January 27

Week 3-

– RJ: How is Hedwig a queer movie? What is your response to this film viscerally? Intellectually? How does queer theory help us to understand queer cinema? (2-3 paragraphs)

– READ: Annamarie Jagose, Ch. 8/ “Contestations of Queer” and Judith Butler, Bodily Inscriptions, Performative Subversions

  • _____________ leads Discussions

– In class discuss:

  • How does queer cinema help us to understand queer theory?
  • How does queer theory help us to understand queer cinema?
  • Could queer cinema itself be a form of queer theory?

– FOR 2/3 WATCH: Paris is Burning (dir. Jennie Livingston, 1990, 71 min)

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14 Responses to January 27

  1. Alyx Smagacz says:

    In the movie the main character was a transvestite, who seemed to struggle with his sexual identity at first. In the movie he sings songs that represent his sexuality and gayness. He sings one where he asks himself if his other half was meant to be a man or a woman. This struggle to understand his sexuality relates to the struggle of gays and lesbians who don’t know if they fit under the queer category or not. In chapter 8 it seems that there is a struggle for gays and lesbians where some find that they do fit under the category, whereas others are almost offended that they would be considered to belong. They think that is would be a negative connotation to their title.
    This movie is queer not only due to the fact that the main character is a transvestite, but the relationships that he has throughout the film characterize it as queer. When they describe his first love with the police man, he goes through a medical procedure to make himself more like a woman. From chapter 8 we learn that queer does not only mean attraction to the same sex, a married heterosexual couple could be characterized as queer if they have a different sexual behaviors. The book describes queer having a precondition of sexual perversion or improper sexual behavior. In the movie they suggest that the main character had sexual relations with several men throughout his child hood including his father. This would be characterized as improper sexual behavior, or queer.
    As for my response to this film, I felt bad for the main character’s hardships throughout his life and his unfortunate relationships. The movie did such a good job at the emotional aspect that I found myself forgetting or not caring that the main character was actually a man.

  2. Elyse Kraft says:

    The most obvious component of Hedwig and the Angry Inch that causes it to be a queer film is the queerness of the characters. The experiences of Hedwig are queer in that they do not fit into any of the frequently used categories of sexuality or gender. After her botched sex change operation, Hedwig lives her life as woman. When discussing the various understandings of queer, Jagose states that queer “maintains a relation of resistance to whatever constitutes the normal” (99). Hedwig experiences this resistance to normal throughout the film. Other characters in the film also experience a resistance to normality. Hedwig is a queer movie in that it contains many of the defiant elements described by Aaron in her description of New Queer Cinema. The character of Hedwig is part of the marginalized groups frequently examined in NQC and the film does not apologize for the faults of the character (Aaron, 4).
    My response to Hedwig and the Angry Inch was positive. I enjoyed the film and I felt the plot and characters were interesting and thought provoking. I immediately took note of the beauty of Hedwig’s character and the power of the musical performances and song lyrics. Although in the beginning I was not sure whether Hedwig was a male in drag or a trans woman, I did not feel compelled to find out. I felt the film provided me with a lot to think about, especially in terms of gender-identity and sexual identity. The fact that Hedwig’s transition was never truly her choice was upsetting and confusing. It seemed to happen quickly and without a great deal of thought, causing the whole course of her life to change. I continued to wonder how Hedwig’s life would have been if she had continued to live as a gay man.
    Queer theory helps us to understand queer cinema because it provides a basis for understanding the films in genre. By understanding queer theory, we can better recognize the outlook of the creators of the films and their intentions when the films were created. The focus of queer theory on identity and the limits of identity help us look at the characters in queer films in a more thoughtful and realistic way.

  3. Alex Andorfer says:

    Hedwig, once known as Hansel, suffers from uncertain sexual identity. She is somewhere in between a man and a woman after undergoing a sex-change operation that didn’t work out just quite right, hence the title “the angry inch.” In one of Hewig’s songs, she refers to her botched surgery as the place where her “penis used to be and vagina never was.” Undefinable sexual identities fall under the umbrella of queer identity and certainly a confused-little-boy-forced-to-turn-woman could relate to the queer theory.

