This preview shows page 1. Sign up to view the full content.
Unformatted text preview: Communication at the College of Charleston. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2005
annual meeting of the International Communication Association. The authors would like to thank Linda Steiner
and the anonymous reviewers for their invaluable contributions. Correspondence to: Robert Westerfelhaus,
Department of Communication, College of Charleston, 66 George Street, Charleston, SC 29424-0001, USA.
Tel: '/1 843 953 6533; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
ISSN 0739-3180 (print)/ISSN 1479-5809 (online) # 2006 National Communication Association
DOI: 10.1080/07393180601046196 D o w n l o a d e d B y : [ O h i o S t a t e U n i v e r s i t y L i b r a ri e s ] A t : 1 7 : 4 5 7 J u n e 2 0 0 7 Seeing ‘‘Straight’’ through Queer Eye 427 series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (Collins, Williams, & Metzler, 2005). In keeping
with the series’ tongue-in-cheek mission of ‘‘building bridges one manicure at a
time,’’1 the gay men treated the ballplayers to manicures, as well as floral footbaths,
the waxing of body hair, and other deliciously decadent grooming practices.
Not long ago, the thought of televising major male sports stars and openly gay men
working and socializing together in this way would have seemed as improbable as a
Red Sox World Series championship. On the surface, the casual ease with which the
show’s gay men entered one of our culture’s bastions of hypermasculinity, and the
warm welcome they received there, seems to suggest that Queers have finally entered
the American mainstream. Indeed, as Frank Rich (2003) observed in The New York
Times when Bravo announced that it would air television’s first gay reality series, Boy
Meets Boy , much had changed in the few years that separated that historic
programming move and the controversial 1997 coming out episode of Ellen
DeGeneres’ ABC sitcom, Ellen . According to Rich, gays and lesbians are more visible
than ever, and the vast majority of heterosexual viewers seemingly accept this
Neither this visibility nor this acceptance is unconditional. While Queers are now
permitted access to the media mainstream, they are welcome there only so long as
they observe certain limits imposed upon them by the conventions of the
mainstream’s heterosexist sociosexual order. In the past, the dominant features of
this order were clearly articulated through the promulgation of restrictive secular laws
and the preaching of an equally limited * and limiting * view of moral law. Today,
popular culture exercises perhaps the greatest influence in promoting * and
policing * the values of heteronormativity. As we shall point out in this study, these
heteronormative values are so pervasive that they inform such ostensibly ‘‘gayfriendly’’ fare as the television series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy . These values have
been rendered so normal, in fact, that their presence in such a series is taken for
granted, which speaks to the power of heteronormative discourse and the need for
continued Queer critiques of such.
Queer Theory and the Strategic Rhetoric of Heteronormativity
During the past several decades, the field of Queer studies has done much to chart the
social construction of sexual desire, the creation of sexual communities, and the ways
in which people have been oppressed, marginalized, or symbolically annihilated
because their sexual orientations lie, as Erni (1998) puts it, ‘‘outside of foundationalist gender and sexual norms’’ (p. 161) that support and are supported by
mainstream society’s heterosexist order. Queer sexuality challenges that order by
calling into question the heteronormative assumptions, attitudes, and values
informing it. Herman (2003) defines heteronormativity as the view that heterosexuality is natural and normal for individuals and society: ‘‘[H]eteronormativity
does not just construct a norm, it also provides the perspective through which we
know and understand gender and sexuality in popular culture’’ (p. 144). As Berlant D o w n l o a d e d B y : [ O h i o S t a t e U n i v e r s i t y L i b r a ri e s ] A t : 1 7 : 4 5 7 J u n e 2 0 0 7 428 R. Westerfelhaus & C. Lacroix and Warner (1995) point out, this perspective privileges heterosexuality. It does so in
ways not always obvious and often invisible (Yep, 2003). As Dyer (2002) argues:
Heterosexuality as a social reality seems to be invisible to those who benefit from it.
In part, this is because of the remorseless construction of heterosexuality as normal.
If things are natural, they cannot really be questioned or scrutinized and so they
fade from view. Such naturalization often characterizes how we see, and don’t see,
the powerful; how they see, and don’t see, themselves. (p. 119) The invisibility of heterosexual power and privilege to those who possess and benefit
from such is strikingly similar to the invisibility of the power and privilege associated
with whiteness as experienced from a ‘‘white’’ perspective. Dyer (1997) comments,
View Full Document
This note was uploaded on 01/20/2014 for the course ARTEDUC 2367.03 taught by Professor Tiffanylewis during the Spring '14 term at Ohio State.
- Spring '14