Queer Struggle

This is a paper that I wrote a little over a year ago… I was going through my old documents and found it. I read it over, and while I cringed a bit at some of the grammar, and how contrived it felt as a whole, I did still like it. And it’s a great marker of my development in writing. So I thought I would share it with you guys…

Just a preface… The music video referenced is “Hurricane,” by 30 Seconds to Mars. You should totally watch it before reading, just so that you know what I’m talking about. Also, Jared Leto is in it, and he’s fucking hot. Here’s the link: https://vimeo.com/38704588

And here we go…

 

Queer Struggle: Hurricane (Thirty Seconds to Mars)

In 2009, the band Thirty Seconds to Mars released a self-titled short film for their song Hurricane. In it, the three men are followed by, and battle with mysterious masked men, and appear in sexual scenarios with women dressed in bondage type clothing. It is my deduction that the images depicted in this film are meant to represent the struggle and inability of the queer person to conform to the standards set forth by a heteronormative society, because of their desire to be accepted into said society.

The film is split into three chapters: birth, life, and death. I do not believe that these chapters are meant to break the film into any truly distinguishable segments, but rather to represent the mortality of the heteronormative standard in a queer space, as well as that of queerness in a hetero-space. In other words, the film is just as much about the inability of heteronormativity to penetrate the queer as the inability of the queer to penetrate heteronormativity. The two are forever at odds.

There are three main metaphors in the film. The first is the band members, who represent the queer person. I will refer to them collectively as Thirty. The second is the masked men, who represent both the struggle of the queer person, as well as heteronormative society. The third is every woman in the film. They represent the approved object of desire.

The standard set forth by a heteronormative society is that the object of desire for a male should always be female, or that the object of desire for the masculine should always be feminine. What occurs in Hurricane is a type of struggle between the queer male (or the gay male), and his inability to place his desire where society has told him that it should be. This struggle is shown through the depictions of violent fights between Thirty, and the masked men. The film’s sporadic “sex” scenes also depict this struggle, with the women being the objects that the queer person struggles, but ultimately fails to desire.

In the article Coming Out in College: The Struggle for a Queer Identity, Robert A. Rhoads analyzes fellow author Frank Browning’s take on queerness as always involving a degree of “rage.”[1] I think that this is a very good place to begin, as there is a great deal of violence depicted in Hurricane. Take, for example, the subway scene, about four minutes in. A masked man leads a woman dressed in what may be bondage gear up a stairway, and forces her to kneel in the center of a room. Thirty enters the same room, sees this woman, and begins a pseudo-science fiction style fight sequence with the masked man. As I have stated, the fight represents the struggle of the queer person, but perhaps more important than the fight itself are the individual actions taken by each character in the scene.

Upon initial entry, Thirty appears wary of the situation that he stepping into. As the masked man approaches him, he takes a step back before the two begin to fight, and the fight itself does not last very long. In fact, after a few very dramatic blows, it ends with the masked man stumbling off screen. This would appear to be a victory for the queer person. However, the reason that this is not the case is because of what happens immediately after, when Thirty walks over to the woman, who is now on her hands and knees, with her back arched, and kisses her on the lips.

He has fought with society in attempt to reject the standards that are being forced upon him, but he has ultimately given in to his desire to be accepted. This is his struggle and his failure. Thirty’s inability to reject the woman, or the appointed object of desire, is reminiscent of the queer person’s inability to reject the heteronormative standards forced upon them by a heteronormative society.

Heteronormativity is “an unseen force that dictates the boundaries of presumed normal sexuality and even normal social interactions.”[2] It is society’s way of keeping individuals in line with the way that it believes things are meant to be, and makes outcasts of those who do not fall in line. Because of this, the struggle of the queer person to fit into a heteronormative society will always result in failure. This is because queerness is the literality of difference. Thirty’s fight against the heteronormative standards being forced upon him, and also his fight to be accepted into a heteronormative society, always end in failure because he is attempting to conform, while by his very nature being different.

This paradox of trying to make conformity out of difference is shown about 7 ½ minutes in, when Thirty meets up with a woman (dressed far more modestly than any of the others) at a park bench. He approaches her with caution, sits down beside her, and the two begin to kiss very passionately. During this, the woman handcuffs Thirty to the bench, and gets up as a group of masked men approach. Thirty takes a key from around his neck, unlocked the cuffs, and fights with the men as the woman stands off to the side, observing. After the fight is over, she flees.

In Gay and Greek: The Deployment of Gender by Gay Men in Fraternity and Sorority Life, Anthony Clemons says that gay men in fraternities are able to be accepted because they adapt this sort of “white, masculine” identity, even though their being gay does not fit in with the rest of the fraternity.[3] This is similar to what occurs during the park scene in Hurricane, in the sense that Thirty is adapting a sort of hetero-identity in order to conform with the heteronormative society, however he is unable to do so because by his very nature, he is different.

His being locked to the bench represents his being locked into his queerness, and society does not accept queerness. This is why the men attack him. And even though he is able to win this small battle with society, he is still unable to conform to it and desire what it deems appropriate, and thus the approved object of desire evades him once more. Thirty may be able to act as if he conforms, however he will never truly be able to do so.

The representation of the innate inability to desire what a heteronormative society deems appropriate is present throughout the entire film, but at no point is Hurricane more effective at showing this than at the seven minute mark. At this point, Thirty is knocked unconscious and falls into a coffin wrapped in an American flag. The coffin is nailed shut, and Thirty remains here for a brief period of time.

In Sexual Orientation Conversion Therapy for Gay Men and Lesbians: A Scientific Examination, Douglass C. Haldeman writes that those who take part in conversion therapy do not become heterosexual. Instead, the therapy results in them feeling “shamed, conflicted, and fearful about their homosexual feelings.”[4] In other words, these people begin to suppress their homosexual nature in order to conform. They fall into a type of “sleep.”

