Lesbian_and_gay_review_paper.doc

Lesbian_and_gay_review_paper.doc - The Construction of gay...

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The Construction of gay identity via Polari in the Julian and Sandy radio sketches Published in: Lesbian and Gay Psychology Review : 3:3: pp 75-83. Author: Dr Paul Baker, Department of Linguistics and Modern English Language, Lancaster University, Lancashire, LA1 4YT. Abstract The paper examines the construction of gay identity 1 in a British 1960s radio comedy programme. While on the surface these constructions appear as effeminate ‘negative’ gay stereotypes, a closer analysis reveals that more subversive and challenging interpretations can also be applied. The role of Polari (a ‘gay’ language variety) is explored as one of the key contributory factors in the representation of gay identity in the sketches. Julian and Sandy Julian and Sandy were two fictional characters, created by Barry Took and Marty Feldman and voiced by Hugh Paddick and Kenneth Williams on the British BBC radio series Round the Horne . The programme, which ran from 1964 until 1969, was immensely popular, attracting nine million listeners each week and winning the Writer’s Guild of Great Britain Award for the best comedy script in 1967. Round the Horne consisted of a series of comedy sketches, linked together by ‘straight man’ Kenneth Horne (hence the show’s title). Each episode usually ended with a sketch involving the camp characters, Julian and Sandy, and although their sexual orientation
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or relationship to one another was ever made explicit, it was implied in many other ways. Small numbers of actors and comedians who performed camp, effeminate or implicitly gay roles existed both before and after Julian and Sandy in the UK. However, Julian and Sandy’s sexual identities were much more fully explored than any other gay-coded character of the time. While the sketches were certainly listened to by gay men and lesbians, the majority of the audience would have been heterosexual: the sketches were broadcast on Sunday afternoons, in a popular ‘family’ time-slot. Therefore, it is likely that both adults and children would have heard them. In the context of the pre-Wolfenden 1960s, gay identities and practices were taboo to mainstream audiences. At that time Round the Horne was the only programme on the radio or television to base part of its show around homosexuality, albeit in an implicit context. Even if you lived in a little village in the back of Hicksville - and you had to be listening to it on the crystal set with the bedroom door locked, and it on very softly, you still had Julian and Sandy giving you courage mon amie. (Betty Bourne, BBC Radio 4 1998) So in the late 1960s, Julian and Sandy were possibly the only accessible gay identities who were able to provide some sort of clue that for people living in ‘Hicksville’, as opposed to urban cities like London, there were others like them, who were part of an existing gay subculture.
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Almost every sketch had the same premise: Kenneth Horne (playing himself) would investigate a new business which had just being set up in either Chelsea or Carnaby Street. The business, with a name like Rentachap or Bona Nature Clinic would be run
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