tremble clef

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Tracey Ullman, "They Don't Know" (1983)



  • Didn't LB *really* come out of the closet, in effect, when he got his new nose?

    He and Reichen seem to both be silent types, though. Do they communicate by blinking in Morse Code?

    By Anonymous esque, at 8:46 PM  

  • Ha ha, is this from the Onion?

    By Blogger daavid, at 2:37 AM  

  • It's certainly inspired by the Onion. I'm just fascinated with the way that this has become the standard reaction to any celebrity coming out -- the way straight culture always desperately insists that it was never fooled, and pretends that it is always able to detect the homosexual.

    esque, I think it all depends on what he used his new nose for. (Dirrty!)

    No, I'm not even sure what I mean there.

    By Blogger Brittle, at 10:30 AM  

  • Hmmm. Heterosexual culture does seem to be able to find the queer (much as it could in the 1950s, or as it could "find the witch" in the 18th century). However, now it's not out of homophobia ("X looks gay"). It's, oddly enough, gay-positive -- "according to my gazillion really good gay friends, Lance is gay," spoken in 1999.

    Is this still cultural mastery? Only if the straight guy denies that he had help fine-tuning his gaydar. If Hellman had said, "I found this out *years * ago from these guys who always come into the coffeeshop...," I see no problem with getting the upper hand on Lance.

    Finally, it's not that straight culture is depriving Lance of some kind of control over his own destiny. They're taking the power away from the closet. The guy who comes out of the closet, only to hear that everyone else knew it all along, makes the closet a less persuasive option for the next guy.

    Sorry for going on too long.

    By Anonymous esque, at 7:25 PM  

  • There are really a few things about the "I knew all along" phenomenon that bothers, disturbs, or amuses me. Starting from the least egregious:

    1. It's predictable and boring. It would just be nice if we can say more interesting things than that. I can't tell you how many real "ha ha, is the Pope Catholic?!" responses I've actually read.

    2. It's pretty irelevant. Once, a friend I came out to almost immediately started asking questions along these lines: "Oh. Did you already tell X? So you told her before you told me? Um, why didn't you tell me first?" Guess what, girl: it's not really about you. When you knew about me...when or whether you knew about Lance profoundly beside the point. People aren't coming out in order to validate your ability to recognize their beings. Lance Bass didn't come out for you -- who cares if you already knew? It's not actually a game, and you don't get a prize or some sort of victory for either knowing before Lance himself did (a faintly ridiculous idea anyway), or before other people. (That's why I borrowed the Onion format for the post: the humor of many of their articles turn on the way they "report" on something absurdly irrelevant.)

    3. Obviously I don't want to generalize, and it's not always the case, etc, but: yeah, I do think there's something vaguely homophobic about it. The worst or most obvious version is when the "I knew about it" response is an occasion for some people to indulge in dated stereotyping: "oh, of course I knew he was gay, he was always such a limp wristed faggot ha ha ha." Then there is more subtle homophobia, whereby what underlies it all is a fantasy that "I will never be taken by surprise, that I am no faggot's fool." In this day and age of metrosexuality and gay cowboys, I suspect people are even more anxious about wnating to believe that they can always detect passing. Finally, I think this kind of widespread response puts queers in untenable double-binds: is the fact that you supposedly always knew about it mean that gay people shouldn't come out? When they don't come out, they are doing wrong. When they do come out, they find that they have always already been been out and the gains of coming out thereby "trumped."

    By Blogger Brittle, at 11:57 PM  

  • What I also dislike about the "I knew all along" thing is that it almost always implies something along the lines of "all this time I knew you were hiding it from me/us" or the (even worse) "I know you better than you know yourself", which I find arrogant and presumptuous.

    By Blogger daavid, at 8:12 AM  

  • You've managed to sum up concisely some of my unease, daavid.

    Drag queens would totally take it an an insult to be "read" that way, so I think this all shows that I'm one at heart.

    By Blogger Brittle, at 3:13 PM  

  • I think that it's very possible that other people--not just therapists, but also friends (and sometimes even acquaintances such as students)--know one better than one knows oneself. At the very least, I wouldn't want to claim so much mastery over my identity that I insulate myself off from others' critiques of me. That's just too close to the US's foreign policy for my taste.

    (Paragraph on drag queen as dialectical opposite of, and thus formal identity with, Bush deleted. Thankfully.)

    By Anonymous esque, at 8:18 PM  

  • First of all, it's weird to me when people think "I knew before he did!" when Lance comes out. It's like they believe Lance only realized he was gay at that public moment, when I'm sure isn't the case.

    Such hair-splitting nitpicks aside, I'm not in serious disagreement with esque. I think what you posited several posts ago -- the possibility that we can dismantle the closet through some sort of massive public indifference -- is ideal or even utopian. It's the optimistic outlook, which I share sometimes. It's just that in pessimistic reality, many of the reactions I've read aren't of this sort. Rather, they are very policing. I would further make a fine but in my mind important distinction: I would like it if sexuality became irelevant or unimportant to the public. But I won't like it if coming out becomes greeted with such indifference.

    The larger question of whether someone else can know me as well as I know myself is an intriguing one. Here I have to fall back on what is a frankly indefensible position: the way someone claims to "know" makes a difference. We could (slippery argument alert!) even attribute the difference to their intention. But I can't believe that there isn't a difference between a playground bully, his foot on some effeminate boys' face, demanding that the latter cop to being the fag that all the bullies know he is, and gay men today who joke about how Celebrity X should just come already.

    I'm very glad for all these points, which are making me think and clarify things in my head. Moreover, they seem to have distracted everyone from commenting on my Burt Reynolds confession. (Which, thank goodness. But c'mon folks. Burt, in the shower, and not even without his toupee on. These are the stuff of my childhood memories.)

    By Blogger Brittle, at 12:24 PM  

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