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Topic: Queer Theory
The foloowing is a rushed essay that i did in a night and barely researched, but still got a B" for, so feel free to pick at it all you want it's rushed and i have gone through correcting it, so hear my raw words gaaaa!
Q/ What do you understand by the term ?queer theory? and how has it impacted upon the works of gay and lesbian artists?
As I understand it queer theory can be summed up as the idea that there are as many genders, in the sense of gender identity and sexuality, as there are faces and that ?gender norms? are only created through the identification with role models within that given culture, to take the Lacanian point of view.
Verbal, visual and symbolic language creates these identities rather than gender identities being innate as was once thought e.g. male masculine, female feminine. Lacan?s theory states that at the mirror stage of infancy a child will realise it is separate to the world around it and over compensate for its loss of unity with the world by identifying with it. This is the first time it will find a role model, often its mother, from whom it can derive part of its own identity by presuming that if its mother can move and walk and talk etc then so can it. This will continue throughout its life in ever more subtle ways and by identifying with others of the same gender to itself its gender identity is created, thus role models are key parts to all our development and attitudes.
I would argue then that gender identity is largely determined by ourselves and our environment rather than our biology and as such traditional gender roles are not so predetermined as once presumed.
In order to identify what we are by choosing role models, we must also identify what we are not. In other words pick somebody to identify against. In terms of gender of course this means women if you are a man or men if you are a woman. In the case of homosexuals therefore, the opposite is not present with as much significance and as such with potentially no or less desire to identify against a group gender identity, gender classification becomes superfluous theoretically rendering the homosexual with a genderless identity. This I believe is what Monique Wittig meant when she said "I am a lesbian not a woman."
Perhaps this is most evident during the fabled ?identity crisis? that is widely accepted as the stage before and immediately after coming out among homosexuals. The identity crisis in this context describes the angst created by first deciding your sexuality, and the ?not knowing how to behave? once it has been revealed to others. Analysed using queer theory what the subject identifies as gay, male and female and what the subject identifies themselves with at this point is determined by the heterosexual and homosexual role models present and how the subject is received by them. Representation therefore is key at this point for the subjects development as it can determine the role models the subject has access to and the attitude with which the subject is received.
Queer theory however, seems to suggest that all subjects are influenced by different role models in different ways, thus creating a unique gender identity each time rather than Lacan?s view of a single way of ?normal? universal development. This would remove all notions of polarised gender identity of men and women and indeed mean that everybody is of a spectrum of genders and sexualities rather than there being three clear cut sexualities and two genders. A personal observation of more accepting areas of society when compared to less accepting facets of society indicates that otherwise ?heterosexual? subjects feel a need for and actively seek out homosexual experimentation in environments where it is more socially acceptable.
This observation fits in with the ideas of positive and negative representation in queer theory as where on a social level derogatory language and symbolism towards any minority is used there is a greater inclination for conformity towards a gender/cultural norm; while in an environment where ?experimentation? is permissible, subjects express a desire to explore annals of behaviour on both sexual and non-sexual levels, indicating the redundancy of the ?norm? where prejudice isn?t taught or less prevalent. While this is merely a personal observation with more significant research required the example is present in surprising abundance.
In every Epoch the ideas of the ruling class are the ruling ideas, that is, the class that is the ruling material power of society is at the same time its ruling intellectual power.
Using the examples given above I can now muse on the impact that the depiction of sexualities, races and cultures other and as well as that which is the dominant in the media has on the overall opinion of the subject in question, and the effect it has on subjects ?belonging? to that sexuality, race or culture, the impact it has on artists of such groups and how that is reflected in their art as well as how queer theory has been depicted and used to depict subjects.
For me the penultimate film to analyse through queer theory is the punk rock musical ?Hedwig and the angry inch? as it, like queer core derives it?s energy and sensibility from punk, but suffusing itself with new queer cinema to become a mainstream metaphor representing the potential inner torment of the trans gendered or genderless and as such is one of the most potent expressions of queer theory to my mind.
Indeed the main character Hedwig is neither male nor female due to a botched sex change operation that left him/her with an ?angry inch?; which is the one inch mound of flesh left behind by the surgeon. Adding to this idea of the genderless and the theme of gender bending, Hedwig?s husband Yitzhak is played by Miriam Shor, the female back up singer of the band ?The angry Inch?.
With this in mind Hedwig expands on queer theory in some respects as it adds to the mix an idea of genderless love referencing the origin myth of Plato?s Symposium. Through dialogue, song, animation and imagery using mirrors etc Hedwig has a strange dynamic of either two consecutive main plots or two consecutive sub plots which form one main plot, in either case making the very structure of the film a metaphor for the idea of the whole, the self and other that is derived in this instance from Origin Myth.
Each of us when separated... is always looking for his other half. Men who are a section of that double nature which was once called Androgynous are lovers of women... the women who are a section of the woman do not care for men, but have female attachments; the female companions are of this sort. But they who are a section of the male follow the male, and while they are young, being slices of the original man, they hang about men and embrace them, and they are themselves the best of boys and youths, because they have the most manly nature.
From the very beginning of the film Hedwig (at this point Hansel) is not whole. He is growing up in east Berlin before the wall was knocked down, at this point the city of Berlin is an obvious metaphor for Hansel?s discontent and his longing to be free; which meant crossing the wall. He has to ?leave something of himself behind? however and as such is not whole even after leaving Berlin for ?free America?. While in America Hansel, now Hedwig finds his other half, as expressed in images with a mirror joining there two faces and in another instance at the end of the film where the two come together appearing almost identical to each other only to find that they cannot join together and ?become one again?.
Perhaps the most poignant event in the film so far as queer theory is concerned is the fact that Hansel as boy was sexually abused by his father and neglected by his mother. If we take the Lacanian point of view from queer theory regarding role models then it is possible that Hansel with no concept of sex yet, saw his fathers abuse as an acceptable expression for his affection, and his mothers relative neglect a sign that she did not care about him in the same way. Unconsciously therefore according if we then apply Lacan?s reworking of the Edipis complex, Hansel could have identified with his mother and developed a female gender identity while coveting his father sexually. This seems all the more likely when we consider his father left when he was about six years old.
I am the egg man, you are the egg men, I AM THE WALRUS GOO GOO GA JOOB
Edit: orangebeast, Sun 21 May 06, 9:56PM|
Post: #61503 , Sun 21 May 06, 9:49PM
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