Gabriel, after reading something about queerbaiting in contemporary dramas, I wonder if you and I might think about this concept in relation to 1980s domestic sitcoms with alternative families. While we didn’t use that term then, and I’d argue putting together alternative families was not intended by show creators to serve as queerbaiting, I do suspect that these kinds of families and programs might not be as successful now because we would call it that. I’m thinking here about the revamped Odd Couple that came out last season, and how bizarre it seemed in an era where two men on television should just be gay if they’re gay. I suspect your example of Mr. Belvedere’s queerness might work as an example of this. Do you think the contemporary audience would find Mr. B offensive or off-putting because he’s not out?
This post feels especially timely. All of our posts this week addresssed themes and media we are seeing revisited in 2016, but yours especially calls attention to the ways in which discourses on economic policy so often mask reality. I’m thinking here about the recent long article in The Guardian about Donald Trump’s supporters tending to be victims of the 2008 recession, job outsourcing, and other examples of economic decline that make Trump’s protesting against free trade attractive. I’m not saying here that I think the solution to the realities depicted in your scene from The Golden Girls is to elect Donald Trump - far from it - but this article seems call attention to his appeal for certain Americans that is reflected in the poverty the Golden Girls witness at the shelter.
Thanks for your insights Bridget. Ruffalo is neither gay nor Jewish, but he is a Method actor who worked with Larry Kramer gaining his blessing and mannerisms. Matt Bomer’s homonormativity certainly helped the straight lead gain a broader audience for a work of radical political theater transformed into Murphy/HBO brand consumer fetish of sex-drenched muscle bodies with a layer of quality AIDS programming. Thus the 2014 adaptation rewrites the urgency of the 80s play and characters into quality queerness made for subscription cable enjoyment. The number of stars studding this production, including Taylor Kitsch, Julia Roberts, Alfred Molina, and Jim Parsons, brings a whole baggage of artifice and masquerade. After all Kitsch, playing a closeted homonormative character, is also not gay, Roberts is neither disabled nor a doctor, Molina performs American rather than Brit, and Parsons is associated with his Big Bang character who is straight (despite the actor’s now openly gay sexuality). So the casting choices clearly sell the adaptation to executives and audiences. It is the nostalgic consumer pleasure of the HBO film that bothers me more as an adaptation. Ruffalo as Weeks channels great anger, but the production tantalizes viewers with beautiful bodies and sequences undercutting Kramer’s radical activist politics by selling a slicked up version of the past.
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.
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.”
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.