The Tumblrification of Jessica Hopper
The events of the past few days reflect the more difficult side of this story, too. In the fantasy space of performance, artists have often been able to articulate what they otherwise feel they must hide. Ocean’s statement is a kind of performance; certainly it’s a creative work. It’s also a strategic move for a young man connected to mainstream R&B music, one whose path to LGBTQ pride isn’t as clear as Anderson Cooper’s (as Dream Hampton has noted). By telling a tale that also reflects the more problematic side of “fluid” sexuality, the side that’s about denial and taking refuge in more conventional heterosexual relationships, Ocean reflects on a much-discussed experience within African American communities and avoids the kind of grandstanding that might put off some fans. Like The New York Times critic Jon Caramanica, whose eloquent profile of Ocean appeared just as this news was breaking, I thought Ocean might just be playing with characters when I first heard his songs using male pronouns. In a sense, he is — but in the same way that anyone on the down low does. The character you create may be your own tragically false self.