The music Billie Eilish has released thus far in her short but white-hot career has mostly been anthems of self-empowerment like "you should see me in a crown," with driving synths and aggressive bass, or atmospheric songs about heartbreak like "when the party's over." Now, the 17-year-old pop sensation has come out with "wish you were gay," a song flooded with a sense of longing that's a new addition to her emotional repertoire. But unfortunately, the otherwise quality song is marred by an uncomfortable dose of homophobia.
When the title of the song was first announced, many Billie Eilish fans hoped the song would be Eilish's way of coming out as queer. But when the song dropped, a particular section of lyrics made it clear the song is actually about a man:
"I just kinda wish you were gay
To spare my pride
To give your lack of interest an explanation
I'm not your type
Maybe I'm not your preferred gender orientation."
Then, in a live stream, Eilish confirmed this interpretation.
She says, "The song is called 'I Wish You Were Gay,' and that's so not meant to be offensive in any way. It literally means that I wish he was gay so he didn't like me for an actual reason instead of the fact that he didn't like me." She continued, "And guess what: he just came out to me a couple of weeks ago. So f***ing, I did that s**t! I wrote the song and made him f**k a dude. I'm f***ing proud, bro." She ends the video by adding: "That's okay, he can be gay with other gay guys, and they can be beautiful together. And I can just watch."
Many Twitter users reacted angrily to this news. One user said,
Another thought Eilish should know better, tweeting, "'wish you were gay' is sad and problematic. why are we always used as a joke or to make the straights feel better about themselves when they decide to not be uncomfortable. Although we all make mistakes, Billie is old enough to know what is appropriate and what is offensive."
So not only are fans disappointed that they didn't get the gay anthem they expected, but they're also angry to find that what they did get is a politically tone-deaf song that implies that if a man doesn't like Billie Eilish, then surely he must be gay. Not only that, but the insensitivity of Eilish's explanation of the song is difficult to stomach, in particular, her comment: "And I can just watch," that suggests a fetishization of homosexuality. She also implies that she "made" the man in question gay by releasing the song, a problematic implication that removes this man from the center of his own coming out story.
As society becomes more and more accepting of gay culture, this kind of fetishization of homosexuality, particularly by straight white women, is becoming more and more common. Enter the gay best friend stereotype in which the straight female friend tends not to be offended by her gay male friend's sexuality, but also doesn't take his personhood seriously in the same way she would a straight man. It's this kind of narrative that slips by under the guise of acceptance, but can be nearly as damaging as outright bigotry. We expected more from Billie Eilish.
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