Sexualized Minorities, “sexual otherness” & heterosexism in the media

February 24, 2009 at 6:59 PM (Gender Norms and Expectations, Homosexuality, Queer Theory)

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Sexualized minorities are considered not of the socially constructed “norm.” This polarizes individuals and puts them in categories. The norm is considered anyone who is non-heterosexual or transgendered. Heterosexism is another word for homophobia. Unfortunately there are is still heterosexism on television, in film, and in TV advertisements. There is also the lesbian-chic/pseudo lesbian phenomenon thanks to the adult film industry’s influence on mass media, and men. The male “turn-on” of seeing women make out on screen is almost a must in most teenage drama TV shows and in teen movies. Although some of these shows try to present real lesbians (refer to the “OC” clip above), they are all seen through the male gaze. The “OC” presented a relationship between a main character Marissa and a new character, Alex, a female. The relationship was the first lesbian interaction for Marissa. Whenever the two male main characters spoke about it, they laughed, and mentioned trying to visualize. Without this commentary, or without the facial expressions from Seth in the scene provided in this week’s blog, the relationship would have been validated. Instead it falls into pseudo-lesbian chic category, thus remaining only for the male’s gaze, and leaving little room for lesbian viewers to see it as a legitimate relationship and experience it through their gazes.

“Friends” gives us an accurate example of same sex desire. While Joey and Ross are both portrayed as heterosexual couples throughout the series, this episode focuses on a nap they take together and are both ashamed of the position they fall asleep in. In the end of the episode Joey wants to reenact the nap with Ross and suggest they leave the café to cuddle. Initially Ross resists the idea, but seconds later he gives in and chases Joey upstairs to the apartment. Author Dennis writes “tradition to present homosexual desire as only possibility has traditionally made characters appear asexual.” This is seen in this episode, along with many cartoons in which Dennis researched. It is interesting because both men show signs of homophobia, initially rejecting each other after they wake up. What we find is that this is actually only a façade from their same sex desire. The end of the episode leaves us wondering what happens between the two. “The Real World” every season tries to have at least one gay or lesbian character on its show. It is important to understand that although they might be set in the “real world” they are characters cast by specialists. These specialists are looking for specific personality traits before they meet the individuals. It is like they all ready have the characters drawn out and molded, they just need faces and bodies to fill those positions. In the scene provided we see Ryan, a small town Iraq veteran, calling the transgendered character an “it.” Not only does he call her an “it,” he claims ignorance as if ignorance justifies his language. The casting specialists specifically looked for this small town ignorance for a character who they knew would offend housemates. Although he seeks out Kaitin, the transgendered woman, for answers, his behavior leading up to it polarizes her individually. The Nike advertisement was banned for its homophobia. The face in the crotch while getting dunked on, and the text reading “that ain’t right” did not sit well with the gay community. Nike quickly apologized and released a statement that they have a strict policy prohibiting homophobia, racism, sexism, etc.  Apologies are often made after mistakes are made which is a responsibility of any business. However, Nike is one of the world’s leaders in advertisements. This was simply sloppy design and should have never occurred. The clip from “My Best Friend’s Wedding” supports the claim that heterosexual women in film and TV define the gay man’s role and character. According to Shugart, the gay man/straight woman configuration can be seen in this movie and Will and Grace. The women’s roles are consistently written as being weak, needy women who always rely on men; gay or straight. When these women are seeking hetero relationships they lean on their gay male friends for help. When the women are single, they rely on the gay male to shop with them, sleep with them (in bed, not sexually), live with them, and kiss them on the lips both hello and goodbye. When the female does meet a male counterpart, he waltzes on the screen looking more masculine because of her gay friend. This dynamic further polarizes and stereotypes gay men. In this scene we see Jules waking up after drinking tons of bottles from the mini-bar in her hotel room (a sign of weakness) because of her broken heart and stress. Her gay friend, George, surprises her early in the morning and one of the first things out of his mouth is how ugly the hotel room is. The notion that gay men are there to fix things, accessorize, have high knowledge of fashion and interior design is a notion created by these stereotypical roles in film and TV.

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