Wearing a Sign

"How dare you say that the guys in Orange County or Jaws or Silver Streak or Lake Placid or Time Tunnel are gay?  You're reading too much into it!  The authors never intended that!"

I hear statements like this a dozen times a week.  If a char
acter is not Wearing a Sign, not specifically stating "I am gay," he or she must be assumed heterosexual.  Fiction  is the last bastian where heterosexuals can breathe free, certain that they are alone in the world, that those pesky gay people do not exist.

I have news for them.

1. Fictional characters do not exist, period. They are words on a page or images on a screen.  We know absolutely nothing about them except what is contained in those images.  It is up to the viewer to flesh them out, to fill in the blanks, to imagine their inner states, their motivations, their desires -- and to imagine what happens during the vast sections of their lives NOT on the screen. If they fail to make an explicit statement about their sexual identity on screen, that doesn't mean that they are automatically classified as heterosexual.  

We viewers must figure it out for ourselves.

2.  We figure it out by looking for clues.   Does the character leer at a woman?  At a man?  Establish a strong opposite-sex relationship?  A strong same-sex relationship?

The main gay clues are: 

Bonding (same-sex romance)
Domesticity (living together)
My hero (same sex rescues)
No girls/boys allowed (lack of heterosexual interest)
Beefcake (physical display)

If one or more of these clues are present, the character can be read as gay.

3. There's no single correct answer. It's not like figuring out the answer to a riddle. The images are always vague, ambiguous, and contradictory.  Is this male-male relationship intimate and passionate enough to qualify as a romance?  I may think it is; you may not.

It's ok for different people to "read" different things into the text.

4. The intentions of the actors, writers, and directors are irrelevant.  No matter what they were trying to convey about their characters, the images are still vague, ambiguous, and contradictory.  So we still have to figure it out for ourselves, and we may get answers different from what they had in mind.

It's ok to see things that the authors didn't intend.

5. Mass media assumes that gay children do not exist.  No producer, writer, or director has ever, to my knowledge, acknowledged that there might be gay children in the audience.  There may be gay adults, but all children, without exception, are assumed heterosexual.  Therefore gay children are interlopers in an alien country.  Everything they see, everything they hear, everything they read is meant for someone else.  They have to grab what they can.  If they must distort the text, misread a character, see things that aren't even there, that's fine.

When it's a matter of survival, anything goes.

1 comment:

  1. Came here searching for information about gay coded "Jonny Quest". I like your work so much I am working my way through the whole blog!

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