Queering culture: Confounding and troubling heteronormativity through critical queer identities in literature, film, and music




Mulkey, Annemarie

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In this project, I examine the ways in which queer representation troubles and confounds heteronormativity, which I define as the daily and systematic rearticulations and affirmations of heterosexism and the privileging of heterosexual practices and identifications. Undergirding this project is the claim that the images we see in popular culture influence our habits of seeing both ourselves and others. Hence, an absence in representation and inaccurate representations such as stereotypes convey messages about the acceptability of particular identities and the unacceptability of others. Through repetition, these distinctions become naturalized. Therefore, in this project, I seek to demonstrate a methodology for interpreting representations of queers and critically engaging in culture in order to interrupt such destructive naturalizations.

Through rhetorical analyses of three medias, literature, film, and music, I examine how queers represent themselves in a manner that undermines heteronormativity; however, these representation are also subject to perpetuating heteronormativity. In my analysis of Radclyffe Hall's groundbreaking work, The Well of Loneliness, I show the ways in which the text both adheres to and deconstructs the dominant ideology of the 1920s. While through the illustration of isolation, Radclyffe Hall provides one method of confounding heteronormativity, the film But I'm a Cheerleader offers another means of critiquing it: camp, an overly-exaggerated satire. Lastly, I examine the indie music duo, Tegan and Sara, who perform a critically conscious queerness both visually and verbally. Their performance of queer identity strategically destabilizes heteronormativity. Thus, through these analyses, I demonstrate how critical queer performance can undermine heteronormative representations of queers and how these troublings can lead to more equitable habits of seeing and being.


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But I'm a Cheerleader, Heteronormativity, Queer representation, Tegan and Sara, The Well of Loneliness