The Role of Sexuality and Death in Narratives

Hi all,

I found the Judith Roof reading challenging and interesting at the same time. I had a class in which we also considered a lot of Freud’s literature in order to interpret our texts. I liked it that the author challenges Freud’s view and contrasts it with Brooks. In the Roof reading we find out that death and sexuality play an important role in narratives. I must admit that I thought about the role of death in narratives, but not that much about sexuality. Maybe it is also something that I just noticed sub-consciously. Brooks mentions that a narrative is the combination of repetition and mastery. Also how he portrays the beginnings and ends of stories, is interesting. I found the term “metaphor” a little confusing and did not really know what to make out of it while reading the text. Furthermore, I got the impression that narratives which are aligned with sexuality as a concept of reproduction are the “good narratives”, which fit into the conventions. In earlier literature, narratives aligned with sexuality without reproduction and which do not fit into this concept, are seen as worse. Also, I liked how Roof compared Freud’s assumptions about Aristophane with Plato’s version. I never thought about Freud as someone who is omitting sameness because I did never consider this part of his essays. Roof describes that in his opinion primitive sexuality follows a pleasure principle and stops the narrative. In contrast to that, conservative sexuality, which is about heterosexual reproduction, is an extension of the narrative. According to Focault, sexuality fulfills the principle of transfer and helps the logic of a plot of history and power. Here I can refer to the impression, I got while reading: in these times the healthy heterosexuality makes a good story, but perversions make a wrong story and are the cause of a bad narrative. It is to say that this is not my opinion but what I noticed while reading. Moreover, I tried to connect the videos with the reading and had my issues. I can see a connection between death and the end of a narrative in “Be Prepared” from the lion king. The protagonist in the video tries to convince the hyenas from killing the Lion King and Simba. Death can be seen as something that drives the story because it is their goal to kill the Lion King. In “Poor Unfortunate Souls”, the narrative is also driven by the fact that Ariel will belong to Ursula if she does not find real love, which means her social death.

Melanie

Queering Childhood Characters

It was interesting to watch clips from the Little Mermaid and Lion King as a part of my Queer education. Revisiting childhood movies in order to analyse them through a Queer lens adds a whole new, unforeseen layer that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.

Watching “Poor Unfortunate Souls”, I realized Ursula is not the typical female character portrayed in heteronormative movies. She isn’t young, beautiful, and skinny like Ariel. She isn’t stereotypically feminine, nor is she pursuing a male character out of “love.” Ursula is her own boss with her own ambitions. She isn’t good and pure and she’s fine with it. She admits to being called a witch, which is interesting because witches are usually portrayed as being powerful women who step outside of traditional gender roles. They are dangerous and can use magic for wrong-doing. Historically, witches are also widowed women who did not remarry. They live alone and are persecuted for surviving without a man. As Ursula presents all these qualities, she’s also simultaneously pushing heteronormative values. She talks about previously using her magic to make a girl skinny and a guy muscular so that they may attract each other. Her whole song aims to convince Ariel to pursue Prince Eric, leaving her family and life in the ocean behind. Ursula goes as far as telling Ariel that she doesn’t need her voice because “on land it’s much preferred for ladies not to say a word”, promoting this idea that women are meant to be more reserved while Ursula herself defies these stereotypes. Upon doing some research, I found out that Ursula is based on the Drag Queen Divine. Drag is a very specific way of performance, and upon seeing Divine I can see some of the similarities with Ursula.

Through research I also found out that Scar is a coded gay, meaning that he presents stereotypically gay or effeminate attributes while his sexuality is never addressed. Even though he is never given “same-sex” love interests, he never has nor pursues “opposite-sex” interests. I’m very excited to discuss in class the motives behind this coded gay trope and what purpose it specifically fulfills in movies like the Lion King.

Also, I found Roof’s reading a little confusing in all honesty and don’t have much to say about it here but I look forward to discussing it in class.