    Furthermore, Hedwig, a wannabe rock star, makes a living performing in the style of a tranny who is in love with an actual (famous) rock star. The movie beckons the viewer to question the relationship between Hedwig and Tommy. Are they gay? Is it a straight relationship? Technically, Hedwig was once a male, but now he’s a half male? a sort-of woman? a liger of human sexes?

    But that’s all biology speak. The film doesn’t categorize or depict the terrible downfall of any character based on their sexual identity. Instead, it displays different possibilities without answers. In Hedwig and the Angry Inch, there are no fixed truths based on sexual identity, just as queer theory states that it’s followers deviate from the social norms both socially and sexually. In fact, we might all be a little queer.

  4. Kaneja Muganda says:

    The title Hedwig and the Angry Inch contains its own creative/queer meaning. You can pick out the name Hed-Wig and come up with your own meaning for the name. I imagined seeing a very colorful and energetic main character and to my surprise I was right on. The movie focuses a lot on the idea of gender as it relates to the structure of music and art. Our main character Hedwig fights to find her true self through years of love and lust and music. Her childhood plays a huge role in shaping her life as a transvestite. Her father sexually abused her but she doesn’t seem to resent those actions. The film uses the use of flashbacks and profile close-ups to truly illustrate how Hedwig transforms.
    The film uses a lot of cartoon illustration to show us step by step how Hansel transforms into Hedwig. The main theme was separation that was best portrayed by the divided drawing that we see is also Hedwig’s tattoo. I connected the drawing to the life of a LGBT individual. Society as socially divided these people out of the norm of our world. There’s one scene when Hedwig performs and someone from the audience calls her a “faggot” but she proceeds to sing the rest of the song. It’s interesting to see how she reacted to people out in the people. Some people acknowledged her talent as a performer but others targeted her for what she looked like. When the camera decides to pan left or right, I realize how queer the movie is. Hedwig has a unique relationship with the camera; she doesn’t care what her viewers think of her because she is proud to be who she is. That’s the premise of most queer movies, the character doesn’t bother wasting time trying to impress their viewers, but they seemed impressed with the truth.
    Queer cinema is all about revealing the truth even if society deems it as unnatural or irregular. The point is to tell a story that many people have tried to ignore or rarely try to ever listen to. Towards the end of the movie when we get a P.O.V. shot of both Tommy and Hedwig, we notice how “whole” Hedwig’s become. She no longer questions the fact that she’s lost and without anyone. She realizes that she is pure no matter how she looks or whom she’s with, so she celebrates that by taking the wig off and being herself. Throughout the film she struggles finding out who she really is but gets her answer at the end when she is no longer separated from herself.

  5. Joao Pedro says:

    “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is by far one of the best movies that I’ve seen this year. Beyond its fantastic music, James Cameron Mitchell presents an intriguing, refreshing and complex plot. “Hedwig” is a queer film that challenges a disciplinary heterosexual coherence, perpetuating non-normative sexual and gender roles. As a queer movie, “Hedwig” rejects traditional values and discards “the regulation of sexuality within the obligatory frame of reproductive heterosexuality” (Butler 417). The film rebels against cinematic conventions such as genre and structure, introducing animation and an irregular time line to tell Hedwig’s story. As most New Queer Cinema, the film goes beyond the gay community and gives a voice to a marginalized social group innate to the protagonist’s transidentity. The film presents an “irreverent, energetic and proudly assertive” attitude, eschewing the protagonist’s faults (Aaron 3). Cameron Mitchell introduces Hedwig as an unapologetic figure, celebrating her extravagance.
    “Hedwig” rejects the binary frame of gender and rethinks the human body and its definition. The protagonist’s gender is mysterious and undefined: s/he was a born as a boy; however, s/he had sort of sex reassignment surgery, which left her/him an “angry inch.” Hence, is Hedwig’s considered a man? A woman? Or something in between? Concurrently, his/her sexuality is also involved in mystery. The protagonist defies normative romantic and sexual relationships. As Hedwig notes, “It is clear that I have to find my other half, but it is a he or a she? Can two people actual become one?” Hence, the protagonist rethinks the fixity and stabilization of sexuality, gender roles and expression.
    “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” presents the journey of an individual starving to find his true identity. It demonstrates Hedwig’s metamorphoses from his parents’ maltreatment until his final rising from the depths of confusion and misunderstanding. James Cameron Mitchell presents a deviant character innate to a deviant queer film. “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is an art-full queer film that resists to disciplinary codes of behavior, introducing the colorful world of Hedwig.

