As I am beginning to read Judith Roof’s Come As You Are I am thinking about the Eng reading we did, and some of the discussion we had in class around heteronormativity and homonormativity. Something that stuck with me from last class was our discussion around the narrative that sexual encounters are predicated on the assumption that people are looking for a relationship that leads to marriage/children, and how this leads to the idea that a relationship is considered a failure when those things don’t happen. It seems like Roof’s piece ties into this when it talks about narrative needing an ending to make sense. Roof writes “without the expectation of an ending, we have difficulty discerning a story, its pleasures, terrors, lessons, its making sense of things,” I think that radical queerness that critiques marriage disrupts the expected narrative arc, making the lives of queer people (their ‘pleasures, terrors, ways of making sense of things’) more difficult to be read and controlled by the patriarchy. I’m also thinking about my own approach to intimacy, and the things that I have been taught to value in my relationships. I am really interested in thinking more about the ways that we talk about and value different kinds of relationships, and the language we use around relationships and intimacy. I think it is useful to think about narrative to do this, and I’m excited to read more of the Roof piece.
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.
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!