The Ali Forney Center for Homeless LGBT Youth to benefit from Artist’s reimagining of 1980’s Icon on April 7th, 2011 at Headquarters Studios in New York City.
He-Man was gay back before it was cool to be gay. Back when the word ‘Gay’ was still socially acceptable to describe that awkward mix of weird, tacky & culturally garish in such a perfect way as to make some people feel harmlessly uncomfortable.
The toys, the comics & it’s conceptual universe were Tres-Gay and not in a cool way.
He-Man & The Masters of the Universe to anyone who grew up and lived through the several marketing attempts it’s commercial masters unleashed in the 1980’s & 90’s was a sad, poorly animated & conceived thing.
At the core of it’s mythology was the struggle of a weakling prince who was transformed into a 1980’s archetype of the muscled strongman to fight the forces of evil.
On paper it probably sounded like a great idea but one glance at the original toys & a review of the names of used for some of the more colorful villains and side kicks and you’ll be as confused as the kids were in He-Man’s heyday.
It was as if the nude black and white photos of the now Governor Swartzneger and copies of Prince Valiant sat upon the desk of marketers of the toy company Mattel during the first brainstorming sessions which gave birth to He-Man.
Small waisted & monstrously bemuscled the He-Man character and all his buddies have from their inception all looked & sounded like they just stepped out of some Tom of FInland scifi fantasy gay porn set.
The original mini comics which were disturbed with the first toys in 1982 do little to play down the seas of thong clad villains and friends who seem obsessed with the flesh of the hero.
These richly illustrated comics done in the style of Heavy Metal Magazines of the 1970’s served as character introductions and to help set the marketing fantasy world that He-Man and his friends would later be appearing weekly in were just as man flesh obsessed and pretty gay.
The inappropriate homoerrotic names & lurching villains of the Masters of the Universe are finally getting an artistic realignment this April 7th in the ‘Skeletor Saves’.
He-Man as a male archetype is firmly embedded in western popular culture for better or worse. It’s what the toy marketer’s were banking on when they planned & dreamed upon when they sculpted the now standard strategy: create a toy that can be featured in comics and cartoons and then reap in the benefits of all the secondary product lines that flow from those.
'Skeletor Saves' brings together many established & up and coming Queer artists to have at the problematic He-Man mythos. The poorly conceived plots and character relations of He-Man are fertile grounds for the artists participating in the show.
From Helmut Lang’s reductionist homage via logo to found photos the show has a great variety of techniques and mediums but all restyle the myth in a Gayer and more appropriate homo informed light.
Skeltor Saves is a part of a growing movement in group shows: choosing a topic from current popular culture and asking artists to explore it’s symbolic landscape.
Spoke Art in NYC’ held a highly successful group show inspired by the films of Wes Anderson called ‘Bad Dads’ and will be opening an exploration into the films of Quentin Tarantino & the Coen brother called ‘Quentin vs. Coen’ the same night as ‘Skeltor Saves’.
New York based painter Scooter Laforge who is no stranger to the juxtaposition of popular culture figures in distinctly not safe for work compositions
"He-man & his masters were my first crushes as probably 99% of gays.
The perfect bodies drove me crazy and still do!
Those huge arms and chests and tiny waists yummy!
Justin Winslow a New York based illustrator and hand behind the popular web comic “Mythfits” explains his take on this type pop-cultural re appropriation:
"Whether we like it or not popular commercial culture is the dominant thing we all have in common now a days.
It’s important to not just to blindly swallow it without taking a look at it and how it relates to you-
That’s what artists do and especially in this kind of setting for society or a specific segment of it.
By playing with this stuff we get to write a page in it’s history and reflect stuff everyone thought.
I mean who hasn’t mashed He-Man & one of the other toys together trying to make them fight and not noticed how it looked like they were poking each other with more than the swords in their hands.”
The show with it’s muscle bound icons has found a natural sponsor in the fantasy & activewear gear company ‘Slick it Up' & the first carbon neutral spirit company behind the the Brazilian Açaí berry spriit 'VeeV’.
All proceeds raised by the evening’s efforts including a $5 suggested door donation will go to the Ali Forney Center in New York city.
The Ali Forney Center the organization, it’s namesake and founder are the true heros of this erotic retelling of the He-Man myth.
The center established in 2002 after the tragic murder of artist & performer Ali Forney in 1997 has been providing much needed resources to homeless LGBTQ youth in the form of specialty shelters and an outreach & drop in center.
The short life & violent death of Ali Forney is an important story which serves to highlight the issues common to homeless in urban areas, the brutal violence often inflicted upon members of the LGBTQ community and the power of one person to help make a difference.
For all the progress made in popular culture and in the legal world, those with diverging conceptions of sexuality & gender identity, still face discrimination and misunderstanding in their day to day lives.
Homeless LGBTQ youth face specific needs that Carl Siciliano the center’s executive director and founder saw under served in the New York area after the death of Ali Forney.
Having worked with at risk & homeless youth for 10 years at the time of the death, Carl Siciliano used the lessons learned from Ali’s murder as a personal catalyst to begin working for the changes needed to avoid future tragedies.
In addition to providing one on one counseling & public resource referrals the center provides emergency and transitional housing for homeless youth ages 19-24.
To compliment these direct aid programs the ALi Forney center works with national media & through events such as the ‘Skeltor Saves’ to raise awareness and much needed funds.
Skeletor Saves will only be on display the evening of April 7th but most of the works available for purchase can be viewed online via their Tumblr stream. If you are unable to make the event in person the organizers are accepting bids via e-mail.
Purchasing art is not the only way one can support this event & the plight of homeless LGBT youth. Check out the Ali Forney Center’s website and share the event information with your network if you are inspired to help. ‘Like’ their Facebook Fan Page. Read about their efforts.
Visit their website. In this new economy non-profits like the Ali Forney Center understand monetary donations are not practicle for most and offer many other ways in which individuals can further their work.
Blog about them. Go visit in person. Call them. Tweet about them. Discuss with your friends.
About Justin Stone-Diaz
When Justin is not correcting people, relatives or online services on what his name is, how to spell it or explaining how hyphens, like bacon can make anything better he spends his time reading, writing pondering media in all it’s forms.
An attendee of Ben Jerry’s Scoop U, Reed College The School of Hard Knocks, Justin Stone-Diaz has contributed to various print, trade technical journals under his or some version of his name.
That’s code for he’s a ghost writer. Wink Wink.
He is one half of the media duo working under the moniker ‘Toonmonk’ and the pixel pusher behind this and many other sites.
- Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (kennethinthe212.com)
- Laforge Hijacks Bear 3/14- 3/20 (redbeardedoctopus.com)
- Heroic Crowdsourced Art Auctions (trendhunter.com)