  6. Brittney DeBo says:

    Hedwig and the Angry Inch is about a transsexual punk rock girl. A transgender is the state of one’s “gender identity”, not matching one’s “assigned sex”. In other words, these people were assigned a sex usually at birth based off of their genitals, but they feel that it is a false description of them. “My appearance “outside” is masculine but my essence “inside” is feminine,” (Butler, p. 417). I believe this is what Hansel may have been feeling before the sex change. There is a lot of queerness in the scene where Hansel meets Sergeant Luther Robinson and while the camera is close up on Luther’s wet lips he says, “Damn Hansel, I can’t believe you’re not a girl, you’re so fine.” In the following scene we see Luther naked with candy covering his private parts where he is referred to as Hansel’s “sugar daddy”. It is obvious that this film is referring to gender identity, which is the feeling that you are male, female, or transgender. Transgender individuals may have the genitals of one sex, but a gender identity associated with the other. “Queer signifies a resistance to regimes of the normal,” (Jagose, p.106) and this is exactly what Hedwig and the Angry Inch displays. We see queerness throughout the entire movie with all the relationships Hansel/Hedwig has, and what she goes through to have those relationships.
    My emotional response to this movie is I found it kind of sad. The same day as Luther left Hedwig on their first wedding anniversary, the Berlin Wall fell, meaning Hedwig’s sacrifices had been for nothing. Hedwig got the permanent sex change for Luther in order to leave East Berlin and be together, now he is gone, and she is left with a gender identity crisis. Intellectually, I was very intrigued by this movie. It shows that we all do crazy things for love and also we should not be afraid to show who we really are and stand up for ourselves.
    Queer Theory can help us understand Queer Cinema in the sense that we know going in that these films are going to be strange or weird, and should expect some homosexuality essence to them, and knowing that we should be able to look past those things and understand them on a deeper level. Again, like I have said before in New Queer Cinema these films aren’t afraid to speak about their sexual identity and are not sorry to show it either. Hedwig and the Angry Inch does just this. Although Hedwig was called a faggot, and got food thrown at her, she still continued to express herself throughout the film and through her music.

  7. Elyse Brey says:

    Elyse Brey
    January 27, 2011
    Queer Cinema
    Weekly Response Paper 2
    Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a queer film because of the overall idea of the film is dealing with sexual identity or rather the sexual role a person plays and how they choose to embrace their identity. Viscerally, you just feel bad for Hedwig, she grows up in a home where she can’t really be herself, then is stripped from her home by a man who forces her to get a sex change and then gets left to live in a trailer and fend for herself in this new body that she then creates a life for. Everything is continually being taken away from her: her genitals, her life, and her music. Hedwig is very flamboyant and dresses brightly and in search of attention but the way that she truly expresses herself is through her music which is stolen from her by the boy who she thought was the answer to her sadness after her husband leaves her. When really, the boy rejects her manipulated body and takes all of the songs and passion for music that Hedwig taught him. I found myself constantly throughout the movie, not even considering some of the more ridiculous plots and just feeling so much sympathy for Hedwig and just wanting her to have her moment in the spotlight. But then again, once she does get her time she strips herself of the make-up and wigs and steps out on stage as the inner man that she truly is.
    Intellectually I appreciated all of the myth that Hedwig explains in her music and the themes that the film uses to explain the kind of life that Hedwig sprang from. It constantly tested my understanding of the kind of life that transgendered people live and what kinds of circumstances they have to endure. It never would have occurred to me that someone would have to undergo a sex change if not by will. Though this movie had more production value than some of the other films we have watched, I still felt that it was in that boundary pushing, queer cinema category because it really let Hedwig be this free being who was just trying to find herself. I really enjoyed the film overall and appreciated the story entirely.

