Queer Theory


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Queer Theory

  1. 1. A Level Media Studies
  2. 2. Definition... <ul><li>A field of critical theory that emerged in the early 1990s. </li></ul><ul><li>Explores and challenges the way in which heterosexuality is constructed as normal... </li></ul><ul><li>And the way in which the media has limited the representations of gay men and women. </li></ul><ul><li>Challenges the traditionally held assumptions that there is an oppositional divide between being gay and heterosexual </li></ul><ul><li>Suggests sexual identity is more fluid. </li></ul><ul><li>For example... </li></ul>
  3. 3. 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’.
  4. 4. Theory: Judith Butler (1999) <ul><li>Suggests gender is not the result of nature, but is socially constructed. </li></ul><ul><li>Male and female behaviour roles are not the result of biology but are constructed and reinforced by society through media and culture. </li></ul><ul><li>Sees gender as a PERFORMANCE. </li></ul><ul><li>She argues that there are a number of exaggerated representations of masculinity and femininity which cause “gender trouble.” </li></ul><ul><li>(Any behaviour or representation that disrupts culturally accepted notions of gender.) </li></ul>
  5. 5. Both have built their success on challenging expected notions of femininity <ul><li>Joss Stone </li></ul><ul><li>By being overtly sexual at a young age. </li></ul><ul><li>Amy Winehouse </li></ul><ul><li>By living up to her ‘bad girl’ image. </li></ul><ul><li>Excessive consumption of drugs and alcohol. </li></ul><ul><li>She mixes an excess of traditional 1950s/60s femininity by wearing retro dresses that emphasise the female shape and long hair... </li></ul><ul><li>with a range of tattoos that would once have been considered masculine. </li></ul>
  6. 6. The History... <ul><li>1950s – police actively enforced laws that prohibited sexual activities between men. </li></ul><ul><li>Sexually ‘abnormal’ and ‘deviant’. </li></ul><ul><li>1967 – homosexuality is decriminalised in UK (2009 for India) </li></ul><ul><li>In parts of Africa and Asia today it is still punishable by death </li></ul><ul><li>1977 – World Health Organisation refers to homosexuality as a mental illness (removed in 1990) </li></ul><ul><li>Civil partnerships legal in UK from 2004. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Queer theory suggests there are different ways of interpreting contemporary media texts <ul><li>Batman and Robin (1960) </li></ul>“ homo-erotic overtones... ironically camp.”
  8. 8. Contemporary Texts <ul><li>Queer theory can also be applied to texts where heterosexuality is dominant. </li></ul>Joey and Chandler (Friends) Strongly heterosexual text Homo-erotic...an interest in each other that exceeds normal friendship
  9. 9. Queer as Folk (1999) <ul><li>Queer theory suggests there is now a more open and fluid approach to sexuality. </li></ul><ul><li>There have been a number of changes in attitude. </li></ul>Positive in that it represented gay culture rather than an individual character
  10. 10. Brokeback Mountain (2006) <ul><li>Success of this Hollywood film an indication of more progressive attitudes to homosexuality. </li></ul><ul><li>For some, the film challenges two quintessential traditional images of American masculinity – the cowboy and the ‘ fishing trip ’. </li></ul><ul><li>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. </li></ul><ul><li>As the film is set in the 1950s, some would also argue that this suggests issues of homophobia belong in the past. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Camp <ul><li>Involves an exaggerated performance of femininity. </li></ul><ul><li>Emphasis on style, image, irreverence and breaking taboos. </li></ul><ul><li>A camp style draws attention to how masculinity is constructed. </li></ul><ul><li>Challenges the traditional notions of masculinity. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Will and Grace <ul><li>An indication of changing attitudes to homosexuality. </li></ul><ul><li>Contains a number of overtly gay cultural references. </li></ul><ul><li>However… </li></ul><ul><li>Although Jack is portrayed as camp, Will spends much of the time ‘playing straight’ (having dinner parties, flat hunting with Grace) </li></ul><ul><li>His boyfriends provide only fleeting relationships. </li></ul><ul><li>His relationship with Grace is problematic – </li></ul><ul><li>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. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Lesbianism <ul><li>Never made illegal </li></ul><ul><li>Yet suppressed in British culture in 19 th and 20 th centuries. </li></ul><ul><li>Media representations of lesbians are far less frequent. </li></ul><ul><li>One or two notable exception: Sugar Rush (2005/6) </li></ul>
  14. 14. In conclusion... <ul><li>‘ Gender trouble’ is evident everywhere in mainstream media. </li></ul><ul><li>Queer theorists suggest this is evidence of a move towards increasing tolerance of sexual diversity. </li></ul><ul><li>Others argue that these representations simply present alternatives to the ‘norm’ of heterosexuality. </li></ul><ul><li>Are they just used because of their shock value, not due to any desire to promote diversity? </li></ul>
  15. 15. Task: <ul><li>Watch the clip taken from Will and Grace </li></ul><ul><li>Consider the two gay characters within the scene and the way in which they are represented </li></ul><ul><li>Analyse the clip commenting on: </li></ul><ul><li>Whether you think the media has limited the representations of gay men </li></ul><ul><li>Whether the media challenges the traditionally held assumption that there is a clear divide between being gay and heterosexual </li></ul><ul><li>And consider if the programme suggests sexual identity is more fluid in more recent media texts. </li></ul>