Till next time,

Matt ZB

 

defining/constructing/disrupting “narrative”

I’m writing this post having read 2/3 of Judith Roof’s piece and am honestly a bit lost in regards to her main point, though I have collected some individual points that resonate with me. I’m going to connect these ideas to Moonlight in order to affirm the structure of the film’s narrative as nontraditional or queer in terms of Roof’s conception of the typical (heterosexual) narrative structure.

First, there are certain things we normally identify as an end to a narrative (i.e. “orgasm, death, marriage, victory,” etc.). Moonlight turns this concept on its head, throwing multiple “ends” in the middle–Kevin and Chiron’s sexual experience at the beach, Juan’s death, etc.–and ending without any of the aforementioned elements or even a clear suggestion that any sort of “traditional” ending will occur. The final scene with Kevin and Chiron doesn’t end in orgasm or even imply that it is to come. There is a general sense of ambivalence regarding where each character’s life is headed in the time following the conclusion of the film. Only Kevin comes close to having a clear path as he has established a comfortable life working in the diner, though with the reemergence of Chiron in his life this path becomes less clear.

Second, narratives traditionally have a clear ending, such that when a narrative ends, “its time is now separate from ours,” that we feel we have experienced something full and are thus able to remove ourselves from it and analyze it from a distance. Though Moonlight has three distinct sections that, without digging deeper, might appear to be the three parts of a traditional narrative, it feels as though we are eternally stuck in its spacial/temporal realms, unable to escape unless we imagine the continuation of its narrative toward an ending we can leave behind. Moonlight’s ending is neither an ending nor a beginning in the circular/reproductive sense that Roof discusses. Rather, it occurs at a point of tension between beginning and end, i.e. the middle. The reuniting of Kevin and Chiron sends the viewer’s mind simultaneously backward and forward in time as they recall the history of the men’s relationship and imagine what their future entails. The lack of closure or conclusion at the end of the film necessarily leaves us in the middle of a narrative.

Third, rather than imitating or responding to life, narrative determines our notion of the shape of life and what’s important in it. Moonlight, as previously explained, disrupts the traditional narrative structure. Perhaps this is where its incredible power lies: rather than letting the traditional ideas of how a narrative should be structured manipulate Chiron’s story, Moonlight lets Chiron’s story speak for itself. Human life, it suggests, doesn’t always have a clear structure with satisfying or conclusive endings. By failing to follow a traditional narrative structure, Moonlight disrupts the traditional notion of the shape of life.

I hope this makes any sense at all and I didn’t just write a bunch of nonsense.

Mia

Scattered Thoughts

This week’s readings and viewings were somewhat of a challenge for me, mostly because I don’t have a lot of context on narrative theory (or psychoanalysis or queer theory for that matter!), and have never watched the Little Mermaid!  That being said, here are some of my thoughts on Judith Roof’s “Come As You Are” and the two viewings:

  • When I first watched Moonlight, I felt a slight sense of confusion or dissatisfaction at the end, like maybe I had missed something.  After reading Roof’s discussion on endings, I understand my reaction as a response to the narrative I have been constructed to expect: one with a clear, climactic ending, involving sexual climax, death, or a related metaphor.
  • One of the most poignant understandings I gained from Roof’s piece is the role that homosexual and deviant sexual behaviors play in the middle of a narrative, as the heterosexual ending is re-inscribed.   This is an important critique on the way homosexual sexuality, when it is portrayed as such, continued to uphold the necessity of a heterosexual, reproductive end.
  • I felt confused about the connections drawn at the end of Roof’s piece to capitalism.  I understand the commodification of queer identity, but still have questions about the ties to narrative.
  • In relation to “Be Prepared” from the Lion King and “Poor Unfortunate Souls” from The Little Mermaid, Roof’s arguments are really interesting.  Scar lays out a clear end—the deaths of Mufasa and Simba—that will lead to the coming story where he is the King.  We anticipate this ending, even as we know it will not happen.  In “Be Prepared,” Ariel chooses to participate in devious behavior—using the magic of Ursula, a non-normative character in terms of gender portrayal and sexuality—to take her to the inherent end—heterosexual matching and potential reproduction.