  8. Courtney Faulstick says:

    Hedwig the Angry Inch in the most basic sense is a queer movie because the main characters have non-normative sexualities and would be listed under the category of queer. Hedwig in particular has a hard time with his sexuality because he took his transvestite to the extreme as to have his penis removed. This is brought up when the other singer and Hedwig start to get intimate, and the huge fight happens because of his operation. Hedwig isn’t even accepted for who he is by a man that loves him until of course the end of the movie. Also another character that struggles with his identity is the long haired guy that is always trying on wigs when no one is around. He eventually takes a job as a transvestite in the play RENT and seems very excited about doing it. The queerness in the movie also comes out in the songs that Hedwig sings. All of them are very sexual, but at the same time he has a great voice and good beats. This shows some of the non-acceptance that is brought about by being queer on a public sphere. If she was not a transvestite it would be interesting to see if she would be more accepted by the music industry. By the end of the movie however, it seems the music world has embraced the fact that she is a transvestite and loves it.

    The movie was very well set up and well done. The music in the film was interesting and powerful. Especially the long song toward the beginning of the piece when Hedwig is singing about if ever two could become one. In the closing scene they tie the movie up by showing the pictures fitting and molding into one. By having a background in queer theory it becomes so much easier to understand why particular scenes are brought into queer cinema as well as it gives us a more accepting outlook on these movies. Without a background in queer theory it would be some people’s first reaction to turn the movie off and say ‘this is disgusting and weird’. Even though some of the scenes may be weird to most of the population, educated people in queer theory, are able to pick out what is queer and understand the impact it has on particular individuals.

  9. Caroline Tibbetts says:

    I find Hedwig and the angry inch to be a queer film for a variety of reasons, one of the primary illustrations of queer cinema is with Hedwig (Hansel) character. How Hedwig’s words, acts and desires did not exactly correspond with his sexual identity and this concept correlates with queer theory in that in this search for self identity. Hedwig’s “unmasking” at the end of the film in front of everyone on a major stage depicts his acceptance of his “angry inch” and his happiness that his found that he really is not as alone in life as he had believed he was. I personally found the film to be touching; a subject that so many are afraid to address, I think, yet to present it in a humorous and effective way. I felt some of the musical numbers were painfully long, but that is just me. Some parts I found to be confusing and had difficulty trying to make sense of what happened, but ultimately I found the film to be enjoyable. Intellectually, the film revealed a plethora of issues, presenting the queer theory in full force. Hedwig’s charcater represented not only the queer theory but the human condition.

    His sporadic references to Plato’s Aristophane’s present that idea how humans were split apart and spent their entire lives yearning for their other half- revealing this human desire of companionship and acceptance. We all have more in common than we really think. I think it is also is queer because the director portrays humanity having more in common than not, why must we seperate ourselves? Which can relate to the queer theory that queer is not a lifestyle or way of being (Annamarie Jagose, 109) it is a movement. This can relate to chapter 8 because Jagose deems the queer movement to be one that is only effective when the members of the group are unified, it is a politically potent term not a descriptive one. “Queer posits a commonality between people which does not disallow their fundamental difference” (pg. 112).

