Overheard at SXSW

Guy at mike: In the words of Walt Whitman, do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.

Guy next to me (stage whispers): Gay.

Edit: I’m annotating this one for the non-literature/human-sexuality majors.

It’s deconstruct-jokes-day here at Librarian Avengers.

Walt Whitman’s status as an historical gay icon is key to this comment. His poetry is universal, but a Whitman reference in a different context is sometimes used to covertly signal homosexuality, a la “are you a friend of Dorothy?” The humor comes from the incongruity of the unfortunate speaker quoting Whitman in the context of a professional discussion, and having his comment sarcastically interpreted as a self-referential proclamation of his sexuality.

A similar situation occurred during the 2006 New York gubernatorial debates at Cornell University. Republican candidate John Faso inadvertently caused laughs among the student-aged crowd when he declared that he did not want to “force gay marriage down the throats” of New Yorkers.

5 Replies to “Overheard at SXSW”

  1. Valerie – Yeah. The poor speaker wasn’t really implying that, it’s just the asshole kid next to me (i know him, i can call him that) was being all snarky and using his wide-eyed Whitman quoting as a chance to mock his ostensibly “repressed” homosexuality.

  2. That took me way longer than it should have (ok, it took me until you explained it), but it was worth it.

  3. LMAO. That is hilarious. Apparently the guy had no idea what he was implying. He obviously needs to read more. I love the quote from Faso, too. You really need to be carefull when speaking in front of teens and 20-somethings.

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