All of this made me think about our class, “Queer Narratives”—now that we have begun to unpack what a narrative is, I’m excited to deepen my understanding of how we understand and use the word queer.

In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue

“Moonlight” shows depictions of black masculinity and what can happen as a result of deviating from that role. From the start, Chiron does not play into the stereotypes of black masculinity, leading him to be bullied from a young age until adolescence. Kevin, on the other hand, is also attracted to women, making it easier for him to play a heteronormative role in school while hiding his queer identity. This is because blackness is not something you can hide yet queerness is.

Vaught talks about the state categorizing students into the bully and the bullied. In “Moonlight”, when Kevin is forced to hit Chiron, Kevin plays the role of the bully and Chiron plays the role of the bullied. They are both queer black men, but Kevin takes on the role of “perpetrator” while Chiron takes on the role of “victim.” We then see what happens when Chiron does take on the role of “perpetrator” when hits a fellow student with a chair. At that point, his queerness becomes invisible while his blackness determines how the institution treats him.

To the state, only White queerness can be visible. Black queerness cannot exist in our current institution since people who are both black and queer will only be visible as “black” and their queerness will not be acknowledged. Therefore, when anti-bullying legislation is made to protect queer youth, it cannot protect non-White queerness.

 

 

The Narratives of Moonlight

The incredible thing about Moonlight is that there are so, so many different narratives being told at the same time about a vast variety of life challenges. (*Yay intersectionality!*) Not only does it obviously examine the struggles of figuring out one’s sexuality, it also depicts what it’s like to simultaneously grow up Black in the hood with little money. Then there’s incarceration, addiction, criminality, and school violence. Hyper-masculinity. The single parent story. Immigration. So many seldom-explored, important truths.

It almost seems like Moonlight tried to take on too many somewhat tragic and somber themes; in other words, it still could have been a fantastically intersectional film about a poor, gay, and Black young boy coming of age without carving out so much time exploring things like addiction and incarceration. Yet what makes Moonlight so deserving of its accolades is its artful ability to deliver everything aforementioned without making any of it seem trite, forced, or unnatural. The beautiful cinematography and original shots in collaboration with the music score certainly played a part. It was so real – I hope we see more of that in future films.

Sorry for the short post!

Jenn

“Moonlight”: A Mainstream Mediator for Minority

Hello! I really adore movies and, after having watched the beautiful film Moonlight, I’m so ready to add it to my list of favorites. I have a lot of thoughts about it, maybe too many focusing on the cinematography, but I’ll try my best to link it back to the topics at hand.

The creators of Moonlight have such an intelligent method of storytelling that allows for a subtle, more natural realization of love and identity than many mainstream films. All aspects of its production point at conveying specific and nuanced tones throughout the film, exploring so much of its own themes without explicitly declaring them. My favorite example of this is the entire diner scene in which Kevin and Chiron finally reunite as men who have had the chance to experience their individual ups and downs. The use of dialogue or sometimes the lack thereof when they react to each other’s admissions is outstanding, as they each show how relieved they are to meet again and how much they have thought about each other over the years. For example, Kevin is visibly disappointed that Black has been dealing drugs and indirectly tells him so, saying that “that ain’t [Chiron]”. Black’s subsequent indignance at this points to the conflict that has been ever-present in Chiron’s life: he knows he isn’t himself as a “hard”, hypermasculine drug dealer, but he’s also so aware of the impossibility of behaving otherwise in the face of society. Even the hopeful conclusion of the movie is not explicitly stated, which is fitting since even with coming out and finding requited love, Kevin and Chiron’s share an embrace embodies both the relief in finding someone to share one’s true self and the support one needs to face a hostile future.

