Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mo Bros & Angry Birds

Well, we’re one day shy of Movember, — that time of year formerly known as November — when Movember Brothers (Mo Bros) make money for male health issues by growing manly moustaches. (Yours truly has even set up a Mo Space here for this very purpose.)

As their official website describes, Movember went from “. . . 30 Mo Bros . . . in 2003 to 854,288 Mo Bros in 2011.” Quite an achievement considering it really started with two drinking buddies in Australia and spread to likeminded countries within a few short years.

From what I have discovered online, 2011 was their most successful year to date for fundraising which comes as no surprise given the momentum generated by their recent campaigns. Most Google searches for Movember produced results from 2011 . . . along with an abundance of commentary on who owns the most famous moustache . . . ever.

It is at this point that Freddie makes a repeated appearance in the official Movember effort. He was initially included in a series of famous ’stache owners alongside Joseph Stalin, Mr. Miyagi, Super Mario, Hulk Hogan, Salvador Dali, Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, and Che Guevara. 

All famous personalities, indeed, with equally famous moustaches. But for some reason, Freddie was elevated to unofficial poster boy status for moustache season as we see with this fun cartoon that sums up Movember:

I’m confused. When did Freddie go from being someone who represented the gay community through the outward expression of facial hair, to a symbol of manliness in its most basic sense . . . the ability to grow a mane of hair on the upper lip, an activity normally associated with the male of the human species? 

His adoption of a moustache is curious timing. If we look merely at the chronology of Queen albums, Freddie grew his ’stache some time between the photo shoot for The Game cover and the photo shoot for the liner notes to Flash Gordon, when we first see him sporting a moustache on a Queen album.

According to A moustache timeline found on the New Zealand History online website, “For some in the gay community coming out in the 1980s, moustaches were an iconic symbol of identity. Inspired by singer Freddy [sic] Mercury or bearded ‘Bears,’ gay men wore their facial hair with pride.”

Apart from the misspelling of Freddie’s name, I wonder if this statement is entirely accurate. If Freddie led the charge for homosexual men to identify themselves as gay through facial hair in the early ’80s, I think Glenn “Leatherman Biker” Hughes of The Village People deserves more credit than Freddie for inspiring a gay male identity. 

Freddie mimicked Hughes’ outfit way back in 1979 and Rob Halford of Judas Priest worn a similar S&M outfit before Freddie. (I know Halford accused Freddie at one point of stealing his look but I’m wondering if Halford was mimicking Hughes as well?) And then there is speculation that Freddie adopted Hughes’ moustache look more than a year later, but I’m guessing it had more to do with Freddie indulging in Germany’s gay underground while recording The Game in Munich, than following Hughes. Otherwise, why wouldn’t Freddie adopt the whole Hughes look instead of just the leather S&M attire? 

Perhaps Freddie wasn’t ready to make such a public announcement back in 1979? Or maybe the moustache — that symbol of gay masculinity — wasn’t truly in vogue until after 1980?

Whatever the case, Freddie’s moustache is now considered so epic that its power to persuade is undeniable. He’s remained in the public spotlight long enough that his stellar achievements as a musician and all-round rock god status are inextricably linked to his physical attributes such as his moustache, overbite, and vocal range. His moustache, in particular, is now imbued with a connotative quality that goes waaayyy beyond gay symbolism to that of sheer manliness. 

Even Jess below (a male given the tone of writing?) feels that Freddie’s homosexuality was separate from any sex appeal he held for the masses. Apparently, his moustache belongs on all best-of lists and not just Movember lists, as this online quote will attest to:

Obviously, this cover is not ‘scientific proof’ of Freddie’s effect on women, although I would be curious to hear what his ladyfriend here would say about working with Freddie for that shoot. 

Now that Freddie For a Day is gaining in popularity every year as a fundraiser for the Mercury Phoenix Trust (MPT), dressing up as Freddie is as easy as donning a fake moustache and a Magic Years concert jacket. 

Even Rovio, the makers of the mega-popular Angry Birds video game, got in on the action when they recently paid homage to Freddie by introducing an “Angry Freddie” character in Magic Years attire and crown. But they also added the epic moustache. This strikes me as proof positive that his ‘stache’ is perhaps the single most outward symbol of Freddie these days. 

In an effort to support the Freddie For a Day campaign, I purchased one of the Angry Birds shirts online for my four-year-old who has taken a liking to the Angry Birds characters, not the game so much. The FFAD online store is based in Finland but the fulfilment house is in California and when I received the shipment, I was annoyed that the invoice got Freddie’s name wrong. Bad optics people.

And what if Freddie were still around today to seeing his outward identity morphing from one stereotype to another. I’m sure he’d take it all in stride since he didn’t take himself or his moustache too seriously. He did shave it off in the late ’80s, right?
'A moustache timeline', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 30-Aug-2012

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