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Making Things Perfectly Queer

Making Things Perfectly Queer: Interpreting Mass Culture

ALEXANDER DOTY
Copyright Date: 1993
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 168
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.cttttcmx
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  • Book Info
    Making Things Perfectly Queer
    Book Description:

    Doty demonstrates how queer readings can be—and are—performed by examining star images like Jack Benny and Pee-wee Herman, women-centered sitcoms like Laverne and Shirley and Designing Women, film directors like George Cukor and Dorothy Arzner, and genres like the musical.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8503-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: What Makes Queerness Most?
    (pp. xi-xx)

    Taken together, the sections of this book suggest that the queerness of mass culture develops in three areas: (1) influences during the production of texts; (2) historically specific cultural readings and uses of texts by self-identified gays, lesbians, bisexuals, queers; and (3) adopting reception positions that can be considered “queer” in some way, regardless of a person’s declared sexual and gender allegiances. Of course, floating around in culture is the text itself, which might be seen as a fourth distinct source of queerness. But unless the text isaboutqueers, it seems to me the queerness of most mass culture...

  5. CHAPTER ONE There’s Something Queer Here
    (pp. 1-16)

    The most slippery and elusive terrain for mass culture studies continues to be negotiated within audience and reception theory. Perhaps this is because within cultural studies, “audience” is now always already acknowledged to be fragmented, polymorphous, contradictory, and “nomadic,” whether in the form of individual or group subjects. Given this, it seems an almost impossible task to conduct reception studies that capture the complexity of those moments in which audiences meet mass culture texts. As Janice Radway puts it:

    No wonder we find it so difficult to theorize the dispersed, anonymous, unpredictable nature of the use of mass-produced, mass-mediated cultural...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Whose Text Is It Anyway? Queer Cultures, Queer Auteurs, and Queer Authorship
    (pp. 17-38)

    There is a moment in George Cukor’s 1939 filmThe Womenthat I will use as a condensed illustration of the critical issues in this chapter. The scene is a luncheon at Mary Haines’s suburban home. As Mary passes biscuits around, Sylvia Fowler refuses them because she is watching her weight. “Go ahead, dear. No starch, it’s gluten!” Mary exclaims. Taking a biscuit, Sylvia sarcastically remarks to the other women: “Have you ever known such a housewife?” In a film abounding with in-jokes, this moment is perhaps the slyest and the most subversive of them all. For Sylvia is played...

  7. CHAPTER THREE I Love Laverne and Shirley: Lesbian Narratives, Queer Pleasures, and Television Sitcoms
    (pp. 39-62)

    “At Last! Lost Memoirs of ‘Lucy’ Costar: ‘Ethel’ Tells All — Even Truth About Rumors She and Lucy Were Lesbian Lovers” screams the front-page headline of the August 29, 1989,,National Enquirer.The story inside features pictures of Vivian Vance and Lucille Ball together offscreen and in theirI Love Lucyroles as Ethel Mertz and Lucy Ricardo, as well as the first installment of excerpts from Vance’s “explosive secret autobiography,” which begins:

    Lucille Ball and I were just like sisters. We adored each other’s company. She and I had so many laughs on “I Love Lucy” that we could hardly get...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR The Gay Straight Man: Jack Benny and The Jack Benny Program
    (pp. 63-80)

    For forty years, Jack Benny was America’s favorite feminine straight man—in both senses of the word “straight.” However, since patriarchal cultures can’t comfortably support for very long the paradox of a straight male with mannerisms traditionally coded as feminine, it is perhaps more accurate to say that for forty years Jack Benny was actually America’s favorite fag.² As Benny’s comic star image took shape through work in vaudeville, radio, film, and television, it gradually became associated with qualities conventionally considered unmasculine: vanity (about his blue eyes, his hair, his age); coyness; excessive hand and arm gestures; a loose, bouncy...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE The Sissy Boy, the Fat Ladies, and the Dykes: Queerness and/as Gender in Pee-wee’s World
    (pp. 81-96)

    In all the things I’ve read or heard about Pee-wee Her even begin to consider the specifically queer gender dynamics centered around Pee-wee/Paul Reubens. Bryan Bruce, in “Pee Wee Herman: The Homosexual Subtext,” is right on target when he says, “The most exciting aspect of Pee Wee Herman, so far, remains his role as vindicator of the sissies,” adding elsewhere that Pee-wee tends to “undercut masculinity . . . by feminizing it.”¹ “The Mail-Lady,” the first section of Ian Balfour’s “The Playhouse of the Signifier: Reading Pee-wee Herman,” toys with, but never directly engages, the idea that Pee-wee’s gay sexuality...

  10. Afterword: “You Flush It, I Flaunt It!”
    (pp. 97-104)

    This is being written a year after Paul Reubens was arrested for masturbating in an adult theater in Sarasota, Florida. But the summer of 1992 also marked Paul Reubens’s return to mass culture in two films:Batman ReturnsandBuffy the Vampire Slayer.¹Or is it Pee-wee Herman’s return? The hysterical popular press and mass-media responses to the Paul Reubens affair were well documented and critiqued in the months following the arrest.² What it all boiled down to was this: the queerness of Reubens’s Pee-wee persona was (just barely) tolerated by straight culture as long as it remained connotative and...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 105-136)
  12. Index
    (pp. 137-146)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 147-147)