Chozen, FX’s animated comedy about a gay white rapper, concludes its first season Monday night. When the show debuted in mid-January, I called the eponymous Chozen “television’s boldest, brashest, most unfiltered gay character.” Over the course of 10 episodes, the lewd, crude series lived up to its production pedigree—its creative team has roots in FX’s Archer and HBO’s Eastbound & Down—but it also made a surprisingly powerful case for how elitist and unwelcoming “the gay community” can be.
The show was always a little bit different from standard gay TV fare—and not just because it’s a cartoon. At some point or other, the creators of just about every LGBTQ TV show find themselves insisting that they’re not trying to represent the entire queer universe but, rather, to tell the story of one subset: a bunch of white gay men in Pittsburgh, a group of black gay men in Los Angeles, a sprawling multiracial lesbian family in San Diego, yuppie lipstick lesbians in Los Angeles, or tech-sector gay guys in San Francisco. None of those shows painted a particularly realistic portrait of gay culture or evinced much interest in gay history, but they at least focused on characters who identified as gay and socialized with other queer people.
Chozen, on the other hand, is about a guy who is undeniably gay in some very key ways—he seeks out and enjoys sex with other men, he makes no attempt to hide who he’s attracted to, and doesn’t experience any self-hate or shame about it—but he doesn’t have any connection to an organized LGBTQ community. He doesn’t go to support groups, brunches, or protests, and when he does come into contact with gay institutions—a college LGBTQ group or a glitzy gay bar—they don’t want anything to do with him. He doesn’t speak the PC language of college gays; he isn’t rich or skinny; and he dresses like a thug.
To the extent that Chozen belongs to a tribe, it’s the ex-cons’ club. The season began with him leaving prison after 10 years inside, and it turns out to be a finishing school where the etiquette lessons are hard-core. Chozen has been dealt a bad hand in life: He was imprisoned for a decade for a crime he didn’t commit; he’s sleeping on the couch in his kid sister’s college dorm room; and he doesn’t seem to appreciate how impractical his dreams of becoming a rap star are. Fortunately for Chozen, he’s also blessed with a self-confidence that is probably undeserved but at least protects him from the reality of his situation. He’s one of society’s rejects, but he doesn’t realize it, which is his salvation.
On a couple of occasions, the show even offers an alternative to the mainstream—elitist, affluent, white, skinny, hetero-emulating—gay community: a community of queers rejected by those mainstreamers.
In Episode 8, “Boy’s Night,” written by out gay writer/director Ryan Shiraki, Chozen and his frat-boy friend-with-benefits, Hunter, go to Cathedral, an exclusive gay club. Chozen only makes it past the velvet rope because he’s with Hunter, but he soon gets himself kicked out. “This place treats a brother worse than Sing Sing treats baby touchers,” he complains. As he protests his exclusion, the gay world’s castoffs appear from the darkness: a portly middle-aged gent, an old queen in the Quentin Crisp mold, a superfemme African-American, and a smattering of the unbuff and unbeautiful. “It’s always the same,” the Quentin Crisp type tells Chozen, “No fats, no femmes, no freaks, no fleabaggers.” Chozen doesn’t identify with these gay rejects, but when he tells them they can’t handle the attack on the nightclub that he’s about to stage, the old queen replies, “Oh, honey, I’ve survived Stonewall, Anita Bryant, two Bushes, and one bitch of a virus. I can handle anything.” In the end, Chozen realizes that his position as an outsider even to these outsiders means that he’s uniquely placed to help. He prays, “Dear God, please let us take back your house from these homosensuals so that these other homosensuals can have a fun night, too, as they are your children as well.” And then they storm Cathedral, and the pretty young things flee the joint en masse.
As we head into the finale, there’s no word yet on whether Chozen will get a second season. I hope it returns, because Chozen is a truly original character, and the show is saying interesting, funny things about people and issues that are usually ignored.
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