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Queer theory


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Queer Theory and the media

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Queer theory

  1. 1. Queer theory and the Media KEYWORDS •Queer space •Fluidity •Identity •Binary KEY THEORISTS •Alexander Doty •Teresa de Lauretis •Judith Butler •Eve Sedgwick •Adrienne Rich •David Halperin
  2. 2. What is Queer Theory? • Queer theory grew out of Feminism and Gender Studies in the 1990s • In this theory the word ‘queer’ is not necessarily a synonym for ‘gay’ but rather a position that rejects conventions or mainstream expressions of all types of behaviour including sexuality and gender. • Queer theory looks at any kind of identity or behaviour that would fall outside of the ‘typical mainstream’ or might be considered ‘other’ or deviant. • It is interested in studying and examining non-normative expressions of gender, sexuality and identity. • Theorists believe that identities are not fixed – they are fluid and changing, not only for different people but within the same person at different times.
  3. 3. What is Queer Theory? • David Halperin: – “Queer is by definition whatever is at odds with the normal, the legitimate, the dominant. There is nothing in particular to which it necessarily refers.” • Eve Sedgewick: – “The dividing up of all sexual acts – indeed all persons – under the ‘opposite’ categories of ‘homo’ and ‘hetero’ is not a natural given process but a historical process, still incomplete today and ultimately impossible but characterised by potent contradictions and explosive effects.”
  4. 4. The Queer Space • Queer Theory rejects essentialist nature of theories of identity expressed through binary oppositions – male/female, gay/straight. • Theorists argue that people do not simply categorise themselves in this way (binary) – representations don’t conform to either side of these divides – instead there is another spec outside of these oppositions and it is this space which is ‘queer’ • Essentially Queer Theorists do not agree with the black or white version the world that the binary system presents. They think there are more grey areas – these would be the ‘queer spaces’ where it’s not as simple as male/female, gay/straight, either/or. • Example of the Queer Space: – In the film Sylvia Scarlett, Katherine Hepburn plays a woman living as a man. Male and female audience members who gain ‘sexual pleasure’ from looking at her as a ‘man’ are having a ‘queer moment’ and inhabiting a ‘queer space’ because the ‘sexual pleasure’ does not mean they are gay or straight. It shows the fluidity of identity and behaviour.
  5. 5. What is a Queer Text? • According to theorists ‘queer texts’ are those; – That deal with explicitly ‘queer’ themes and characters – That can be ‘read’ as ‘queer’ – “accumulated queer readings” – identifying subtext etc. • So important to remember that it’s not just gay characters • Queer Theory can encompass anyone on the margins of society – an outsider – in terms of race, sexuality, religion, disbaility – anything. • People who do not conform to conventions expectations of society = queer. • Queer Theory argues that representations of ‘queer’ people should not be about assimilation or attempting to get the mainstream audience to accept them – when ‘queerness’ is represented it should be positive BUT not pandering to ‘normal’ society or conventions.
  6. 6. Judith Butler • One of the foremost theorists in Queer Theory • She argued for fluidity when it comes to identity and construction of identities. • Butler agued that all identity is performance whether it is our gender, sexuality etc. • She argued that the notion of identity as performance of key to queer theory – seen this way, our identities, gendered or otherwise, do not express some authentic inner ‘core’ or self but are the dramatic effect (rather than the cause) of our performances.
  7. 7. Critics of Queer Theory • Critics argue with the notion of identity as fluid since most people would assert that their sexual identity isn’t fluid even if other parts of their identity are. • Some critics argue that since queer theory focuses on media analysis instead of real life it cheats because it is easier to find ambiguities in texts. • Critics argue that queer theory celebrates radical diversity and that this can be damaging for society as it can lead to individualism and fragmentation.
  8. 8. Your Case Study • Whether you are looking at Identities in the Media or Impact of New Digital Media you can use Queer Theory in your arguments. • Write a paragraph explaining how/where you might use Queer Theory (either using a specific text to argue your point or you general argument).