Oh yes, this IS a picture of two members of the famous (or BG infamous?) Outta'sync with the sorta well-known Lance Bass of N'sync! In other words, you are looking at "Lance Bass," Lance Bass, and "Justin Timberlake." I know you are all jealous!
How did this amazing meeting of talent occur, you may ask? Well, the non-ironic Lance Bass came to speak at St. Cloud State last night in promotion of his book, Out of Sync (yeah, where do you think he got that title?!). He spoke about being in a boy band, trying to fly in space, and coming out in the public eye. It was pretty cool, and he was really funny.
From a scholarly point of view, it was fascinating to see all these young women, who were huge fans of his several years ago, still swooning over the guy. The last time I saw this dude (yes, truth be known-I have seen N'sync in concert!) he was about a quarter inch tall, hundreds of yards away from me in Miller Park, Milwaukee. Now, I'm standing next to this guy in his "dressing room," which is really a classroom inside a fieldhouse in EastJesus, Nowhere. Same guy, same fans, different pop culture landscape...weird.
But c'mon, was I starstruck just a little bit? Of course, like Henry Jenkins, I'm a fan of being a fan. I got excited when he signed my book and took this picture with us. And of course, when another audience member asked if he would dance, it was pretty cool to see him do five seconds of the "Bye Bye Bye" dance. (Don't worry, Outta'sync - he was rusty, we could have taken him!).
But all that aside, what struck me is how human he was. Rarely do we get to see celebrities like this, just hang out and talk with people. Although his responses to questions were probably coached and his stories were often "appropriate," he was still letting people ask him whatever questions they wanted about his life. He was very gracious and super polite (a nice southern boy) to everyone, no matter how crazy they seemed. And some of the stories he told were quite revealing - like the vulnerability you feel when fans chase you rabidly around the world; the way the press orchestrates your life and decides who you are; or his concern for the safety of his next door neighbor, Britney Spears. But, my personal favorite was the horrible homophobia he experienced at the hands of the Russian space program (and he wasn't even out yet). Clearly, no matter who you are, you experience these things.
So, is Lance Bass a radical queer activist? No, not by any stretch. But I do think that he serves a purpose. I mean, really what other way would you get a few hundred conservative college students from a campus in the rural Midwest, that is in the midst of a swastika graffiti controversy no less, to come see a young gay man talk about his life and experiences. If even a handful of these students think differently about "homo" or "fag" jokes now, he's made a difference that much of the faculty isn't able to do over the course of a semester. Sad, but true.
So, you go Lance Bass - spread your moderate and pop culture-infused message across college campuses! Change is slow, every chip counts. That said, those of us in the real Outta'sync will be expecting our royalty checks in the mail!