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R. Gabriel Dor

Thanks Molly! I too am fascinated by the faithful pastiche of this ad. Murphy chose the same music, but the voiceover and visual text are even more sex-charged than the original! The original ad itself offers a camp appeal to late 70s/early 80s gay men with knowing humor. Its incorporation into Murphy’s film text adds an additional layer of camp nostalgia and knowing memory, designed both to evoke a lost era and remind survivors of their queer past. In this sense the ad serves less the homogenizing consumerist impulse of the HBO adaptation, and more as a unique address to older gay audiences who understand the context of the pastiche and are not alienated by raunchy bathhouse sex.

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Molly McCourt

I’m fascinated by this Man’s Country ad and Murphy’s decision to incorporate it into his adaptation of A Normal Heart. The voice-over lacks any hint of suggestive sexuality while the singer in the disco song exclaims “You nasty!” Of course, the beauty of this is found in its innuendo and, as you say, Gabriel, it captures an irretrievable era of “liberated sexuality and uncompromised masculinity.”

Jessica Fletcher on the phone
Elizabeth Wuerffel

Hi Bridget, thanks for your comments. I have not re-watched the crossover, but now that you mention it, I definitely need to. Magnum is always so sure of himself. And, of course, Fletcher is too, but she’s *sometimes* demure (“oh, I’m not a detective, but…”). I did cut together the clip - glad you liked it…. it made me want to create a 12-season “lady” mashup!

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Bridget Kies

Gabriel, I’m interested in this notion of nostalgia that you say the film works to evince, especially when we think about the layers of history and memory at work here. The 1980s characters Ned and Felix flashing back to the carefree pre-AIDS days, but on top of that is us in 2014 flashing back to terrifying days of early epidemic. The casting of Ruffalo and more importantly Matt Bomer really highlights how these layers of nostalgia are entangled with different attitudes toward sex and sexuality, since Bomer’s “outing” was in the guise of a speech thanking his partner and children. His “good guy” star persona seems in many ways to be a poster for homonormativity. This works in some ways alongside Felix’s belief in true love, sure, but it also adds interesting extratextual layers to the “Man’s Country” flashback.

Since T.J. brought up the idea of star readings on my post, and since I’ve brought up casting here, I want to ask also what you think about Ruffalo as Ned Weeks. When I first saw The Normal Heart, it was impossible not to think about Ruffalo’s sexuality, and that colored my reading of Ned’s vehement disavowals of indiscriminate sex. I’m curious to know what you think.

Bridget Kies

I argue against a reading of Full House as heteronormative in my larger research; I see it as a fully queer family construction that reiterates the 80s fascination with the tension between normativity and queerness. Full House is one example in my larger argument about 80s sitcoms.

But I like your suggestion of how to understand the series through star readings. Although John Stamos has the aura of sex appeal that is often concomitant with hetero-virility, he speaks with kindness of his gay fans and with pride about his 2006 movie Wedding Wars, in which he played a gay wedding planner who refused to work if marriage discrimination laws were passed. (Hello Prop 8.) So I’d agree that Stamos has an aura of queerness that works in tandem with Uncle Jesse’s abiding heterosexuality.

What do you make of Dave Coulier, though? I’m not sure there’s as much to read into his star persona as there is with Saget and Stamos.

Thomas J. West III

I’m curious about the heternormativity of “Full House.” While that is certainly the dominant part of the narrative, I wonder if considering the star texts of John Stamos and Dan Saget in particular might help put some pressure on this aspect of the series. Anecdotally, I know many queer youth found Uncle Jesse/Stamos to be an object of (quasi)-erotic fascination. And of course Saget has spent the subsequent years undoing and deliberately working against his nice-guy/slightly queer persona that “Full House” put on such display.

Seen in this light, I think we can see a slightly erotic queer edge to both “Full House” and its 2016 progeny, at least as far as Stamos is concerned, and I wonder how seriously we can take Danny’s straight-laced image in the wake of Saget’s subsequent work.

Molly McCourt

Well said, Gabriel! And to comment further on your second question, I’d say that the first season invokes this subtle humor often.This can be seen, for example, by cutting from a strained domestic scene in the Jennings household to the portrait of a smiling President Reagan in the FBI office. However, as the fourth season approaches, a sense of imminent danger to the protagonists has done away with most of these playful nods.

R. Gabriel Dor

So the queerness comes as masquerade of domesticity to cover over subversion? Is it frequent for The Americans to use this tension as a source of humor?

Molly McCourt

Thanks for your questions, Bridget. While the “good guys” are, in fact, performing heteronormative domesticity, I see it less as a veneration and more as a necessity. In order to blend in, Elizabeth and Philip need to convincingly play their roles in a nuclear family, a construct glorified by1980s policies. Performance, compounded with the protagonists’ actual fidelity to “the Evil Empire,” as Reagan called the Soviet Union, are factors that lead me to categorize this presentation of the family as queer.

Bridget Kies

I’m struck by your categorization of queerness here, since what we see is a scene of performed domesticity. Is it queer because it is purely performative then? As you say, we are supposed to chuckle at their performance, but don’t we also venerate heteronormative domesticity, both by performing it and by making the “good guys” normative?