Queer Theory - Mrs. Miranda's Classroom Website

A Level Media Studies Definition... A field of critical theory that emerged in the early 1990s out of the fields of LGBT studies and feminist studies. Explores and challenges the way in which heterosexuality is constructed as normal... And the way in which the media has limited the representations of gay men and

women. Challenges the traditionally held assumptions that there is a binary divide between being gay and heterosexual Suggests sexual identity is more fluid. For example... Captain Jack Sparrow Pirates of the Caribbean An ironic and over the top performance Overly elaborate costume and eye make-up Uses feminine

and camp gestures Not what we would consider macho. Judith Butler (1999) Suggests gender is not the result of nature, but

is socially constructed. Male and female behaviour roles are not the result of biology but are constructed and reinforced by society through media and culture. Sees gender as a PERFORMANCE. She argues that there are a number of exaggerated representations of masculinity and femininity which cause gender trouble. (Any behaviour or representation that disrupts culturally accepted notions of gender.) For example... The History... 1950s police actively enforced laws that

prohibited sexual activities between men. Sexually abnormal and deviant. 1967 homosexuality is decriminalised in UK (2009 for India) In parts of Africa and Asia today it is still punishable by death 1977 World Health Organisation refers to homosexuality as a mental illness (removed in 1990) Civil partnerships legal in UK from 2004.

Queer theory suggests there are different ways of interpreting contemporary media texts (before decriminalization) Batman and Robin (1960) homo-erotic overtones...ironically camp. Contemporary Texts Queer theory can also be applied to texts where heterosexuality is dominant. The two brothers,

Frasier and Niles have feminine tastes Joey and Chandler (Friends) Frasier Preferences for fine Strongly wine, opera, designer heterosexual clothes and interior text design Homo-erotic...an interest in each other

that exceeds normal friendship Queer as Folk (1999) Queer theory suggests there is now a more open and fluid approach to sexuality. There have been a number of changes in attitude. Represented gay culture in Manchester Positive in that it represented gay

culture rather than an individual character Brokeback Mountain (2006) Success of this Hollywood film an indication of more progressive attitudes to homosexuality. For some, the film challenges two quintessential traditional images of American masculinity the cowboy and the fishing trip. However, it can also be suggested that the homosexual relationship portrayed here is represented as tragic a long way from the

idealised heterosexual relationships in mainstream Hollywood films. As the film is set in the 1950s, some would also argue that this suggests issues of homophobia belong in the past. Camp Involves an exaggerated performance of femininity. Emphasis on style, image, irreverence and breaking taboos. A camp style draws attention to how masculinity is constructed. Challenges the traditional notions of masculinity.

Will and Grace An indication of changing attitudes to homosexuality. Contains a number of overtly gay cultural references. However Although Jack is portrayed as camp, Will spends much of the time playing straight (having dinner parties, flat hunting with Grace) His boyfriends provide only fleeting relationships. His relationship with Grace is problematic Whether he will become straight is left open in the narrative (if so, he would be with Grace) this undermines the queer reading of the text.

In Literature and Language A critic working in gender studies and queer theory might be uncomfortable with the binary established between masculine and feminine: Jacques Derridas Of Grammatology sets up a series of binary oppositions (active/passive, sun/moon...father/mother, logos/pathos). Each pair can be analyzed as a hierarchy in which the former term represents the positive and masculine and the latter the negative and feminine principle"

Questions to Ask: What elements of the text can be perceived as being masculine (active, powerful) and feminine (passive, marginalized) and how do the characters support these traditional roles? What sort of support (if any) is given to elements or characters who question the masculine/feminine binary? What happens to those elements/characters? What elements in the text exist in the middle, between the perceived masculine/feminine binary? In other words, what elements exhibit traits of both (bisexual)? How does the author present the text? Is it a traditional narrative? Is it secure and forceful? Or is it more hesitant or even collaborative?

Questions to Ask What are the politics (ideological agendas) of specific gay, lesbian, or queer works, and how are those politics revealed in...the work's thematic content or portrayals of its characters? What are the poetics (literary devices and strategies) of a specific lesbian, gay, or queer works? What does the work contribute to our knowledge of queer, gay, or lesbian experience and history, including literary history? In conclusion... Gender trouble is evident everywhere

in mainstream media. Queer theorists suggest this is evidence of a move towards increasing tolerance of sexual diversity. Others argue that these representations simply present alternatives to the norm of heterosexuality. Used because of their shock value, not due to any desire to promote diversity.

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