Moonlight has the power to feel real and relatable to an underrepresented intersection of identities, and so existence as a previously untold queer narrative is crucial. It’s interesting to consider that Moonlight’s value is not only in its representation of a gay black man in a community that follows traditional ideals of masculinity, but also in its exceptional beauty as a film. Perhaps a combination of its novel subject matter and its skillful handling of such was necessary to bring the movie to the mainstream, and this popularity allows it to speak to a wider audience and generate more social discussion. It certainly adds a unique and important voice to the entire body of film that is out there for us to consume.

I’m excited to talk more about this film and its implications in class. As for Sabina Vaught’s piece, I certainly found it more challenging to understand but that’s even more reason to figure out Vaught’s intentions with other people.

peace out,

Martina

Vaught Ought To Know

This is one of the hardest articles I’ve had to read, and it’s not necessarily because of the content or the flow, but mainly the language that’s being used. It took me until about halfway for the article to start making sense, especially when certain words and phrases were being reused. This is what I got out of it:

  1. Structural liberalism is just a natural offshoot of the kyriarchy (the overarching social system that legitimizes oppression) in which we all live and have to navigate.
  2. By creating labels of “perpetrator” and “victim”, it becomes easier for the educational system to deal with problems on an individual level, consistent with the underlying philosophy of the system.
  3. This leaves the educational system–and the kyriarchy as a whole–blameless, since the focus is on the individual and not of any contribution by or from the system in place to influence these human interactions.
  4. Structural liberalism uses labels.
  5. These labels are essentially restricting because they do not allow for alternative perspectives (i.e. there has to be a norm in place, and the educational system has to enforce the norm).
  6. This leaves specifically gay Black men as just “perpetrator” because the system cannot accommodate the intersectionality of these three identities (and subsequently the inherent contradiction of considering “Black” as “criminal” and “gay” as “victim”). In other words, there has to be a place for everything and everyone.
  7. Even though the law enacted in 2010 has good intentions, it fundamentally upholds the kyriarchy, and therefore does not fundamentally change how the educational system works.

If anyone’s wondering, I did this mainly for everyone, because the language in this article is very hard to understand. It would’ve been nice if there were context from the author as to what she was trying to argue, because not everyone is familiar with the terminology she uses. (Nevertheless, I like that she uses it). Hopefully this is helpful.

Also I want to mention one quote on pg. 156 that mentions the difference between “marginalizing” and “privileging”. This reminds me of many conversations I’ve read that are trying to rediscover the identity politics within the LGBTQ+ community and the debate over “coming out” vs. “inviting in”. For anyone that doesn’t know, “coming out” is considered problematic to these groups of people because essentially you are announcing your deviance from heteronormativity, which sheds light on the potential of being marginalized. Privileged groups do not change just because there exists other, non-privileged groups. “Inviting in” (or that idea) is hailed as the solution, since it would fundamentally allow for the “norm” to be widened to “include” LGBTQ+ people. Therefore, LGBTQ+ identity would be normalized and accepted per se.

One question I have about this, though, is if there is any space for queerness if the goal is to “normalize”. If not, what does this say about the kyriarchy?

Hope this makes a bit more sense now,

Josh

 

Moonlight

So first things first, Moonlight is an amazing movie that completely deserved a Golden Globe. The things that I loved about it were the facts that it had an amazing cinematography, score, screenplay, and acting amongst the three different ages of Chiron. For me, The best part of it all was the approach to the story that Barry Jenkins wanted to tell. Moonlight is not about a gy black man, instead it is the narrative that is rarely told. There are a lot of films about black gay men, but seldom do you find one that is about sexuality instead.

