I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that Chozen, the new half hour animated series that premieres on Monday, Jan 13th, is going to be a really big hit for FX. It’s a ballsy show with a tight little premise: a white gay rapper, fresh out of prison, is determined to become the rap god he was meant to be. Lewd, crude and sure to prompt an outraged letter campaign or two, the show also happens to be very funny and deserves some support from LGBT audiences for offering a sympathetic and truly original gay lead character.
Some thoughts after screening the first several episodes.
1. Bobby Moynihan does fantastic voice work
The longtime Saturday Night Live cast member is probably best known for his recurring Drunk Uncle character. He’s always been a solid performer on SNL, but never really a breakout star. Moynihan hits it out of the ballpark here as the voice of Chozen. Is it too much to hope for a crossover appearance of this gay rapper character on SNL? I’d certainly tune in to see a live action version of Chozen host one Saturday night.
2. Archer fans will love it
The animation work for Chozen comes from the same people who do Archer so it shares a similar aesthetic. Smart then that the new show premieres (and will continue to air) right after Archer. It’s the perfect lead in.
3. The music isn’t half bad
A show about an aspiring rapper has to of course provide occasional scenes of him performing. What’s more, Chozen is supposed to be a good rapper. Rap aficionados might disagree, but at least to my lay ears the music sequences are fairly credible. Show creator Grant Dekernion writes the music and has said the goal is to have at least one original piece of music in every episode. Interestingly, one sequence in the pilot – a music video that Chozen fantasizes – features nearly naked guys with teddy bear heads. That imagery looks a bit like the monkey dancers in real life gay rapper Cazwell’s “Get My Money Back” video. Homage? You decide.
4. It tries for a “post-gay” message
The press materials describe Chozen as a “white gay rapper” and even though he’s highly sexualized and unabashedly attracted to men, the character never actually self-identifies as gay. He’s not looking for kinship or a shared identity with the LGBT community– the only thing Chozen seems to want from other gay men is sex. There’s a scene in the third episode where Chozen, looking to hook up, wanders into an earnest LGBT College Student Association meeting. “Yo, is this the place where the dick at?”
The group’s leader, Terrance tries to get Chozen to state his orientation. “So, would you say you identify as bi then?”
“Well,” says Chozen “I identify you as a silly little bitch Terrance! Why you gotta keep labelin’ our asses. Just chill! No disrespect y’all, but I don’t even know what ’LGBT ’means. Like ’lesbian guys and bi guys and bacon and tomato’? Call yourselves what you like, but own that sh*t. If it feels good, do it! Me? I’m Chozen!”
5. It has a purely binary, sub/dom view of homosexual relationships
Chozen’s understanding of romance was shaped by his time in prison (which you basically get in a 10-second prison rape montage in the pilot). So it makes sense that when he initially falls into a steady relationship with hunky frat boy Hunter (voiced by The Mindy Project’s Ike Barinholtz) Chozen treats Hunter as his prison bitch. It would be truly disturbing, except that Hunter doesn’t seem to mind (and even appears to enjoy the debasement), the relationship is clearly meant to evolve over the course of the series, and the other characters on the show never seem to pass judgment on Hunter. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the couple was a titillated straight male imagining of a gay relationship: “Who’s the man and who’s the woman?” This will probably ring false for most gay viewers. (Though maybe not the s&m community.) The upside is that straight male audiences– which, being on FX, this show clearly wants to capture– might have a better chance of initially wrapping their heads around Hunter and Chozen’s relationship.
6. This is one dirty ass show
Every episode has a well-earned MA rating, with jokes about double pen, incest and prison rape (okay, it might be a little too cavalier with the prison rape jokes). The red band trailer below is fairly indicative….
7. People are going to be offended.
See above. You can count on One Million Moms to join the party. There are also elements in the hip hop community that will be unhappy with it. (The show takes some gleeful digs at the inauthenticity of your typical rap star). There might also be some in the LGBT community not keen on a hypersexual, non-P.C. gay TV character. Still, there’s never been anything quite like him on television, he’s ultimately lovable, and the show built around him is often laugh out loud funny. Gay viewers and other adults should definitely give this series a chance.
Chozen premieres Monday, January 13 at 10:30.