The Male Gazed: On Hunks, Heartthrobs, and What Pop Culture Taught Me About (Desiring) Men

Catapult. May 2023. 208p. ISBN 9781646221462. $26. MEMOIR
In this collection of 10 essays, Betancourt (Judy Garland’s “Judy at Carnegie Hall”) brings a Colombian perspective to the concept of masculinity in his native country, the larger Latin American world, and U.S. pop culture. Betancourt, with his witty, erudite, and self-revealing writing, goes back to his childhood memories and the masculinist system he knew growing up in Colombia. He also reflects on the complex interaction of pop culture with the development of his sexual identity. He traces his earliest memories to attractions to male Disney characters and male imagery in telenovelas. Watching the 1970 film Myra Breckinridge, in which the lead character undergoes gender-confirmation surgery, was a pivotal moment for him, as was his TV viewing of the famous Puerto Rican astrologer Walter Mercado, who was also known for being gender-nonconforming. These moments made Betancourt see that there’s a need for society to refrain from gender stereotypes and reframe narrow-minded perspectives.
VERDICT Readers seeking an honest portrayal of one gay man’s voyage in the masculine imaginary will find a rich source of companionship.
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