  10. Emily Weber says:

    “Hedwig and The Angry Itch” is queer because of the various experiences and situations endured by the extremely queer characters. Having a transgender/transvestite main character from East Berlin pursuing a musical career is queer because although feature films have used this plot, they have not included the harsh exceptional characters we see in “Hedwig and The Angry Inch”. This clash of mainstream and non-normative sets up an interesting dichotomy in which our focus turns from the normality of her quest for fame and love to her explicit sexuality and gender and how this manifests in Hedwig’s behaviors. In terms of defining queer, Jagose states that queer “problematises normative consolidations of sex, gender and sexuality– and that consequently, is critical of all of those versions of identity, community and politics that are believed to evolve naturally from such consolidation.. maintains a relation of resistance to whatever constitutes the normal” (99). “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” certainly fits into this description of queer considering the characters resistance to normalcy.

    I really enjoyed this film for many reasons. I think the simple plot was smart and allowed for a concentrated focus on the characters and their queerness. However, I was bothered by the sex job she had to receive to get married. Hedwig seemed comfortable in his own skin being girly but also having male genitals. I felt like once he was forced to have a sex job he adopted completely the gender of a woman by glamming himself up all the time. His “angry inch” became a central focus and was the reason Tommy couldn’t fathom a physical relationship with Hedwig leading to the downfall of their love and Hedwig. I guess the point was to send a message about the inacceptance of queer characters into this normal world that Tommy existed in. It was clear that Hedwig was excluded from mainstream rock n’ roll success because of his queerness. I really enjoyed some of the deeper level implications I observed in this film as well. The Origin of Love and idea of this whole figure with 2 faces and 2 sets of extremities separating just to find each other as halves again was something I really appreciated. Also, Hedwig shedding his drag at the end of the movie and standing in front of Tommy in only his raw flesh was extremely empowering. I felt like Hedwig throughout the whole movie was covering up someone who he was comfortable with for the sake of society. His transformation back to a man with soft features as opposed to a glamorous woman was a great culmination to the movies events.

    Queer theory develops our knowledge and understanding of what queerness is so that we can identify the queer aspects in film. It provides us with the framework to view the characters and situations in a reflective thoughtful manner. Being able to recognize and identify the queer aspects of film comes from the establishment of queer theory and the progression of the word queer over time. Without a background of queer theory it is hard to recognize what these films are trying to accomplish and how the messages that they are sending are queer.

  11. Sam Herron says:

    Hedwig is a queer movie because the main character, Hedwig is a male who ended up liking to dress as a female. In the beginning of the movie, he shows himself as a little boy sleeping with his father facing him and once his father leaves, he begins sleeping with his mother. But while sleeping with his mother, she did not face him anymore. Hedwig was looking for someone else to complete him in order to put two beings back together again. Hedwig did not know if he would be with a woman or a man. He assumed the look of a woman and started to fall in love with a man. In order to get married to the man, the man and Hedwig’s mother forced him to get surgery to “give up a part of oneself.” Therefore, I was confused as to why he would want to dress as a girl, but not want to get surgery, and also why he liked a man. Therefore, this conflict between gender identity and sexual orientation can lead to why the movie is seen as queer.
    Then Hedwig gets a divorce and starts liking another male, who comes to be known as Tommy Gnosis. They were in love until Tommy felt Hedwig’s genitals. Tommy was scared and did not know what it was and therefore left Hedwig. From this I felt very sad that even though they both felt such a strong connection, that Tommy could leave because the genitals of Hedwig. I felt emotionally attached to Hedwig when he was left by his first husband and then left by Tommy as well. Just because he was different, other people did not come to accept him. The character in the band that did accept him, was treated poorly by Hedwig. As an intellectual response to the film, I was confused by why Hedwig went through with the surgery if it was not what he wanted. Even people that were close to him forced him to do such a thing in order to be labeled as something. If he were to dress as a woman, have male genitals, and like males, then he was not conforming to any gender. As Butler explains, drag shows us that there can be a difference between the inside and outside of a person (Butler, 418). Hedwig felt like a female on the inside as he was growing up, but was a male on the outside (Butler, 418). Therefore, there can be a difference between the inner and outer identities.
    Queer theory helps us to understand queer cinema because we can look at the different ideas the movies try to get across to the audience. Without different ideas from Queer theory, it would be hard to understand that the idea of queer is not always gay and lesbian. In this movie, because Hedwig dresses in girl clothes can show how the film is queer. It also helps to understand that there are pressures from society that try to go against what is queer.

