Monday, November 30, 2009

Subverting, Unpacking and Reverting the Authoritative Gaze

The section in the reading concerning CCTV (video surveillance) paints a dismal picture of surveillance technology. While the use of surveillance in the wake of the patriot act might give footing for Cartwright's pessimism, there have been steps (though few and far between) to try and reverse the effects of authoritative technology. In thinking about the various artistic interventions and activist activities aimed at dismantling our surveillance society I'm reminded of three project which come to mind in regards to the text's Foucauldian notions of regulatory and authoritative systems:

1. The Institute for Applied Autonomy, iSee
For this project, the (h)activist group created an interactive map of all the known (and in many cases unknown) CCTV surveillance systems in place throughout Manhattan. The software included with the map allowed users to chart out "the path of least resistance" (the route containing the fewest number/ or no surveillance footage. This project, understandably generated much controversy both for its potential as a tool for criminal activity and (from the left) for their condemnation rather than re purposing or democratization of surveillance technologies.

2. Jill Magid, System Azure
A more whimsical approach taken by the Amercian artist Jill Magid, who was able to convince Dutch officials to contract her fake company (System Azure) to decorate the the city's surveillance systems with rhinestones. Though this project was more symbolic than utilitarian, it was successful (for better or worse) at defusing the symbolic authority that the image of the surveillance camera holds.

3. David Brin, The Transparent Society
Lastly, the most explicit argument for the repurposing of surveillance technology can be found in Science fiction writer David Brim's novel The Transparent Society. Though more than twenty years old, the novel predicts much of the surveillance society in effect today. The book, set twenty years in the future, imagines a city (much like ours) where surveillance is ubiquitous. But rather than being monitored by an authoritative body "every citizen could access an image of every street corner." Brin goes on to address issues of privacy by proposing "cameras, both individual and state owned would be banned in certain public (and private) places, but not in the police stations where they would be ever pointed inwards." Brin's city is one built on trust rather than control and while its implementation is strictly utopian, it provides insight into the potential usage of certain technologies.

Taylor Lautner Redirects the Gaze

The Sturken and Cartwright chapter titled, Modernity: Spectatorship, Power, and Knowledge, focuses on the concept of “gaze.” Gaze is defined as, “a field”, or “a world of meaning” (103). These gazes, Sturken and Cartwright explain, adhere and reinforce dominant ideologies and hegemonies. However, more recently, these gazes have been challenged and have been turned on their head.

The original concept of gaze is built upon the notion of the women as “objects of the male gaze” (123). However, like in the movie, Thelma & Louis, females have become more and more in control of the camera, “belying the dominant view that women are objects, not subjects, of the gaze” (130).

This Thelma & Louis structured gaze is also evident in the newly released movie, New Moon. The movie features Taylor Lautner (Jacob Black) as an extremely buff werewolf with a nasty six-pack. Prior to the opening on the movie, tabloids and entertainment shows hyped up the actor’s body so much, that it became a major reason for viewers (mainly teenage girls) to buy tickets. By doing this, Summit Entertainment effectively challenges the old idea of a male-dominated gaze and reinvents it to attract its female viewers.

Frank Miller's Gaze

I'm sure you're all familiar with the stereotype that girls don't read comics and how totally inaccurate it is. So if girls are reading comics just as much as boys, then why is that the majority of comic book writer and illustrators are still writing/drawing comics according to the male gaze. In Practices of Looking, Sturken and Cartwright speak of the male gaze (first introduced by Laura Mulvey in 1975). The male gaze is described as "the patriarachal unconcious, positioning women represented in films as objects (124). The male gaze is one of power and works to "disempower those before its look" (125). When applied to comic books, the artist makes the assumption, consciously or not, that everyone looking at the image is a heterosexual man,who objectifies women just like him. So, what we see in comics is presented through the man's view.

Frank Miller and Jim Lee's All Star Batman and Robin is the perfect example. Here's the cover of the third issue, showing how Batman is seen and how Black Canary is seen:

In another issue of the comic, we are graced with the lovely presence of Vikki Vale's butt:

Looking at this image and the script Frank Miller sent to co-writer Jim Lee (see below) it's easy to see how the male gaze is employed in comics.

When Frank Miller says, “We can’t take our eyes off her” he is speaking directly of an audience that he presumes to be male, and the following “Especially since she’s got one fine ass” says loud and clear that her sexualized portrayal is for the pleasure of that heterosexual male viewer. Viki Vale is the quintessential example of being watched by male watchers: the writer/director (Frank Miller), his artist, and the presumed male audience that buys the book.

The female Gaze

Sturken and Cartwright describe the Male Gaze as portrayals of women as sexual objects. Women's bodies were "posed so that her body is on display for the viewer's easy appreciation." Furthermore, a majority of the images of women portray them as passive, indirect, and submissive. The message from these depictions of women being sent is that, according to Sturken and Cartwright, "men act, women appear." In other words, women play the gentle damsel (though not necessarily always in distress) while the men play their knight in shining armor. Not until the 70s and 8os did portrayals of men in art and advertisements also objectify their body. Men are depicted with sculpted and chiseled bodies and are deemed "aesthetically pleasing" by women. However, the majority of these depictions also play into the "men act, and women appear" idea. They are often portrayed as the strong and assertive hero. The image posted below is a clear example of this.  

The product is pads for women. The pad is represented as one that will provide confidence and comfort for women due to its comparison to the male model. The ad depicts the man as a strong and secure figure in a woman's life, and is further objectified with his buff body.  It is clearly a "cultural commentary on male sexuality, glamour, and body norms and ideal." (p. 129) Even his stance portrays him as a strong male... you can see that he's closing a safe, further establishing him as a secure figure. Even the message of money as security is sent in this ad. 

On a side note...I found an interesting ad from a magazine in the UK from the 80s that pays homage to Gloria Steinem's "If Men Could Menstruate" 

check the website to see a bigger picture of it and to read its explanation.


