“My son’s a homosexual, and I love him. I love my dead gay son.”
– Kurt’s Dad, Heathers (1988)
Although homosexuality is not a focal point in storylines the way it used to be, it’s difficult to look back over the last two decades and not balk at the representations of the Queer community. Over the 80’s, 90’s and to some extent the 00’s, Queer people have been used as an ‘interesting’ plot point of many movies, soap operas and television dramas in which their lives are played out as a tragedy to demonstrate a world not ready for “subversive sexual inclinations”. The T.V. trope ‘Bury your gays’ follows the format of painting a tragic tale of an individual struggling against an oppressive society which either directly kills the individual or pushes them to murder. Mulholland Dr., Cruising, Cloud Atlas, Brideshead Revisited, and shockingly Nine Dead Gay Guys (to name a few) all follow this rough format.
We can explore this trope using criticism as a guide by using Queer Theory. Queer Theory is a literary criticism influenced by post-structuralist theory and by feminist theory with the aim to deconstruct the representations of queer peoples. It began to gain traction in the 1990’s and was led by literary critics such as Judith Butler, Lee Edelman and Jack Halberstam. Queer theory also interrogates the effect that constructed gender roles have on individuals and how people who don’t conform to this are excluded by society. In response, Queer theory champions destabilized sexual norms and sees them as a way of subverting dominant political ideologies, capitalism for example. J.K. Gibson-Graham, explores this when stating; “What if we were to ‘queer’ capitalist hegemony and break apart some of its consolidating associations? Surely the market is a mobile and membranous orifice into which can be inserted all kinds of non-capitalist commodities”. We might take from this that Queer theory deconstructs our own perceptions of hetronormative, gender roles by interrogating them in literature, film and society at large. This also observes internal exclusive behaviours within the queer community as it grows and becomes a dominant discourse itself. Judging those who do not conform to a particular ideology and removing any “social norms” they may have been “indoctrinated” with while still struggling to conform to a dominant hetronormative society. Jasbir Puar argues “Queerness here is the modality through which “freedom from norms” becomes a regulatory queer ideal that demarcates the ideal queer. Arguing that “more reflection on queer attachments might allow us to avoid positing assimilation or transgression as choices.” This is an interesting introspective idea for Queer theory as it puts queer people under scrutiny as well as hetronormative society.
The importance that can be drawn from this, is that by examining the representations that we have all around us, we can break down power structures which have insulted and marginalized individuals, and thus allow those individuals to build a new system which they feel comfortable in.