Entertainment Industry and other works

by Ellen Gillingham

J. Jack Halberstam, Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal (Queer Action/Queer Ideas) Part Three

1.) What is this week’s readings major arguments/points?

This reading’s main ideas start with Halberstam’s critique of the institution of marriage.  This leads to the relationship between “homosexual” and the industrialization.  This is the way people are identified or fragmented into groups.  It began with medical terms, but is not “hallmarks of the modern world” (65%).  The history of marriage includes prohibiting certain groups from getting married.  This includes gays, lesbians, Trans people, and mixed-race couples.  “An institution that has been defined through such exclusion and that has been enforced as a system of class alliance, of racial purity, of religious sanction,” should not be expanded, but dismantled (66%).  Halberstam looks at history as a collection because everyone has different lines.  The history of white gay man represents all gay history because it crosses with normative culture more.  Halberstam relates this to Lady Gaga because she speaks on behalf of gay marriage and don’t ask don’t tell.  However, Halberstam focuses on her because of her costumes, gestures, and worlds.  Marriage is an plan forced upon LGBT groups by the widespread opposition to gay marriage, and while some gays and lesbians choose to marry, “it’s not a cause that lies at the heart of queer community.  Marriage flattens out the varied terrainof queer social life and reduces the differences that make queers, well, queer, to legal distinctions that can be ironed out” (75%).  In the final chapter, Halmberstam talks about how Gaga Feminism is innovation and improvisation.  It is about what is different because in this society dishonesty pays, so one should resign oneself to losing.

2.) What are some things that you did not understand? Or, are there questions you have for Professor McCune, or the author?

I have the same question raised by Halberstam, How did we arrive at this historical juncture where an assimilationist politics of marriage now stands in for all queer political aspiration?

Why is this not questioned more often?

3.) What did you learn about Gender and Spectacular Consumption?

I learned that marriage is an issue that appeals to affluent white gays and lesbians who will benefit from it, while it has less appeal to queers living in poverty or actively working on social justice issues that stretch beyond securing individual benefits or tax breaks.  Marriage assumes that “family wage,” which holds men responsible for bringing home the money and resources to their wives and children.  The issue of health and other benefits can be taken outside of the context of marriage to the option of extending benefits to chosen people instead of ‘families’.  Marriage is an oppressive ideology.  For women, they believe that they “will be swept naturally along from one life-defining event to another” (73%).  In terms of spectacular consumption, the ideology of marriage is consumed through films such as I Love You, Man, The Hangover, and Sex and the City.  Women are shown as bitches or pathetic, while men are dopes or pathetic.  The films all end the same way, showing that this idea is consumed on a spectacular level of consumption.  They end with unconvincing resolutions with unbelievable weddings and romantic couplings.  Sex and the City emphasis is a huge wedding between Carrie and Mr. Big.  The wedding was avoided in the TV shows to keep the four friends together.  It sells the idea of a perfect wedding.  In the case of gender, Halberstam differentiates between male and female films by comparing Sex and the City and The Hangover.  The girl version is a “hen party gone horribly wrong, complete with female competition, eating disorder activity –purging and binging – bitchiness, and an obligatory fat/ugly girl takedown, the boy version paints marriage as a bleak and bitter pill that the guy with full knowledge just has to man up to swallow” (77%).

4.) How might you apply the author’s ideas to other examples, beyond what is

presented in the essay?

An example that extends what is presented in the essay comes from Mervyn Cadwallader’s Marriage as a Wretched Institution.  Cadwallader’s ideas extend Halberstam’s idea that marriage is an institution that has an exclusive history, but focus more on its old-fashioned aspects.  Society expects young woman to marry a man.  Although marriage is hazardous, with increasing divorce statistics, adults blame this only on premature marriages.  Marriage is outdated and not related to romantic love.  “The purposes of marriage have changed radically, yet we cling desperately to the outmoded structures of the past” (Cadwallader).  Halberstam also recognizes that we are “a generation less bound to the romantic permanence” (94%).


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