What do you get when you combine stylistically awkward flash animation with loads of obscenity structured by the framework of an equally poignant and hilarious satire? This shit right here.
“Pilot” introduces us to Chozen, a young white man who is what we in the gay community call a bear: a stocky, scruffy guy who at least looks fairly masculine. This only serves to make the two teddy bears he carts around all the funnier for those of us in the know. After a commendably succinct bit of backstory about how he ended up in prison in the first place—framed on multiple counts by a former collaborator, Phantasm, who grew resentful of his glory-hogging—we find Chozen on the other side of his prison time. He’s ten years older, at least fifty pounds lighter, and is forced to crash on his sister’s couch, ordering G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra on pay-per-view for… personal purposes.
Finding that Phantasm has since risen to super stardom, Chozen’s desire to resurrect his stillborn hip hop career becomes a full-blown (pun intended) mission. He enlists the help of his old group (minus Phantasm, of course), who have been reduced to toothless, G-rated rap for kids’ parties, as well as a skeevy amateur “photographer” who spent several years in the techie end of the music industry, to rock an open mic night on his sister’s college campus. It is his first step toward artistic redemption. And, you know, professional revenge.
On the surface, Chozen is exactly as advertised, a deliriously perverse sitcom about a gay white rapper. It’s got sex, drugs, a soundtrack that I have already set aside money for, and even a few strategically placed black censor bars. But what really makes it stand out from all the other sensationalist novelties is that it’s actually good. It’s intelligent, funny satire that takes a fresh angle on its subject matter, and while the characters aren’t particularly intelligent, the writing is.
Yeah, we love Chozen because he’s funny and wildly inappropriate, applying prison behavior to everyday civilian life where it is plainly unnecessary, such as shitting with door open to keep an eye on all angles or claiming super dork Troy his “bitch” to keep a pair of douchebag frat boys from picking on him, despite the fact that sexual assault was likely the farthest thing from their intentions. And of course, yes, he’s a white rapper, but oddly enough, the show seems to be making less fun of white rappers in general than it is about white rappers who don’t seem to notice that they’re white. Chozen refers to “white people” like he isn’t one of them, and talks like a thug, while flashbacks of his middle-class, suburban youth make it perfectly clear that this is an affectation. So, he makes us laugh, and we like him plenty for that, but there’s further appeal to the character that might not be quite as obvious to a straight audience: he’s openly gay.
Seems simple, but think about it. He’s an openly gay, white rapper from a middle class suburb. The dude could not have more stacked against him professionally, and yet he embraces it. He treats men with all the swaggering, licentious objectification hip hop culture spews at women. He likes dick and ass, giving and receiving, and makes it all part of his flow. He doesn’t conceal his orientation (which, to the writers’ credit, is established pre-prison rape) to play the hip hop game; he owns it and manages to make his sexuality come off just as bad-ass as any of his straight counterparts, at least in-universe. Sure his lyrics sound kind of ridiculous—“Redemption! I’m back, lil’ suckas / If you’s a hot boy, let me see dat turd cutter / Bow down before da glorious one / your face is da target, my dong is da gun!”—but they only serve to highlight the true satire at play here. If you take two seconds to think about the surface joke (it’s a guy rapping about guys the way most guys rap about women!), it becomes immediately clear just how rampantly misogynistic and inappropriate mainstream hip hop culture has become. The ridiculata surrounding Chozen’s characterization and lyrics immediately sounds more out there and wrong than that of straight, male hip hop artists… but should it? Watching two oiled up beefcakes in speedos grinding up on a guy makes us laugh because it’s just such a ridiculous image, so why isn’t two women in their place equally comedic, in fact, to the contrary, accepted as sexy and natural? It’s a good question, and the writers are asking you.
I have, for going on twenty years, said that what made Beavis and Butt-Head so brilliant was that until you realized it was a satire, you were precisely who the show was making fun of. Chozen works the exact same stage, and it does so with style. Though loud, crass, and tons of fun, all of Chozen’s obscenity actually has a function, to make a bold, clear statement about identity, sexuality, and systemic misogyny and homophobia, and to make us laugh our asses—or, make that booties—off in the process.