Monday, May 06, 2013

Proper Critique: Gay-Coding

One thing that’s really starting to get annoying is the need to find context that supports your group. Now, I can respect fully analyzing something, adding subtext that simply does not exist is something that should be avoided. For some reason, there seems to be a lot of this with gay critiques, especially when it comes to so-called “gay coding”.

“Gay coding” refers to situations where the characters appear straight, but where closer examination shows that they are actually gay. Consider the standard sitcom set up where you have two boys that may have girlfriends or are otherwise girl-crazy, but tend to spend far too much with each other. Obviously the two boys must be gay, and the girls are just for the benefit of homophobes in the audience, as well as to inspire hope in the girls watching; “They have girlfriends, so they can’t be gay, right? Winkwinknudgenudge.”

The problem is that this commonly adds far too much subtext where it simply does not belong. Consider Tom and Huck; you have two boys that tend to swim together, play together, and basically spend most of the book making fun of the girls. Obviously the two boys are gay, and Becky Thatcher was added just to make it look like it was a heterosexual romance. It gets more interesting in Huck’s book, as Huck floats down the river with a black male and has encounters with other males, such as the Dauphin and a few local boys throughout the book. The problem is that the “encounters” are hardly sexual by any stretch, and the gay subtext is being added simply to make Huck more of a gay hero.

Now, I appreciate the need for heroes; part and parcel of being a writer and all that. However, this does not mean that every person needs to be gay; adding a gay subtext is sometimes adding too much, especially when it is something that the author did not intend; sometimes the critique even notes that sometimes the author’s intent should be ignored as the author may have had reason to disguise his “real” intent. This means that perfectly straight boys and girls are all of a sudden gay because it suits someone’s sexual-political aims, and there is something wrong with that.

For the drinking game: I’m in a weird position here. There are sometimes when the author intended for there to be some homosexual subtext, especially if he is subverting a genre. Usually, however, there isn’t any such subtext. Just as in real life, two guys, or girls, should be able to have a perfectly fine bond as two people without their being any expectations of sex; sex should not be a part of every relationship, and in all honesty should be a part of very few relationships. Life is not a CW show, and that’s a good thing; there does not need to be sex in every relationship. As a writer you should be free to explore all sorts of relationships, and requiring them to be sexual actually limits you.

Keep this in mind when you are analyzing a comic. Make sure that there really is the subtext that you see there, and that it’s not something you are adding to it. Yeah, sometimes it may be there, placed as a way to subvert the genre, but this should not be seen as a bad thing; just be aware that it may not always be what it looks like. Not everyone is having sex, and sometimes it’s not who you would expect…

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