SNL’s Three-way skewers ‘no homo’ trope

To commemorate the season finale of Saturday Night Live (which aired May 21), host Justin Timberlake and SNL cast member Andy Samberg reprised their wildly popular ’90s R&B lady-killing lech personas, this time to set the record “straight” regarding heterosexual masculinity’s inclination toward gay panic.

“It’s not gay when it’s in a three-way / With a honey in the middle there’s some leeway.”

Three-Way (The Golden Rule) is the third installment in the Timberlake-Samberg digital-short series, and it parodies straight masculinity with the gusto of its predecessors.

Let’s take a moment to revisit the first two “chapters.”

In December 2006, Timberlake and Samberg donned faux “rap industry standard” beards, double-breasted suits, silk shirts, gold chains and dark sunglasses and delivered the now-infamous R&B-styled ribald romp, Dick in a Box. Witness as the two Casanovas, “ready to lay it on the line,” present their long-time girlfriends with “a gift real special.” Indeed: “It’s my dick in a box / Ooh, my dick in a box, girl.” How to gift someone with your own dick in a box? “One, cut a hole in a box / Two, put your junk in that box / Three, make her open that box.”

The short – which went viral overnight and snagged an Emmy (Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics) – ends as Timberlake and Samberg are caught parading their gift-wrapped dicks outdoors and are arrested for indecent exposure.

It wasn’t until May 2009 that Timberlake and Samberg released their follow-up (which also went viral). Mother-Lover opens just as the pair are released from the Brooklyn Detention Complex, having served five months for their dick-in-a-box fiasco. Coincidentally, it’s Mother’s Day – and both have forgotten to arrange gifts. In between a gym workout (acid-wash and neon), and a street-meat luncheon (lots of orange silk), the Don Juan duo – desperate to show their mothers (both of whom are single and “forlorn”) just how much they care – come up with “the second-best idea” they’ve ever had: “We should fuck each other’s mothers.”

They croon: “[E]very Mother’s Day / Needs a mother’s night / If doing it is wrong / I don’t want to be right.”

And so, with a good-son pat on the back – “They will be so surprised / We are so cool and thoughtful” – the mother-lovers initiate a “switcheroo,” which sees their mothers (played by Susan Sarandon and Patricia Clarkson) “sex[ed] … right.”

Enter Three-Way (The Golden Rule). The short opens the morning after Timberlake and Samberg have sufficiently mother-loved (which took well over a month, given that it’s now “summertime in the city”). The libidinous young bucks greet each other, promptly begin bragging about booty-call possibilities, then decide to part ways while they “handle that” – only to find themselves on the doorstep of the same “cutie” (played by Lady Gaga), who asks if they’re willing to “freak together.”


A “triple connection” ensues. And while the boys note the challenge that “lights off” presents (“Here in the dark / It’s so hard to tell / Where her body ends / And my homie’s begins”) and do their best to straighten the story (“We’re two Jack Trippers and a Chrissy”), they’re ultimately caught betwixt the sheets sans “honey.”

The short wraps with an anxious display of “helicopter dick” (which looks just like it sounds) and a self-conscious “instant replay” reminding us of the “honey in the middle.”

The result? An exceedingly clever climax to the Timberlake-Samberg series of straight-masculinity spoofs. What began as the story of two dudes obsessed with the self-styled omnipotence of their own cocks concludes with the story of two dudes obsessed with touching each other’s cocks.

Back in March 2009, when Samberg graced the cover of Out magazine, he was asked about SNL’s approach to queer. Said Out: “It’s not unfair or completely inaccurate to say it’s a small step from punch line to punching bag.”

According to Samberg, however, queer-inspired SNL skits are not motivated by a desire to ridicule gay, but rather to highlight and challenge straight masculinity’s queer panic. The motivator is “bro-gay,” explained Samberg, “which I love, just because dudes that are bros and super anti-gay are the ones who need to get it the worst. They’re the ones we have the most fun fucking with.”

Samberg and his hip-hop comedy troupe, Lonely Island, take this tactic one step further on their new album, Turtleneck & Chain (which dropped May 10). The track “No Homo” challenges the ways in which heterosexual masculinity seeks security through homophobia, or “no homo” – see, for example, Lil Wayne’s “Let the Beat Build” (“I wear bright red like a girl toe, no homo”), and “I Like Dat” (“I love my niggas, no homo”).

Says Samberg in a recent interview with Complex: “We have cousins who are 11 or 12 years old who are like, ‘Hey man, do you wanna come over and hang out, no homo!’ Like, fucking kids just come over and hang out with each other.” And to Rolling Stone: “‘No homo’ has become so ubiquitous a phrase that we felt like it had to be addressed.”

And as for the song itself? Another clever parody that shores up just how homo straight masculinity’s “no homo” is.

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