Few natives of other lands know that Russia has its own version of Maxim, the popular men’s magazine. The Russian publication, in fact, differs greatly from the U.S version, however. This is best exemplified by their article covering this controversial topic, which is entitled “Gays We Respect.”
The list encompasses actors, musicians, comedians, writers and a mathematician, totaling 10 men. The actors are well known faces with widely publicized “coming out” stories. Notably we find the charismatic Ian McKellen, and the outspoken Neil Patrick Harris.
We are not surprised to see the inclusion of Freddy Mercury, nor Alan Turing. The unexpected acknowledgements come far off the beaten path, with writer Oscar Wilde, Judas Priest lead singer Rob Halford, author Chuck Palahniuk and French actor Jean Marais. Also included are comedians Graham Chapman from Monty Python fame, and the well-known, #2 ranked Brit comedian, Stephen Fry.
Interestingly enough, 4 of the 10 men are deceased. So, the pivotal question is – how were these people chosen, and why?
The common vein seems to be Maxim Russia’s perception that these famous men portrayed characters who were not gay in their roles, were manly men, or won over the masses with a great accomplishment while avoiding the topic of their sexual orientation. In fact, the article states exactly this, emphatically. “We, men, do not consider men who love men to be men. This is the rule,” the Russian Maxim article reads. “But there are exceptions. There are gays who have earned our respect and the right to remain real men in our eyes.”
No other actor has played the straight man better than Neil Patrick Harris’ portrayal of the womanizing Barney Stinson in the series How I Met Your Mother. In fact, Russia’s Maxim reads “It’s impossible not to respect someone who elevated the hunt for girls into a true art, who systematized all the tricks and techniques and created the ‘Bro Code.’ Even if he was just acting the role.”
Sir Ian McKellen tops the list, and has been forgiven “his orientation” due to his portrayal of the super-villain Magneto, and the wise Gandalf. Freddy Mercury, not included for being a gay man and rocking the music industry, was said to be added to the list for undeniable “bravery while fighting AIDS.”
The U.S. Maxim staff has completely condemned their Russian counterpart’s post. “We are deeply disturbed by the article in Maxim Russia and fully condemn it,” a spokesperson for Maxim told Buzzfeed. “It is entirely against the views of U.S. Maxim.”
Readers as well have distinctively expressed distaste and to some extents outrage. One reader even retorted by calling Russia’s Maxim a “little yellow news rag.”
The Moscow Times reported in July of 2015 that “Almost half of Russians — 41 percent — said the authorities should persecute people with ‘untraditional sexual preferences’ in order to ‘exterminate the phenomenon’.” When the rest of the world is moving towards equality and acceptance, Russia is becoming more conservative and less tolerant. In this light, Russia Maxim’s article is hardly surprising.