‘Hollywood Squares’ Goes Hip Hop: Why It Needs a Gay Panelist
ByÂ Matt PatchesÂ , Hollywood.com StaffÂ |Â Friday, March 30, 2012
In the grand tradition of modernizing classic brands, MTV2 announced that they will revive the game show propertyÂ Hollywood SquaresÂ with a 21st century spin.Â Hip Hop SquaresÂ will feature familiar names likeÂ DJ Khaled, Fat Joe, Mac Miller, Machine Gun Kelly, Ghostface Killah,Â Nick CannonÂ while throwing in the occasional associated panelist, including Pittsburgh Steelers linebackerÂ LaMarr WoodleyÂ andÂ Jackass/WildboyzstarÂ Bam Margera. Speaking to EW, MTV2’s programming chief Paul Ricci the goal was to “refresh an iconic format and create a fun, dynamic series that’s unpredictable, heavy on personality and much more ‘party’ than ‘game show’.”
That line-up carries serious weight, but there’s a missing piece of the puzzle that helped the show’s previous incarnations become milestones. Based on the released hip hop-centric panelists, there’s a complete lack of diversity â€” specifically on the sexual-orientation front. That may not seem like a big deal, but for all of the game show brand’s kitsch and silliness,Â Hollywood SquaresÂ pushed the envelope; in 1968, the original version anchored the show withÂ Paul Lynde, who, while never revealing his personal sexual preferences, but retroactively became a gay figurehead. In the 1998 revival, comedianÂ Bruce VilanchÂ was a permanent fixture, routinely cracking innuendo jokes that spoofed his sexuality. There’s no written rule thatÂ Hollywood SquaresÂ needs a gay cast member to function or be properly executed, but it’s boldly hosted them with little audience resistance and always for entertainment-driven reasons.
The hip hop industry is notoriously narrow and there history with the gay community has rough patches. Currently, there aren’t openly gay rappers working with mainstream labels. ButÂ Hip Hope SquaresÂ panelist Fat Joe believes there are plenty working in the industry. In a 2011 interview,Â the rapper told VladTVÂ that he believed there was a large gay community in the hip-hop world â€” but that they weren’t coming out. â€œI think Iâ€™ve done songs with gay rappers. Iâ€™m pretty sure of that â€¦ I happen to think thereâ€™s a gay mafia in hip-hop. Not rappers â€” editorial presidents of magazines, the PDs at radio stations, the people who give you awards at award shows â€¦ Theyâ€™re in power â€¦ So why wouldnâ€™t a guy come out and say, â€˜Yo, Iâ€™m gayâ€™ and get that type of love? ” Author Terrance DeanÂ corroborates the ideaÂ in his 2008 bookÂ Hiding in Hip Hop: On the Down Low in the Entertainment Industry â€” from Music to Hollywood. Gay hip hop artists exist â€” and may even be stars â€” but the industry pressure doesn’t allow them to be open.
Even if gay artists aren’t prominent in the big labels, they are working, and thriving, in the US.Â MC Big FreediaÂ isÂ breaking out in New Orleans, helping expand the Sissy Bounce genre out of its regional confines (he appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! earlier this year), whileÂ Cazwell has gained notoriety through the True Color Tour and LOGO promotion â€” but you won’t find his music videos running in regular rotation on Viacom’s sister site MTV.
In a strange way, MTV2 has an opportunity withÂ Hip Hop Squares. Bring in the audience that comes for Ghostface Killah, Nick Cannon and a handful of NFL stars then expose them to some wonderful gay talent. Based on the announced line-up, the show already sounds homogeneous. The rap world is dying for a breakout, an equality game changer that even the media seems unable to crack (The New York Times isprofiling MC Big FreediaÂ and yet few have heard of him). The newÂ Hollywood SquaresÂ needs its Paul Lynde, its Bruce Vilanch, its diversity. And there are plenty of choices.