Rob Anderson on Subverting Queer Stereotypes

Rob Anderson on Subverting Queer Stereotypes

Rob Anderson’s journey to viral fame all started with an iced coffee.

This time last year, the 34-year-old comedian — better known to his two million TikTok followers as @heartthrobert — was a seasoned marketing professional in NYC, who was always exhausted with a coffee in hand. He was on a rigorous schedule after all, creating social media content for a media publication by day and performing at improv clubs by night, with the only viable solution being a constant stream of caffeine that was “exclusively iced coffee.”

While this made sense for those swampy New York summers, what Anderson didn’t understand was why he (and seemingly every other gay man in the universe) would still order ice cold beverages in the dead of winter. Was there a “real reason” for this phenomenon? Or maybe some sort of “actual scientific explanation”? Not even Google seemed to know.

So after several pages of useless search results, Anderson decided to satiate his “need to know” by coming up with his very own theory. And the way he’d do that? By using “fake science.”

“Even though I’m obviously not a scientist,” Anderson laughed. “But if you throw enough real science in there, you can be like, ‘This is kind of real, but it's also not.’ And then I wanted to do the same thing with a bunch of other stereotypes.”

What followed was Gay Science, a satirical series of TikToks that take “biology, chemistry, physics and real science terms” to provide hilarious fake answers for “whatever stereotype... has already been established by the gay internet and gay culture as things gays do.”

Anderson explained, “I'll take a physics equation for gravity and I'll make it a little gay. So people who are into physics or like science really love these videos, because I've used genetics charts and all sorts of things that are pulled from real science. I just make them fake and make fun of them.”

Even so, he went on to acknowledge that there’s still a “very small percentage” of “people who miss the joke and are offended by his videos,” with some even going so far as to accuse him of perpetuating stereotypes. But as Anderson said, he was “not the one inventing the stereotypes,” which he typically finds on Twitter, before citing past videos like “how does gaydar work” and “why do all gays own this one [colorful striped] shirt” as other examples.

He paused for a moment, “I like to think that when people watch the video, they see their own habits and are like, ‘Wow, this is really calling me out, but I'm not offended. It's funny.’”

After all, the social media star explained that he purposefully ends all of his videos in “a really positive way,” whether it’s joking about a “gay-looking face being able to communicate 1,000 times more information with our nonverbal communication” or “why gay people talk with a high voice,” which Anderson describes as a form of “echolocation,” thus proving that queer people are “genetically superior to straight people.”

He said, “It gives queer people the power. Like, ‘Oh, we're advantaged. Evolution has advantaged us.’ At least that’s what my science says.”

However, Anderson’s subversion of queer stereotypes is made even more important amidst the rising tide of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and rhetoric coming from the right, who can be seen using the community as a scapegoat for everything from COVID to Brexit in videos asking questions like, “Did gay marriage cause hurricanes?”

“Queer and trans people have been blamed for hurricanes, floods, the financial crisis of 2008 and all sorts of things by [Rick] Santorum and all these other politicians,” he said. “Honestly, I was like, ‘What? You're just literally throwing things at the wall at this moment.’”

But as Anderson argued, these kinds of ridiculous arguments also allow him to humanize the queer community, specifically on non-TikTok social media platforms with less tailored algorithms. The best example is YouTube, he said, which he thinks of as an opportunity to give those “who misunderstand queer people or don't have a queer person in their life” the ability to see a different side of the community, apart from whatever “stereotypes are being [peddled] by places like Fox News.”

Once again arguing that it’s not quite “self-stereotyping” if his videos “put the power back in queer people," he continued, “I think it's interesting for them to see a gay person who’s able to laugh at themselves, while not making themselves the butt of the joke."

Ultimately, Anderson said he hopes it makes them think, "This is someone I could be friends with," because "if you watch the video, you get the stereotype but it ends with a ‘queer people are better and that was really funny. They’re all these wonderful things.’”

He added, “That's what you should leave with.”

Besides, Anderson believes it’s his responsibility as a white gay man to use their relatively privileged position in the LGBTQ+ community to bolster queer visibility while also directing people towards the efforts of “serious activists who do a really good job at communicating" the important messages.

“They're very intense and they're very serious, which we need. But I’m not necessarily those things. I like my messages to be playful and approachable, and I don’t ever really want to stray away from that,” he said, arguing that it wouldn’t feel right if he tried to expand his niche with content that reads “a little too serious.”

“And that’s not necessarily me,” Anderson said, smiling. “So I'm just going to keep having a lot of fun with it.”

Editor's Note: This story has been updated after misidentifying politician Rick Santorum. We regret the error.

Welcome to "Internet Explorer," a column by Sandra Song about everything Internet. From meme histories to joke format explainers to collections of some of Twitter's finest roasts, "Internet Explorer" is here to keep you up-to-date with the web's current obsessions — no matter how nonsensical or nihilistic.

Photography: Max Bronner