Foucault's concept of panopticon has always fascinated me. I actually learned about it for the first time in my freshman year of NYU, during my writing class. Foucault's argument in this case relates to the fact "how we participate in practices of self-regulation in response to systems of surveillance, whether they are in place or simply assumed to be in place" (Sturken & Cartwright, 107). In simpler words, Foucault debates the human action in a situation that is controlled by the gaze of the entity in power, versus the human actions in a situation that is not obviously being controlled, but that might be in some way. he wonders whether or not people self-regulate themselves when they know they are being watched and whether or not they do it when they think they are being watched. In the words of the authors of our textbook, :we could easily say that the camera is used here as a form of intrusion and policing of our behavior" (p. 107).
Foucault's concept can be applied to many instances across our society: surveillance cameras are just one of the many examples. It is interesting to see the difference in people's actions when they know they are being watched versus when they think they are not watched.

But the entire debate reminded me of my favorite book from high school that we read one time. I'm talking about George Orwell's "1984" of course. The book is a brilliant dystopian fiction that tells a story of a man named Winston Smith who works for The Party that controls the lives of all the people living in Oceania, through the use of constant surveillance in the form of telescreens that constantly show the face of the ultimate ruler, The Big Brother. I absolutely love the book, and I think that it is a great fictional novel to read for all those of you who still haven't. It tells a crazy story with a crazy and unexpected ending, and it leaves you wanting more. Below, I allowed myself to paste a trailer for the 1984 movie that came out in ... 1984. :) Hope you enjoy.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Oh the gaze..

After doing this weeks reading, I thought a lot about advertisements and images that we see in the media and how we perceive them just visually. When we flip through a magazine, it's the provocative ads that catch our eye and make us take a second look, so what is that saying about how we see things and whether or not that extra difference shown in the ad represents in our society. Foucault recognized the use of "docile bodies of the modern state" - otherwise known as the "perfect look, the perfect body, and the perfect pose," (p. 110-111). These images that we see in advertisements are conforming to the ideologies of sex and gender and being submissive to the so-called beauty norms of society. As the reading continued, it talks a lot about the gaze and how this concept "establish[es] relationships of power," (p. 111). Advertisements today represent these ideas of power and dominance of class, sex, race, otherness, etc. And it is the photographs that we see in our everyday media that demonstrate these power dynamics to us. These concepts have both social and cultural meanings and directly respond to the time/era we are living in. American Apparel is a very successful clothing line. We see their ads all over and they are becoming more and more popular. However, if you take a look at their clothes, they couldn't be more of a simple design, yet the advertisements make the clothes as well as their models to be extremely sexualized. The "normalized gaze" according to Sturken and Cartwright is being displayed with these sexual images as the beauty norm for the time. Here's an example of a simple ad for American Apparel gone "wild"...

Screen Tests

While thinking about the gaze and how much power it can have over a person, I would like to share with you a few videos from Andy Warhol's Screen Tests. Warhol posed over 500 hundred subjects (poets, singers, factory visitors, art curators, drag queens, socialites, critics) in front of a movie camera for three minute "screen tests" which were silent, black and white, close-up film portraits. The subjects were told to stay as still as possible and not to blink while the camera was running.

These film portraits were not filmed with the purpose of actually testing or auditioning actors, even though Warhol told them that these tests were performed in order to gauge how much potential "star" quality an individual had.

At first, the films may seem silly, as you wait for something, anything to happen. But as the seconds and minutes pass by and the subjects continue to maintain eye contact as they stare into the faceless lens of the camera, immobile, it's easy for the viewer to become uncomfortable because it's almost as if you feel like you are invading their privacy; watching a part of them that they did not intend anyone to see. In a way, the viewer is experiencing voyeurism since we can see them in their most raw and unembellished states without them being able to see us, however after a while, this sense of "power" and "pleasure" we get quickly transforms into discomfort. It's amazing to see how squirmy and uncomfortable a person becomes as soon as a movie camera is pointed at them for an awkwardly long duration of time.

These film portraits were made in 1964-1966

Edie Sedgwick: This one is not supposed to have music in the background but someone added it. I would recommend watching it on mute.

Bob Dylan (again, there should be no music):

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Panopticon and the invisible eye

Foucault's concept regarding the relationship between power and knowledge is something I feel like we deal with everyday. Because "citizens willingly obey laws, participate in social norms, and adhere to social values," the "functioning of power in modern political states is less visible" (Sturken and Cartwright 96). We know how to behave in different setting, so without coercion, we cooperate in a society (96). For example, knowing that it is wrong and against the law to steal, people will not take items out of a store until it's paid for. I'm sure we all have thought at one point how easy it would be to walk away with an unpaid for item, but we won't, if we have the guilty conscience not to, at least. There are consequences that aren't worth it.

This is the theory that brings about Foucault's Panopticon, an "architectural model, originally for a prison" in which "a central guard tower looks out on a central set of prison cells," and this regulates behavior whether or not there is a guard in the center because they "feel that gaze upon them" (98). As this chapter in Practices of Looking mainly deals with different kinds of looking, I feel like the Panopticon is a very real and interesting concept. It's true that we won't stray from normal behavior because we fear others judging us or if it would be wrong.

In 2009, the movie Look was released. It's a film shot from surveillance cameras, inspired by the acts we are tempted to do when we think no one is watching. I haven't seen it, but it seems really interesting. Yes, it's a scripted movie, but it's true that we are under surveillance cameras more often than we imagine...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What If You're Not Sure What To Come Out As?

A prime example would appear to be 2001/2's "Kissing Jessica Stein."

This film features two women, roughly thirty years old, grappling with their sexualities and love lives. Neither truly identified as gay to that point, but their frustration with men led them to start searching for women, and ultimately finding one another. Of course, one is more into it than the other, and the storyline's drama deals with Jessica's initial decision not to essentially come out of the closet and bring Helen along as a date to a very public family occasion (a wedding).

This is a new "queer," a type seen elsewhere (i.e. Sex And The City, among other areas in pop culture), where the homosexuality stems from boredom or frustration rather than a conscious choice or desire for women in the first place. Surely, this could be seen as offensive to "true" gays and lesbians, for it perpetuates the myth that homosexuality is a choice, or "novelty," as mentioned in Ciasullo's article.

