What comes after this momentary bliss?

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Beach House – Myth

Swag is a particular performance of masculinity, a style of cockiness that can be traced back to the classic, white masculine swagger of someone like John Wayne. In modern times however, swag is more associated with the dominant pose of urban black men, who, through hip-hop and other cultural forms, have influenced expressions of masculinity amongst non-blacks as well. Swag, in other words, is the product of a deeply American merry-go-round of racial posturing and borrowing.

It’s also a defining but contested attribute of the modern NBA. When the league enforces dress codes amongst the players or when fans complain about “too many tattoos” on the court, these are essentially reactions to swag, which is to say, reactions to the perception of an excess of blackness. When columnists like The Daily Beast’s Buzz Bissinger discussed the NBA’s “race problem,” this is what they used to mean… at least B.L. (Before Lin).

For Asian American men, the fact that Lin exhibits swag is important because it validates a desire to lay claim to the conventional masculinity that many feel has long been denied them. Emasculation is a long-standing, dominant trope in pop culture representations of Asian and Asian American men; suffice to say, it is a tricky and conflicted subject, something that could — and has — filled books. Therefore, for those Asian American men who feel like masculinity is a club that everyone else has membership to, someone like Lin is a godsend, not just because he’s performed well in the NBA — one of the grand stages of contemporary American masculinity — but because he’s done so with swag. Those displays, such as wagging a blue Gatorade-tinged tongue after hitting a big three vs. the Jazz, confirms he’s “one of us,” not the kind of emotionless, inscrutable figure seen in so many Orientalist caricatures. This is an irrational fear anyway; Lin grew up in the Asian American Mecca of the Bay Area, he’s told interviewers his favorite player growing up was Latrell Spreewell, and even if his favorite groups are mostly Christian rap and rock artists, at least he likes hip-hop. But it’s not just enough for him to tell people this; swag is showing it.

[LA Review Of Books / Bloom.]

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