When Leto is knocked unconscious by the masked man, who represents the heteronormative standard, he enters this “sleep” phase. He is not un-queered upon his capture; he is simply ignoring his queerness. This parallels with those who leave conversion therapy and ignore their homosexuality. However, just as Leto does in the film, these people must all wake up at some point. This is the struggle and failure of the queer person to conform.

It is important to note that the violence depicted in Hurricane is not reminiscent of actual physical violence, but rather the possibility of it. In Imagined Violence/Queer Violence, Judith Halberstam explains that it is this threat of violence that is able to disrupt identity.[5] In the beginning of this paper, I stated that neither heteronormativity nor the queer person could penetrate each other. With reference to Hurricane, the fight sequences are not meant to be taken as literal. What they serve as, other than representations of queer struggle, are representations of queer identity, and its struggle, being able to disrupt the order of a heteronormative society with the mere threat of violence. That is why Thirty is fighting. Conversely, they also represent the heteronormative society being angered by this disruption. That is why the masked men are fighting. The question now is: why is the heteronormative society’s resolve so strong?

According to Lee Edelman’s No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive, anything that goes against the societal mandates of sexual reproduction threaten the logic of futurism.[6] This is why, about ten minutes into Hurricane, Thirty sees a group of small children coloring with chalk in an alleyway. The children notice him, and run away soon after. The very next scene shows Thirty in another one of the “sex” sequences, only this time, he is between the woman’s legs.

The queer person is seen as not being for children. Children represent the future, and therefore anything not in support of children is not in support of the future. Heteronormative society’s primary goal is futurity; therefore it combats anything that stands in the way of that goal. Its resolve will forever be unwavering.

However, we mustn’t forget that the queer, Thirty, wants to be a part of this society. Thus, he gets in between the legs of the approved object of desire, the woman, in order to promote the goals of the heteronormative society, or to at least show that he is not at odds with it. However, the scenes of bondage that were present before this particular scene return.

Thirty is unable to follow protocol and promote futurity (at least by heteronormative standards) because he is queer. Therefore, his sex can only be queer. This does not mean that his sex must be homosexual, but simply that it is not with the goal of reproduction. And as reproduction is not set forth by his sex, society still does not accept him, even as he has appeared to accept the approved object of desire.

The adoption of the masculine identity recurs here, which is why the sex scenes appear to get more violent, in accordance with heteronormative standards of male dominance. The woman from the park re-appears, still running from Thirty, but he catches her this time, and they kiss again. This is more male dominance. The reason that this one last effort to be accepted into heteronormative society ends in failure comes in the last fight sequence.

Here, Thirty finally defeats the masked man once and for all. This fight is different from the other ones because this time, there are no women present during or after. Thirty, or the queer, have not conformed to the standards of heteronormative society, however there is no more desire to do so from this point on. I view the conclusion of the film as a type of resolution for the queer person. It is here that they realize that they are different, and that because they are different, they can not conform. Therefore, they no longer attempt to.

As I stated earlier, it is completely impossible for heteronormativity to penetrate the queer, or for the queer to penetrate heteronormativity. The two are by their very natures out of sync. It is often the desire of many queer people to be accepted by hetero-society, however they are unable to do so because the only way for that goal to be achieved would be for them to conform. This conformity would mean the death of their queerness, which would mean that heteronormative society hadn’t actually accepted anything different. Hurricane depicts the struggle and inability of the queer person to conform to a heteronormative society that wants to change them.

 

[1] 4. Rhoads, Robert A. “Coming out in College: The Struggle for a Queer Identity.” Choice Reviews Online, 32, no. 08 (1995). Available Online at https://books.google.com

[2] 2. Habarth, Janice M. Thinking Straight: Heteronormativity and Associated Outcomes Across Sexual Orientation. Michigan, 2008. https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/60664/jhabarth_1.pdf

 

[3] 6. Clemons, Anthony. “Gay and Greek: The Deployment of Gender by Gay Men in Fraternity and Sorority Life.” Honor Projects, no. 413, 2015. http://scholarworks.gvsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1414&context=honorsprojects

 

[4] 153. Haldeman, Douglas C. “Sexual Orientation Conversion Therapy for Gay Men and Lesbians: A Scientific Examination.” Homosexuality: Research Implications for Public Policy, 1991. http://drdoughaldeman.com/doc/ScientificExamination.pdf

 

[5] 193. Halberstam, Judith. “Imagined Violence/Queer Violence: Representation, Rage, and Resistance.” Social Text, 1993. https://www.scribd.com/doc/124309024/Judith-Halberstam-Imagined-Violence-Queer-Violence-Representation-Rage-and-Resistance

[6] 13. Edelman, Lee. No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004.

 

SOURCES:

  • Clemons, Anthony. “Gay and Greek: The Deployment of Gender by Gay Men in Fraternity and Sorority Life.” Honor Projects, no. 413, 2015: 6
  • Haldeman, Douglas. “Sexual Orientation Conversion Therapy for Gay Men and Lesbians: A Scientific Examination.” Homosexuality: Research Implications for Public Policy, 1991, 149-60. doi:10.4135/9781483325422.n10.
  • Habarth, Janice M. Thinking Straight: Heteronormativity and Associated Outcomes Across Sexual Orientation. Michigan, 2008, 2.
  • Halberstam, Judith. “Imagined Violence/Queer Violence: Representation, Rage, and Resistance.” Social Text, no. 37, 1993, 187. doi:10.2307/466268.
  • Edelman, Lee. No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004.
  • Rhoads, Robert A. Coming out in College: The Struggle for a Queer Identity. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey, 1994.

 

 

 

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