Both women are attractive, and the film was embraced by fans and critics alike--however, "Making her (in)Visible" raises a good point. If these were less conventionally acceptable women, I don't know that the film would have received such a positive reception. Those represented would probably have enjoyed seeing themselves on screen, but it probably wouldn't have been able to transcend that demographic into a widely acceptable and successful film.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Desexualized Will

Will and Grace is a groundbreaking how in that many consider it to be the first successful gay sitcom in network television. A pluralist program such as Will and Grace succeeds in equating the minority group of LGBTQ individuals with the white, heterosexual, middle-class norm. This is evident in the character of Will Turman, a young, successful, attorney living in NYC with his best friend Grace Adler, a heterosexual interiror designer. The show is set in a heteroseuxal world with Will as the male lead character and Jack McFarland, a supporting haracter in the show, going about their daily lives and both of whom are openly gay. But despite Will's status as an openly gay man, his character seems not developed enough in that he could fit into thr white, heterosexual norm.

Will's storyline is less focused on his identity as a homosexual individual and in fact, the gayest character on the show is seen through Karen Walker, an over-the-top rich socialite. The relationship between Will and Grace also seems heterosexual because it satsfies narrative and social conventions. Although their relationship is queer or gay, the writers make it seem like it is heterosexual.

Will and Jack are extreme opposites in terms of how gay men are represented on television. By making the character of Will sexually mbiguous, the producers of Will and Grace are not overusing the gay agenda and succeeds in appeaing to differends kinds of audiences.

adam lambert

Here's what happened..

Three To Tango

The film Three To Tango exploits many of the elements of the gay man/straight woman relationship that Shugart points out. In the movie, Matthew Perry is Oscar, who is mistakenly identified as gay by his boss. His boss then asks him to spy on his girlfriend Amy (played by Neve Campbell)by befriending him. Oscar instantly falls in love with Amy, but is unable to reveal his true identity because of his professional goals. Therefore, Oscar and Amy begin hanging out and take on many of the qualities of the gay man/straight woman relationship.

Because Oscar isn't really gay, their relationship especially exemplifies a texts that "satisfy heteronormative desires that posit heterosexuality as unambiguous and constant, and homosexuality thus becomes the discursive practice by which heterosexuality is renormalized" (76).

My Best Friends Wedding

When reading Shugart’s piece I found myself to be very familiar with many of the popular film and television titles referred too, especially the films. The majority of the movies used as examples of relationships between homosexual men and heterosexual woman are romantic comedies. This is interesting to consider due to the fact that you expect when this genre comes up to have the main characters both be heterosexual and tell a story about their relationship. However, Shugart points out that the stories between homosexual men and heterosexual women demonstrate similar stories because the gay male role is generally portrayed in a heterosexual light. One of my all time favorite movies is My Best Friends Wedding. Julia Roberts plays the heterosexual lead, Jules while Rupert Everett plays the homosexual male, George. The film creates a romantic storyline for Jules and George in an attempt for Jules to win back the man she actually loves. What’s interesting is in my opinion even when George is seen as her fiancĂ©, he still carries a lot of the homosexual tendencies for me and in my opinion it really feels like he is playing the act of the homosexual man as intended as opposed to other films mentioned such as Object of My Affection or shows like Will & Grace. Shugart claims that even if they gay men are involved in homosexual relationships, they are not as successful as their relationships with the heterosexual women indicated that their “gay identities are ambiguous and potentially pliable,” (p.76). Also, these roles “satisfy heteronormative desires.”

Monday, November 23, 2009

You Go Glenn Co Co!

One of the main topics that Shugart discusses is the gay best friend. When taking a look at Mean Girls (shout out to Kim! haha), we watch as Damian assumes the role of the flamboyant gay best friend. As Shugart mentions, he is contrasted with the high school heart throb, Aaron Samuels.

"the relationship between these men and their heterosexual female best friends is coded as romantic, and the lead gay male characters are contrasted with highly flamboyant, outrageously stereotypical gay male characters who function as foils against which the leading men emerge as more traditionally masculine and, thus, more consistent with mainstream tropes of heterosexuality" (Shugart, 72).

As the gay best friend, Damian is not put in a romantic situation and only serves as the "sidekick" or the one to give advice. However, at the end of the movie, him and best friend Janice share a kiss at their school dance, as if to test Damien's gayness incase they really did like each other, however a look of disgust instantly appears across their faces as if to say "what were we thinking?? you're gay!"

Ellen the "butch" and Portia the "femme"

In response to Ciasullo's article, I wanted to find an example of a lesbian celebrity couple portrayed throughout mainstream media. I really liked the part of the article where Ciasullo discussed the different between the two lesbian roles of either the "butch" or the "femme." It was very interesting to read because it showed that there is not only stereotypes and social norms that we have for roles played in heterosexual couples, but now there are even stereotypes for gay people.

Ellen and Portia are an excellent representation of Ciasullo's argument because anyone who knew anything about the butch and the femme could point out who's who in these roles. Ellen, on the left, is obviously the "butch" in this lesbian relationship because she is the more masculine of the couple. She wears masculine clothes, as she is pictured in a suit and tie above, she is protective, as she is seen holding her wife close to her side, and she is tough, part of which we see because she is not smiling in this photo and also because she is a very successful woman who brings in more of the money in her and Portia's relationship, which one would argue is another dominant, masculine quality. Additionally, Portia is the "femme" because she represents the lesbian identity in a completely different manner. She is very feminine; she wears dresses, does her make up, and has long hair. Ciasullo would argue that this somewhat normalizes the heterosexual image of what it means to be female because if someone did not know Portia was a lesbian, they would never be able to tell because she dresses in society's typical image of the blonde, beautiful, heterosexual female. However, Ellen gives off many social and appearance cues that she is dominant and masculine, which are typical lesbian qualities. It's interesting to me how there still has to be a more masculine woman coupled with an extremely feminine woman in order to meet society's expectation of the typical lesbian couple. But why can't both women be equally "femme" like Portia? Why is there always an established "male" in a lesbian/gay relationship?

Tim Gunn fits neatly in the box of heteronormative conventions of masculinity?

In Helene A. Shugart's "Reinventing Privilege: The New (Gay) Man in Contemporary Popular Media," she asserts that the homosexual man portrayed in the mainstream media is quite sanitized and conforms to the "Heteronormative conventions of masculinity" (73). So, in the fashion world, I suppose there is more or less a stereotype that most of the guys in the industry are gay and/or effeminate. I suppose Lifetime, and previously Brave, are not necessarily mainstream, but they too conform to the neat little box created for the "new gay man."

Take Project Runway for example. And to be honest, I didn't even know Tim Gunn was gay until maybe the second season. He definitely fit the gay man that is portrayed by mainstream media. First of all, he exhibits traits that are given to male leads, such as being "handsome, ... and physically fit" (74). Furthermore, Gunn serves as the "wise gay man" as he is the guru that gives advice to all the contestants of the show (83). They need his advice for the show's plot to be driven forward. His comments are important in helping the viewer negotiate the outcome of each episode. Also, Tim fits under the criteria of the gay serving "as straight enlightenment" (70). Again, he is the guiding light to all the sometimes clueless contestants on the show. It also seems like his only purpose on the show as well.

Here is a photo of Tim Gunn in a comic!

movies for the final assignment

So these are the trailers for the four films we will be analyzing as part of the final project. Send me your picks in order (e.g. 1) City of God 2) Our Song or whatever) and I will do my best to give everyone their first or second choice. We'll watch these tomorrow as well.

Boys Don't Cry (1999)

Our Song (2000)
Link to Trailer (couldn't figure out how to embed)

Maria Full of Grace (2004)

City of God (Cidade de Deus) (2002)

All movies are at Avery Fisher / Bobst.

My "Gay Husband"

Shugart’s article rendered that the media employ gay characters to legitimize and stabilize male heteronormative ideologies. On of the ways they successfully do this is through the common coupling of the straight female and the homosexual male.

This straight female, gay male pairing is depicted in the ever-expanding and popular series, The Real Housewives. In the Real Housewives of New York City, housewife Jill relies on the help and advice of “gay boyfriend,” Brad. The relationship that the two characters have is comedic as Brad assumes many of the roles that a traditional, heterosexual husband would minus the physical attraction. In calling Brad the “gay husband,” Jill reinforces Shugart’s claim that the homosexual, “function[s] as foils against which the leading men emerge as more traditionally masculine and, thus, more consistent with mainstream tropes of hetereosexuality. (72)”


Positioning Brad in this way not only strengthens the masculinity of all the other heterosexual male characters on the show, but also further downplays Brad’s expression of gayness. The fact that he is never pictured as coupled with another male and is only ever seen when next to Jill reveals a sense that his homosexual relationships are “lacking in comparison to the easy simpatico characterizing their primary relationships with [Jill]- these depictions render the male characters’ gay identities as ambiguous and potentially pliable. (76)” This again, renormalizes heterosexuality.

"An Ode to Gay BFFs"

As I was searching for examples of gay best friends in Hollywood, I found this video that perfectly pokes fun at the gay best friend stereotype. Films make it very desirable for women to have gay best friends because they can offer fashion advice, will gossip with you, and understand your emotions without any strings attached or questions as to what your relationship is. The clip gives examples of gay best friends "playing for the other team" and acting as substitute romantic partners for their women best friends. In "My Best Friend's wedding" George provides suppoert for Jules as " her confidante, and she reveals herself emotionaly as she does to no one else." (Shugart, 74) He even posed as her fiance and performed grand romatnic gestures in order to impress Jules' friends, and are deemed the "perfect" couple. By the end of this movie, I was secretly hoping that George and Jules would somehow end up together, even though that isn't really a possibility. However, these are all clearly stereotypical traits that objectify them. In one clip (0:16) in the video from "Head Case," the therapist, Dr. Elizabeth Goode  "We're going to need to find you a gay. You get to go shopping, you get spa days, you travel.." She speaks as if they are a purse or new shoes that create a woman's image. Furthermore, the stereotypical gay best friend serves as a contrast against a female's heterosexual romantic partner, giving them a more macho image. This portrayal puts gay men as "the other." Are there any films about gay men who have romantic troubles and their straight best girlfriend is there to help? 

Gay for Pay?

If the 90's brought lesbianism to the forefront of media attention only to popularize the construction of the "femme" lesbian and blanket the "butch" lesbian, then the 00's served to further complicate lesbian representation with the emergence of the "faux" lesbian trend. This faux lesbianism seemed to be a means for girls and women to get attention, often from the opposite sex. It stemmed from the fetishization of lesbians by the media. One of the most notable examples to come out this trend was the Russian pop duo t.A.t.u (as previously mentioned by Dominika). The lesbian image of the girls was created to hone in on the public's fascination with both lesbians and teen girls. So while the two were instructed by their manager to hold hands, pose for touchy-feely photoshoots, sing songs about loving girls and respond questions about their so-called relationship with vague broken English answer, their boyfriends were kept out of public view. Eventually reality interfered with their image a little too much, and they fell out of the spotlight when the public could no longer pretend that Russian singers were actually together romantically. Here's a video of their 2003 performance at the MTV Movie Awards in which they ran through the audience in skimpy outfits, and brought up about 50 dancing girls in schoolgirl uniforms, all of whom eventually stripped down to tank tops and mens briefs and proceeded to make out for the duration of the song. Oh and then MTV decided to zoom in on Ashton Kutcher and P.Diddy giving them a standing ovation and clapping wildly.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


OK.. on a note that does relate to the topic of homosexuality and queerness....
Have you guys seen Adam Lambert's 2009 AMA's Performance?
Lambert is openly gay. He came out after the season of American idol ended.

now.. there's a ton of different sexual and (for that matter) queer references in this video. But I was SHOCKED when 0:32 came up... Really Adam Lambert?!

What do you guys think?

The Nun's Litany

Hey guys, not really a post for Tuesday, but I just love this song, and this performance definitely relates to some of the ideas we have been talking about relating to queer theory. Mr. Merritt here is going into character (I'm assuming he's the nun), and I think the reversal of gender when speaking about sex might be a good example of some of the stuff we've been discussing. Anyway, he's my favorite songwriter, so I thought I'd share it. The interview is also quite funny.

The Latest Show on Earth - 02/19/08 - Part 2 - Watch a funny movie here


So I was reading the Ciasullo article, and I was linking it to our class discussion on Thursday. Remember, on Thursday we looked at some print ads, and we found possible queer connotations to them? And then as I was reading the article that Ciasullo wrote, which I loved, I sort of thought of the same thing, but in regards to lesbians.
Ciasullo talks about two predominant lesbian images that are evident throughout the mainstream media. She mentions the "butch" and the "femme." The former, she argues, is the stereotypical image of a lesbian, wearing male clothing, no make-up, and erasing all traces of being a female. She appears to be tough, strong, almost like a male. The latter description, Ciasullo argues, represents lesbian identity in a different form. it "normalizes the heterosexual" image of what it means to be a female, and even though a woman is a lesbian, she looks like a woman, and there is no correlation with being the stereotypical "butch."

So I was looking through many ad campaigns for designers, and I came across couple of images that might be interpreted in a similar way that the ads we analyzed on Thursday did.

The Versace Fall-Winter '08 Campaign
And here is the Marc Jacobs Fall-Winter '08 Campaign.
(it is actually worth noting that this campaign used the two singers from the group called TATU, who made their career by making their lesbian relationship public, and a part of their group).

Gay guy and straight girl

Helen Shugart discusses the gay man/straight woman relationship in different layers, but essentially that gay men play roles that would still be fitting for a straight character except there is the necessary conflict where she and he could never be together because their sexual orientations don't attract; that is, the genre is of "wannabe partners whose sexual orientations are at odds" (73). Other points she brings up are the paternal characteristics and the unilateral sexual access gay men have to their heterosexual female friend (80). Her examples were spot on to demonstrate these tropes, and I only thought of the relationships between the TV characters of Marc and Amanda from Ugly Betty or Eric and Jenny from Gossip Girl (plus they're step-siblings).

Obvious but I'll state it: Amanda is the straight girl and Marc is the gay friend. They're a great duo and team up to insult Betty and plot together for anything. When Amanda was upset over finding her real father or was conflicted with boy problems, she would always talk to Marc and he'd be reasonable with his paternalism (85). Otherwise, they're just silly together.

In this clip, Amanda and Marc kiss in order to reenact a scene Betty describes that happened to her and a guy, but they really get into it. In the end, a few seconds later, they don't address or think anything of it because he's gay and she's into guys.

It's not actually a big deal, but to audiences it might be slightly confusing. Ultimately, I believe their relationship doesn't have the potential to reverse his homosexuality, like Shugart's article examples suggest: to be in love with someone "like you, only straight" (74). After last week's reading on Queer Theory, however, I'm starting to understand that gay and lesbian characters are not as simple to define.

Friday, November 20, 2009

When Boys Will Be Girls

Sorry for the multiple posts, here's a really fascinating article about trans-gendered students that was in the New York Times Magazine last year (accompanied by a series of beautiful portraits.) The article not unlike the Sundance series we watched in class follows the lives of a number of trans-gendered students, but while the television show looks at a range trans-gender students, this article is specifically focuses on FTM trans-students at women's colleges and some of the issues they present (social, emotional and bureaucratic)

Hard Targets: Homoerotiscm and Sports

Here's some info on the show I brought up in class yesterday. The exhibition, Hard Targets, which was on view earlier this year at The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and explored images of masculinity (and homoeroticism) in profession sports. Here's the exhibition statement (courtesy of LACMA) and the picture above (Shaun El C. Leonard's Self Portrait (Promotional) courtesy of the artist), if you're interested there's more information and a wonderful essay by Christopher Bedford here:

Mark Bradford, Harun Farocki, Brian Jungen, Shaun Leonardo, Collier Schorr, and Joe Sola—the six artists included in Contemporary Projects 11: Hard Targets-Masculinity and Sport —all work to revise the time-honored archetype of the male athlete as an aggressive, overtly heterosexual, hyper-competitive, and emotionally remote subject. Instead, they offer opposing views of masculinity and sport, and of the entire theatre of athletic play, including the rituals and accoutrements that surround this intimate, male dominated world. Each examines the way masculinity is characterized and performed in a sporting context, and each suggests the existence of complex systems of desire and identification that accompany the way we view and consume athletes and sporting events

Lesbian and Gay Representations

I think lesbians have definitely attained a much more prominent position in the media and there is a much wider representation of them. In the past the media was mostly concentrated on portraying “femme” lesbians who were “white, middle class, and more interested in make up and clothes than in feminism” (pg. 595). In Ciasullo’s article she discusses the appearances of two lesbians who appeared on the cover of Newsweek, "although the image on the cover of Newsweek might be characterized as defiant, the fact remains that Etheridge and Cypher are presented as conventionally attractive women, and their attractiveness has the potential to ‘soften’ that defiance for mainstream audiences. The position of the women’s bodies indicate some intimacy, but they do not indicate sexuality. Newsweek was careful to present bodies that are sanitized yet attractive, clean of any homosexual residue” (pg. 586). I think the media has become a lot more liberal in their portrayal of lesbians; for instance on the show, “A shot of Love at Tila Tequila”, (a reality T.V. show where both women and men vie for a shot at love with Tila Tequila, who is bisexual), the lesbian contestants consist of both femmes and butches. Ultimately, a butch lesbian makes it to the final round; she is “manish, but not at all stylish and at the same time she is definitely a woman. [She] fails to fulfill heterosexual ideas about what is attractive and sexually appealing in women” (pg. 600). Furthermore, Tila does engage in sexual contact with the women on the show, including the butch lesbians. Tila and Dani:

However, even though the media has made a huge leap in its representation of homosexuals in the media, it definitely still has its limitations. For instance, Tila ultimately chooses a male over the lesbian in the final round, succumbing to the more conventional form of heterosexual relationships. I’m not sure if she really did like the male contestant more (doubtful), but I think the producers must have told her to pick the male as it might have been too controversial if she picked the female contestant. Furthermore, recently there has been controversy regarding Adam Lambert’s portrayal in the media. In a recent magazine interview he had with Out Magazine, his own publicist actually told the editor of Out magazine not to make the interview come across as too gay, even though Out magazine is specifically catered to a gay audience!  Lambert on the cover of Out Magazine:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes

Here's the entire "Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes" documentary, about hip hop and representations of masculinity. The video quality isn't so great but it's free! It's also at Bobst / Avery Fisher on DVD.


If you liked the doc we watched today, most of it is up in bits and pieces on YouTube. Here's the second part of the episode:

It's also on DVD at Bobst, in Avery Fisher (DVD 4362).

THe Shift in Association

In both articles, the idea of queerness appears to mean a lot of things. From Queer Nation’s definition of being “politically radical and ‘in-your-face’” to Annamarie Jagose’s definition of “the focuses on mismatches between sex, gender and desire.” To me, it was hard to follow the two articles because there are many definition of queerness, not to mention what it is: an identity? A political stance? A man? A woman?

However, Doty, in his book, does use the word queerness to relate to “any expression that can be marked as contra-, non-, or anti-straight.” What is interesting to me is his exploration in the shift of how gay men view the (idolized) women in their lives. Throughout history, feminine gay men had idolized women star and Doty refutes that this is because of “envy, jealousy, misogyny, and cruelty” (qtd. in Doty). He asserts that as we moved into the 80s, Madonna becomes a gay icon and she is not like past idolized starlets because she is “not a vulnerable toy.” I don’t want to start any controversy by saying that Lady Gaga is the new Madonna. But I can associate Lady Gaga with the idea that she too is not vulnerable. Furthermore, while Perez Hilton is not really a effeminate gay (well, I guess I have seen photos of him in a dress, does that count?), he is at the forefront of the gay community in his support for Lady Gaga, who he calls his “wifey.” From his blog posts, you can tell that he truly appreciates her work and his invested a lot of his time promoting her (whether out of love or of business opportunities, I don’t know). My point is, he is quite obsessed with her.

Here is a photo of him dressed up as her for Halloween:

Further, Doty expresses that gays are now “directly expressing desire for male images on screen.” This is a shift from previously expressing desire through women stars. Perez Hilton, on his blog, also exemplifies this point. He always write blog posts about the up-and-coming male stars who he deems as “cute” or “hot” and expressing his wish for them to be his “boy toy.” For example, one of his current “boy toy” obsession is Zac Effron.

Perez likes to draw hearts around Zac Effron and pronounces that he is "seksi:"

The Queer King of Liberty City

I should preface this by saying I know little about video games and even less about the Grand Theft Auto franchise, but still this commercial (which has been in heavy network and cable circulation this fall) struck me as a little odd.

The latest installment of the successful series follows the rise (and fall) of a prominent nightclub owner Anthony Prince better known as "Gay Tony." Despite his overt homosexuality, Tony is widely considered the king of Liberty City, both feared and envied by his competitors and enemies.

From what I have encountered, videogames are rarely progressive and characteristically limited, so this new installment caught me as quite a surprise. Especially GTA, which has been characterized since its inception for its poor representations (beating up hookers, ect.) Given the games controversial history and questionable ethics, I'm not sure what to make of a central character like Gay Tony (for whom the latest game is named.)

Any Thoughts?


Just thought of another example...

Remember Pat from SNL?

We never do find out if the adrogynous character of Pat is a boy or a girl or a hermaphrodite or transexual which makes him (her?) a good example of someone who is queer.

The "Lesbian Narrative"

The chapter "I Love Laverne and Shirley" talked about the existence of a "lesbian narrative", which Doty defines as a "contra-heterosexual, women-bonding narrative" (40). These narratives commonly portray female main characters as strong and loving, while male characters remain in the background or completely nonexistent. Doty attributes the criticism of lesbian narratives to the "patriarchal heterosexual culture", which tends to justify strong women roles by labeling these individuals as lesbians.

While Doty's constructs his analysis using television sitcoms, I found that this argument is relevant in other areas of mass media. It seems that many contemporary lesbian narratives use comedy in order to downplay criticism received from shows such as I Love Lucy. In one example, the film Baby Mama involves two strong female leads. Similar to the sitcoms that Doty analyzes, the movie "finds its happy ending in the work, friendship, and love between two women" (40), which is a key aspect of the lesbian narrative. The "lesbian" jokes in the film seemingly put the viewer at ease as they are simply able to laugh off the tension.

I also believe that Doty's aforementioned theory can be expanded to include public figures. There have been many powerful, smart, and successful women that have been in the public eye that are often depicted as lesbians in the media - Doty himself states that "these misogynistic and homophobic public discursive and media tactics are nothing new, of course" (41). It can be argued that our patriarchal society is threatened by these women who exert these "masculine" qualities, and must therefore justify or inhibit their existence by critiquing them in this way.

Overall, both Doty and Jagose present definitions of "queerness" that go beyond the general use of the term. It will be interesting to see if in the future their inclusive definitions will be accepted by the general population.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Queer Theory

In the uninformed casual language, "queer" is insulting with its negative connotation-- much so that it's included in the Think B4 You Speak campaign (you know, those commercials with Hilary Duff saying that "that's gay" is like saying "that's so girl wearing a skirt as a tube top"). They try to eliminate words like "gay" being used politically incorrectly, mainly by spreading awareness. To the right is a screenshot of one of the sidebars on their site with an alternate definition.

The Queer Theory, as explained by both Jagose and Doty, actually does not define "queer" as synonymous to "gay" or "lesbian." Rather, it is the larger idea that it is "an attitude, a way of responding, that begins in a place not concerned with, or limited by, notions of binary opposition of male and female or the homo versus hetero paradigm usually articulated" (Doty). Like others have pointed out, many gay and lesbian couples are on TV shows now, and aren't always clearly defined in a stereotype. I find it interesting that "queer erotics" are necessary contructs which "define the heterosexual and the straight (as 'not queer')" because the reciprocal doesn't really work that way (Doty 3).

Queer theory includes "cross-dressing, hermaphroditism, gender ambiguity and gender-corrective surgery" (Jagose). So let's take a look at internet celebrity (model, makeup artist, fashion designer, Myspace queen) Jeffree Star. I can't really understand if this is a boy or a girl, or what sexuality is going on.. but it's this ambiguity that raises the question in which we thought we had so easily answered by saying "man" or woman."

Is Spongebob the Ultimate Expression of Queer Theory?

Through the readings, Queer theory is defined as "an umbrella term for a coalition of culturally marginal sexual self-identifications [as well as used to] describe a nascent theoretical model which has developed out of more traditional lesbian and gay studies" (Jagose) While queer is, of course, concerned with sexuality and sexual identity, it challenges the notions that these are fixed and argues for the justification of unstable constructs of sexuality and gender, which Alexander Doty refers to as ‘a place not concerned with, or limited by, notions of a binary opposition of male and female or the homo versus hetero paradigm'. Queerness is certainly inclusive of lesbians and gays, but it is also concerned with alternative expressions of sexuality that, according to Jagose, include "cross dressing, hermaphrodotism, gender ambiguity and gender-corrective surgery." So all in all, it can be understood that queerness is about destabilizing conventional categories, and subverting the identities derived from and normalized by our hegemonic culture.

Using this definition of queer, along with Doty's assertions that many of society's historical texts and television shows/ characters it can be said that cartoon characters such as Spongebob and Patrick (Spongebob Sqaurepants), Rocko and Heifer (Rocko's Modern Life) and of course, Bert and Ernie (Sesame Street) are the ultimate examples of queerness. These characters are certainly not limitied in their identies and are often seen move between those "notions of binary opposition" or ignoring them completely. Not only do they challenge the conventional divisions of human / animal, child / adult, and male / female, all also express the same readings of same-sex identity, behavior, and desire as the films and TV shows described by Doty. These cartoon characters are so succesful in subverting conventional identities and behavior that they may just be the truest illustration (pun intended) of "queer".

"Queer" & TV

So tonight is wednesday and if you're like me at 9pm you're watching Glee. Glee as we have discussed in class has a wide range of characters, cultures, race, ethnicity, and sexuality present on the show. One of the main characters, Kurt is the gay character on the show. He is an excellent actor. In tonight's episode he expresses what we have suspected all along that he is interested in the jock character, Finn. Kurts character is made to be recognizable gay from the way he dresses, to his gestures and attitude, and his actions. There have been a lot of revealing and moving moments for him: When he tells his father he's gay and comes out of the closet and tonight when he describes his feelings for Finn. I think that the show does a good job of including more and more of his storyline into the plot. Unfortunately, I feel though it has become more acceptable today to be "queer" and have an open gay lifestyle, it is still seen as the other and thus, people are still resistant. A lot of TV these days are incorporating more and more of gay and lesbian characters and plots into their shows. For example, Grey's Anatomy, The Modern Family, United States of Tara, and more.
I agree with Jagose's claim that in recent years the term "queer" has shed a different meaning/representation of being gay. I think it is seen as more of a positive term referring to the gay and lesbian population. Also, it is a neutral term. However, years ago when the term was first introduced, it was negative terminology that caused great offense to those in the gay community. It's interesting to see more and more of the media revealing gay and lesbian characters. Especially since older television shows such as "The Golden Girls" and "Designing Women," according to Doty were made to make a mockery of gay culture. Just something to think about...


I feel like the definition of “queer” in Jagose’s piece Queer Theory, was incredibly broad as it is “associated prominently with lesbian and gay subjects, but its analytic framework also includes such topics as cross-dressing, hermaphroditism, gender ambiguity and gender-corrective surgery”. I guess it pretty much encompasses everything that is not straight. However, in my opinion, I really feel like “queer” is too broad a theory and should be broken down in smaller categories. I feel like hermaphrodites is a much more complicated category and shouldn’t be grouped in the same category as lesbians and gays as it is an actual physical problem where one is born with both female and male genitalia; I feel like hermaphrodites differ from lesbians and gays as having both male and female genitalia might not necessarily affect their sexuality.

For instance, there was a lot of news sensation regarding, Semeya, one of South Africa’s champion runners, and the fact that she was a hermaphrodite. Apparently, she was born with internal testes instead of ovaries and no uterus; however these physical problems didn’t change her sexuality or the fact that she considered herself a woman and ran in the women’s sector.  I feel like it is increasingly hard to define gender, should it be based on external or internal qualities? Is one considered female because she has female genitalia or can one be considered female because she feels like she is meant to be female (such as transgenders)? I don’t know if I’m explaining myself clearly, this topic is quite complicated.

I feel as though society has adopted such a casual stance towards the idea of “queers”, and that it has now become a term that is thrown around so casually. For instance, recently there were rumors accusing Lady Gaga of being a hermaphrodite, and she was quoted that, “I have both male and female genitalia, but I consider myself female. It’s just a little bit of a penis and doesn’t interfere much with my life." I’m not sure if this is true, and really don’t think it’s true and that it was just a publicity stunt, however, I feel like queers should be taken more seriously and shouldn’t be left to the media to mock.

A pretty offensive stunt (if it is really not true): 

Queer vs. Gay

Doty seems to be trying to give more of a voice to those who do not fit into the heteronormative molds which do not only include gays and lesbians but include any kind of deviation from this sexual "norm". In fact, he implies that even if a film or TV show has gays and lesbian characters in them, they are not necessarily queer because they could still be representing the homosexual as the "other" or the deviant of the heterosexual when the Queer Theory is trying to reclaim the term "queer" as being empowering rather than derogatory. For example, the movies My Beautiful Laundrette or Brokeback Mountain would probably be not be "queer" movies, in Doty's opinion, since they still reinforce the homosexual stereotype by portraying the gay characters as a disruption of the heteronormative norms, thus reinforcing these norms.

The words "queer" and "gay" are often used interchangeably in a derogatory manner (that movie was queer or stop acting so queer, man!) however Doty makes the important distinction between the two, saying that "gay" is a very specific term which is defined in the context of an understanding that heterosexuality is natural and authoritative whereas the term "queer" is more empowering and is not necessarily viewed as abnormal.

Straight Male Cheerleaders are QUEER

Queer theory, described by Doty in Making Things Perfectly Queer, encompasses a people greater than those of just lesbians and gays. It includes a group that is “politically radical and ‘in your face’: to paradoxically demand recognition by straight culture while at the same time rejecting this culture.” Therefore, claiming something to be “queer,” is claiming it to be anything against the dominant opinion or non-straight.

In rejecting the dominant opinion, something that embodies queerness, Doty explains, is something that exists within, “a flexible space for the expressions of all aspects non (anti, contra-) straight cultural production and reception.”

An example of this kind of queerness is found within the movie highlighted last week, “Bring It On”. The male cheerleader on the Toros cheerleading squad, Jan, is an identifiably heterosexual male who takes queer enjoyment in cheerleading. Although knowingly straight, Jan faces numerous situations where his sexuality is questioned based on the hobby that he enjoys.

The Toros

When placed in these situations (often interactions with members of the football team), Jan defends himself and his passion for cheering. By standing up for himself and embracing his “queerness,” Jan’s character actively rejects society’s character profile of a heterosexual male. In doing this, Jan does creates the flexible space that Doty says Queer Theory calls for to express aspects of non-straight cultural production.

Tension on Sex and The City

In Doty's chapter, "I Love Laverne and Shirley," he talks about how the "media and public interest in women-centered series is focused upon potential dissention among the actors." I found this point very interesting, especially as he gave the example of George Cukor's film, "The Women," which was cast with 135 women. Of course the media took fire at this, stereotyping women as catty, jealous, and constantly feuding with each other. Stories depicted the production of the film as "fraught with jealousy and temperament." Cukor negated this statement by saying that in reality, the actors were very professional and "a rather jolly bunch." This brings to light the justification media must make on women-centered shows or films.
This topic reminded me of the feuds that have circulated throughout the entire series of Sex and The City. This show depicts a pride in womanhood, lesbianism, and constructs "narratives that connect an audience's pleasure to the activities and relationships of women-which results in situating most male characters as potential threats to the spectators narrative pleasure." All of this causes the media to counter this empowerment by looking for news that portrays the actors as having problems with each other. I found an article on a gossip column about the Sex and the City feuds that made me feel as though I was reading about a high school cat fight. "While the cast is all smiles on the outside, the level of dislike is unbelievable. No-one is having a good time on this shoot. Kim has been taking every chance to snipe. You could cut the tension with a knife." Sarah Jessica Parker the refuted the issue saying, "I don’t think anybody wants to believe that I love Kim. I adore her. I wouldn’t have done the movie without her. Didn’t and wouldn’t." I found another article that said that there was tension rising over the outfits of the four Sex and the City cast members. This led them to not arrive at the premiere together in their limo but to take separate cars instead, further stating that "they are determined not to be outdone by each other." Is there really nothing else to write about? These articles portray the four actresses as extremely childish and jealous women, which is contrary to their characters on the show. According to Doty, "considering the interests of patriarchal heterosexual culture, it is not surprising most of its media should want to devalue any potential site of woman-centered pleasures in mass cultures, especially when these pleasures fundamentally rely on viewers assuming queer positions." These rumors may or may not be true but you don't see these types of stories circulating around male-centered television shows.

The REAL "queer" theory

The most interesting part of the reading for me was learning that the "queer theory" goes much further than the study of homosexual beings. I have always assumed when hearing someone reference the queer theory that homosexuality was the only subject this theory encompassed, however, that just shows my lack of knowledge/understanding in that subject. So, Jagose explains in the reading that his definition of the "queer theory" is "an identity under construction," and I think the way she puts this is genius because it is not just simply declaring yourself a gay or a lesbian or a bisexual and researching why your actions lead you to behave that way, but instead, the queer theory allows you to look beyond gender allegiances- not looking ahead to anything specific- but rather to a "horizon of possibility." This shows that Jagose knows and understands that there is much more complexity to the study of queer interaction that goes beyond calling it "gay."

Similarly in Doty's article "Making Things Perfectly Queer," she also suggests that "queerness" has a lot to do with fantasy and politics. She says it is extremely difficult to attribute the "queerness" of popular culture to just one source, which I thought was a great point because I can't narrow it down to one thing either. Finally, Doty's discussion also parallels Jagose's theory that claiming "queerness" separates you from being a gay, bisexual, or a lesbian because she states, "to identity as a queer means to be politically radical and 'in your face' in order to paradoxically demand recognition by straight culture.

So, what I took away from this was that people are calling themselves "queer" because they feel like they don't fit into the cookie cutter lesbian, gay, bisexual category, however, they feel that they still need to define and broadcast their gender in order to be recognized in society, specifically by straight culture.

Queer Eye for the Straight Guy

SO the Queer Theory isn't anything new to me. I actually had a big section on it in one of my media and identity classes. And A lot of interesting things were said about it. The Queer theory actually arose from Foucault's power/pleasure theory. It said that homosexuality leads to fatality.
It is funny to see that in general, when people hear the term "queer Theory" they think of homosexuality and being a gay or a lesbian. But in reality, it includes much more than that. As Jagose pointed out in her article, Queer "describes those gestures or analytical models which dramatize inconherencies in the allegedly stable relations between chromosomal sex, gender, and sexual desire."

When I read this definition, a specific media identity comes to my mind; that is Jack from "Will and Grace." He is super-gay, and definitely reflects what it means not to be a heterosexual man.
But the other example that comes to my mind is the show called "The Queer eye for the Straight Guy." It is a show about a group of 5 gay men who are trying to style heterosexual men in order to improve their lives.
Below is a clip. What do you guys think? I think that shows like this, although comical, further the stereotype of what it means to be a homosexual.