer acid trip I never knew I needed. And yes, I shit on Gen Z all the time. But after this video snatched me bald, I’m convinced that the children might be alright. Flirting with the themes of the novel and subsequent film, X’s Montero explores the closet, desire, unrequited love, and the time honored queer tradition of having your heart broken by a closeted lover. In all honestly I am ambivalent about the track itself (it’s a cute street or two over from being a “bop”). What puts Lil Nas X on my list (and perhaps redeems my faith in Gen Z pop icons) is the absolute lack of fucks he gives. From taking the stripper pole to hell, to twerking on a roided out dom devil muscle daddy, to snapping satan’s neck and stealing the throne, Montero is adamant in its refusal of subtlety. Even X’s tweets in response to all the concerned parents worried the “Old Town Road” singer is introducing their kids to gay sex and the devil are a study in digital shade and zero fuckary in 200 characters or less. The aesthetics and storyline of the video combined with X’s management of the controversy echo a similar provocation. As he wrote in the letter that accompanied the video’s release “people will be angry, they will say I’m pushing an agenda. But the truth is, I am. The agenda to make people stay the fuck out of other people’s lives and stop dictating who they should be.” The message is loud and clear. Whereas my generation often sought to appease straight and cis people as a (failed) inroad to tolerance, this younger generation is clearly saying fuck your approval and I am here for it! We still need to convo about kink/Pride, but another day. If Montero is any indication of the tone of what the next wave of the queer agenda might be, then I reiterate that the kids are gonna be alright and also sign me up. 🥂

"Still of Montero aka Lil Nas X Dancing with the Devil in Hell,"

Lil Nas X, Montero (Call Me By Your Name).

This essay suggests that mess, clutter, and muddled entanglements are the “stuff” of queerness, historical memory, aberrant desires, and the archive. Archives, therefore, are constituted by these atmospheric states of material and affective disarray and the narratives spun from them. As such, this essay maps these queer immigrant households as archives to showcase the vexed relationships between and among objects, bodies, narratives, and desires. (Martin Manalansan, The “Stuff of Archives: Mess, Migration, and Queer Lives,” 95)

Messy or mess is the word that pejoratively describes this particular immigrant household, but I would argue that mess is a word that can creatively illuminate the idea of queerness in general and queer archives in particular. My assertion of queer and queering as mess and messing up comes out of a critical reading of queer theory, popular culture, vernacular language, and everyday life. My use of queer and mess is not limited to bodies, objects, and desires but also relates to processes, behaviors, and situations. “Queering” and “messing up” are activities and actions as much as “queer” and “mess” can be about states/status, positions, identities, and orientations. (97)

Overall, mess provides a vibrant analytical frame and a visceral phenomenological grip on the exigencies of marginalized queers—especially those who do not occupy the valorized homonormative spaces of the contemporary West. Mess, as I demonstrate with a brief ethnographic vignette below, is a route for funking up and mobilizing new understandings of stories, values, objects, and space/time arrange- ments. As such, mess is a way into a queering of the archive that involves not a clean- ing up but rather a spoiling and cluttering of the neat normative configurations and patterns that seek to calcify lives and experiences (99).

I sought not to “create order” out of the quagmire of Natalia’s words and deeds but to gesture to the workings of chaos, mess, and morass in ways that deflect simplistic questions of origins, functions, and value as part of a queering of the archive. This essay does not clean up the mess but rather critically addresses the need to live with, against, and despite the mess. (105)

I am always struck by the way mess/messy is hurled as an insult. As a way to diminish someone who doesn’t comport themselves appropriately. Or to name a space/thing/idea that doesn’t fit into the narrow expectations we have. To be messy is to be unruly, recalcitrant, wild, and excessive. Messes and messy people cannot be contained. They slip, they spill and they seem dysfunctional and disordered. But what if mess is also a question of perspective? What if mess to those who live and embody it, is not chaos but “order” by different rules and a different name? Martin Manalansan’s The “Stuff of Archives: Mess, Migration, and Queer Lives examines a queer, immigrant home in NYC that can best be described as a hoarder house. Packed with stuff piled everywhere, Manalansan is struck not just by the abundance of disorganized things. He is also jolted by how each of the house’s inhabitants have a pristine understanding of where everything is despite how disorganized it all seems. His proposition then, is that mess might be the “stuff” of queerness in so far as mess refuses tidying up but also makes sense to those who are messy/live in mess. Put differently, messes refuse neat origin stories, use value, or legibility. Messes, much like queerness, refuse to be constrained by norms. Manalansan’s ode to mess is instructive in teaching us that what appears one way on the outside may be completely different inside. Mess then is not just useless or bad excess, but the ways that some folks manifest complexity and embody their complicated stories.