Monday 21 January 2019

Why we can just about forgive McGregor for saying that F-word

The Notorious caused offence last week - but, writes Donal Lynch, we should consider the evidence of a gay ally

Conor McGregor at the weigh-in for his Floyd Mayweather Jr fight in Las Vegas. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Conor McGregor at the weigh-in for his Floyd Mayweather Jr fight in Las Vegas. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

Can a straight person ever really get away with saying 'faggot'? That is the burning question posed by the video of Conor McGregor repeatedly using the word to motivate one of his minions during a UFC bout this past week.

Millions of kids look up to him and even for someone who generally sounds like a cross between a cartoon wolf and a Moore Street trader, it was hard to excuse.

'Faggot' is one of those words that cuts through the air like a knife wherever it is spoken. It's generally used by the kind of guy who was a school bully in the 1990s and has now grown into the meathead who thinks every gay guy fancies him.

Gay celebrities from Perez Hilton to Panti have used it in playful jest, but presumably that's like Chris Rock saying "n**ger". As the legendary comedian - who will be in Dublin next month - once pointed out, the only time a white person can get away with that is if it's the dying moments of Christmas Eve and there's only one of the toy your kid has its heart set on left in the shop... and a black person jumps in front of you and swipes it.

Then - and only then, according to Rock's Law - you are allowed to run after him shouting "stop n**ger!"

Trying to motivate one thick-necked UFC underling to punch the lights out of another possibly doesn't have quite the same level of urgency.

So we had to come up with more creative defences for our national anti-treasure - anything to avoid the conclusion he thinks like a DUP politician.

Journalist Ewan McKenna compassionately wondered what we could expect from someone who gets that number of punches to the head.

Others summoned images of McGregor as a really inappropriate children's entertainer - a sort of Krusty the Klown character, who forgets not to talk about S-E-X in front of the children.

Still others pointed out McGregor himself was on the wrong end of the same gay slur when Floyd Mayweather hurled it at him a few months ago, so how can we give him a hard time for using it himself?

When McGregor was also accused of racism during the endless build up to the Vegas fight, he brazenly replied that he couldn't be against black people, since he was black from the waist down. Applying this logic, perhaps we can forgive him for using the word faggot on the ground that there has never been a straight Irish celebrity who has so embodied the cliches of the gay community as completely as he.

If the lower half is black, the rest looks curiously rainbow-coloured.

Let's take his sport itself, to start with. It is disgruntled white America's new favourite thing, but its gay subtexts are about as subtle as a Broadway chorus.

The semi-nudity, the grinding, the oiled torsos, the braggadocio trash talk, the parade of torsos in the promotional posters - the only thing that comes homoerotically close is actual gay porn.

Then there is McGregor himself. Yes, we've long since moved past metrosexual to lumbersexual and other diseases of the soul too terrible to mention, but his level of preening and fashion victimhood teeters so close to Sasha Baron Cohen's Bruno character that it almost constitutes a type of LGBT blackface.

In this sense you could certainly say McGregor is an ally: the only other Irishmen remotely brave enough to try pink satin, tartan and actually do drag for a living are drag queens.And not even they would be vain enough to tattoo their own names in big letters across their chests, as McGregor has.

Like many members of the community, he name-checked this week, McGregor's primary artistic deities are also strong female pop stars - in his case Sinead O'Connor, Imelda May and so on.

Men don't get a look in for the walk-on song, but then it can be hard to identify with male pop stars singing about cars and stuff.

A powerful female voice is possibly much better for matching up with his inner warrior-diva.

Let nobody be surprised if there aren't a few Grace Jones and Madonna records somewhere in his collection.

Then - and there really is no delicate way to discuss this - there is the whole obsession with his junk. He refers to it in interviews, he shows up for weigh-ins looking either surprisingly turned on by the presence of a room of mainly men, or like he's stuffed a sock down the front.

Poor her.ie recently opined that "far too many people" had to look at his penis", and there is the inevitable impression that McGregor has never quite grown out of comparing genitals with other boys.

Again, only a porn star would make the trouser snake such an, er... huge part of the brand. So kudos to Conor for normalising this for the masses and making such a continued effort to reach out to all his gay male fans.

"Get your lad out for the lads" might just work as a ringside chant - after There's Only One Conor McGregor gets played out.

Obviously none of this would excuse a repeat performance, so when can a straight man use that particular F-word?

Translating Rock's Law for McGregor we can say 'you may use it - but only if it's the eve of Halloween and some queen has decided to go as you by stealing your fur jacket and pink satin outfit.'

The rest of the time, throwing out gay slurs just sounds like the result of one too many blows to the head.

Sunday Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss