Monday, October 14, 2013

David Halperin the Queen is not dead. - Divine / John Waters

David Halperin noticed his students were bored/dissatisfied with gay male literature. They were more excited by the edginess of queering straight culture, specifically female centred movies/TV shows. They were drawing cartoons identifying themselves with the female characters. Gays have identified with women in Hollywood and music for a long time. Halperin suspects that there needs to be a study done on this and I agree. He proposes that queering is a way of identifying with a global sense of gayness, thereby avoiding stigma and shame put on the individual person. Its an expression of gay desire that is free to go deeper into fantasy.

The expression of queer culture in the appropriation of famous female stars was firstly mined from 20th century Hollywood film. Divine channels Elizabeth Taylor in this clip from Female Trouble. There are references to the 1966 film "Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf?

David Halperin proposes that gay culture is disappearing due to gentrification, changes in law and the rise of the internet. Gentrification of inner city enclaves that were once thriving gay communities has occurred throughout the 1980's onwards. People used to have to physically go out to meet others. The internet is now a popular way to connect socially. Gay bars and newspapers are declining in numbers. The social app Grindr is widely used by gay men to hook up. The public sphere for homosexuals has changed. Now there are more gay people living in small towns that are isolated except for the internet.

The goals of gay rights have changed to gay marriage, military service and religion. These are all elements of  heteronormativity. While they are about human rights, they are also about assimilation.  Queer culture is disappearing under a blanket of heteronormativity. Halperin argues that gay men have queered heterosexual culture as a way of making their own unique space. Diversity is valuable. Reality is bland if its all heteronormative.

     Halperin, David M., How To Be Gay, Harvard University Press, 2012.