This was the story of becoming in a world that is dominated by hyper masculinity. Chiron was never the traditional man accordingto the normative expectations of what a man should be. Rather he existed as himself without conforming to the ideals around him. This existence, his existence, is a phenomenon all within itself. The fact that he was able to exist so long is amazing, but sadly, he was warped into the society around him later in life. I love how the ending emphasized who we truly was by denouncing who he had become. The street life wasn’t him, although he made it for him- it wasn’t truly him and kevin continually reminded him of that. In this scene, it was very content dense in the way that never strictly said that Chiron was gay. This moment was filled with the culmination of him battling his journey of becoming as a man against his journey in sexuality. I appreciated the narratives emphasis on who he is and how he got there; rather than what he is and what happened to him.

 

Michelle

AKA “Miche” ,”Doc”, “Shelly Shell”, “The GOAT”

Any of these will suffice

Moonlight: Tenderness in a Harsh World

Watching Moonlight was quite an experience, and I feel it a beautiful film that all kinds of emotional chords for many reasons. It is undeniable that mainstream cultural representations have characterized Black men as hypersexual, hyper-heterosexual, and aggressive perpetrators of violence for centuries. After reading Vaught’s work, it was quite clear that the movie wanted to dispel this deeply ingrained and racist perspective, as well as the “extreme structural liberalism” found in the anti-bullying Act and so many other pieces of legislation which systemically erase the “collective existence of Black gay youth in schools”.

By following Little, Chiron, and Black’s life, we are exposed to dangers of a system that has continuously placed Black youth in danger and forced them into the role of “perpetrators”. Being from Miami, I am familiar with Overtown and Liberty City, two historically Black neighborhoods that have suffered innumerable blows at the hands of the government. Overtown is actually quite close to the Wynwood Walls which are now overrun with tourists and bourgeois citizens who couldn’t care less about the history of the area and the people it once belonged to. It was a relief to see that the movie accurately portrayed these areas and was true to the struggles of its residents. 

From the beginning of the movie, I felt a great amount of sympathy for Little and even for the other boys who he played with, especially when it was shown that the ball they were playing with was made of paper. These boys were thrown into a vicious cycle before they were even born, a cycle perpetuated by white supremacy. It was interesting and saddening  to see how stereotypical masculinity was such a key aspect of all of their lives, that they had to constantly  prove their “manliness” to one another in order to fit in.

Despite such prominent and toxic views of masculinity that colored the children’s lives, one of the most striking aspects of this film was the fleeting tenderness that characterized certain scenes regardless of them taking place in such a harsh world. Juan’s character was so important (shout-out for representing Black Cubans!!!) because a stereotypical “”thug”” figure, a drug dealer, a “perpetrator”, was portrayed as having a deep emotional connection with Little which unfolded in their conversations on the beach and in his home. He was not homophobic and did not shame Little for his questions. He gave him the strenght to be who he wanted to be. He allowed him a piece of innocence in a world where Black kids are not given the chance to be kids.

On a different note, I really appreciated the fact that this film portrayed queerness that isn’t hyper-sexualized. While I love steamy gay sex scenes as much as the next guy, I am always happy when queer characters are (rarely) not reduced to, as Vaught says, “their individual sexual predilections”. Even when Kevin gives Chiron a handjob, there wasn’t that icky feeling I get when it’s pretty clear a queer character is being hyper-sexualized. It was innocent, and another important scene characterized by a light tenderness, something which I was very grateful for.

Another message I took away from this movie that really hit home is the fact that sometimes, life is so fraught with chaos that you have no choice but to put your queerness on the back of your mind. Chiron, myself, and many other queer people who are layered with other marginalized identities sometimes don’t even have the privilege to focus on unpacking your queerness, because to do so would simply be too overwhelming. Repression becomes an unhappy means of survival, and when you are finally given the room to breath and be who you are, relief is immeasurable. The last scene, where Kevin caresses Black and we see Little reveling in the moonlight was incredibly moving, and I found myself letting out a breath I didn’t know I was holding.

Like I said, this movie brought on a wave of different feelings and I have so much more to say, especially about his mother, Teresa, and the role of women in this film. I’ll stop talking for now though, and I really look forward to this week’s discussion!!

Yours truly,

Leticia