  12. Syndhia Javier says:

    In Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the audience is exposed to the life of a struggling transsexual artist in a manner not usually approached or seen. There are no definite answers given or assumption made of the characters and their sexual identities leaving the audience with a lovely space to carve out their own understanding of gender, sexuality, relationship, and love. Overall, this is quality of the film that places it within the realm of Queer Cinema; its lack of adhering to a particular standard or mold, and instead pushing the boundaries of what is considered normal, queers the experience of the movie in the objective of queering the understanding of the audience. Hedwig, or Hansel, is presented to us as a born male, who transitions into an unexplored grey area when his identifying feature of maleness is removed. He no more seems to satisfy the “ideal” of male, but also lacks in the ideal of female. In the niche where he seems to exist, and the trajectory of his experience we see many different faces of Hedwig and the way he structures his identity. By doing so this film adheres to the goals of New Queer Cinema, because the underlying feature that is presented is a greater of the things we know; are gender and sexuality really as simplified as we tend to believe. In Judith Butler’s essay “ Bodily inscriptions and performative subversions” she discusses just how much of gender is performed, and due to nothing less than social we give and receive from each other. “ That the gendered body is performative suggests that it has no ontological status apart from the various acts which constitute its reality…If the ‘cause’ of desire, gesture, and act is localized within the self ‘self’ of the actor, then the political regulations and disciplinary actions which produce ostensibly coherent gender are effectively displaced” ( Butler 417). The film opens up then a space where possibilities are now able to exist where once the audience could not see any.
    The film, too evoked a sympathetic reaction, one probably driven by the push for Hedwig to find himself, but also by the vulnerability we bear witness to throughout the film. In line with the objectives of queer cinema, we are shown a flawed and real character struggling with the basic question of who am I? Even though the protagonist of a transsexual person may not seem easily identifiable for the audience, through a manner of laying the soul of Hedwig bare for them to peer into, the film manages to create a bond that surpasses superficial connection to ones that shape humanity as a whole. In addition, the music that articulates better than some of the dialogue just the tension and reasons for Hedwig’s being allow for a more willing identification with the individual on the screen. Ultimately queer theory allows the audience to access a realm of questioning, of curiosity, and a changing of frame to reflect on one’s own world. At times this is accomplished through mediums that blast the boundaries away, such as John Water’s Pink Flamingos, but in other times this is accomplished by a more subtle manner that creeps in to the place of ones own understanding and nestles there as just a seed of possibility. The latter is what Hedwig and the Angry Inch not only attempt to do but accomplish successfully.

  13. Sean Biggs says:

    This movie has become one of my favorite rock musicals. Hedwig, the star of the movie who tried to undergo a sex change with complications is faced with internal struggles of his childhood and love life while having his music stolen by an understudy of his. Some of the aspects of the movie that classify it as queer is that it is unafraid to shock the viewer and represent characters without gender boundaries. For example, the character who is Hedwig’s partner in the band seems to be a man but is in fact a woman dressed as a man. Towards the end of the movie when Hedwig removes his disguise to reveal his true identity and gives his wig to his partner, he gives her her identity as a female. So in fact, their relationship was heterosexual in nature.

    The movie has other attributes of queerness with its support of homosexual and transsexual acceptance and embracement. My intellectual reaction to this movie was that it was a great commentary on the theory of existence. The song “Origins of Love” is based on Plato’s Symposium, a theory of how love came into being. With the basic principles of the fact that “There were three sexes: the all male, the all female, and the “androgynous,” who was half man, half woman.” This song gave such a great intellectual and philosophical depth to the movie, commenting on gender theory.

  14. Amy Slay says:

    “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is the story of transvestite from East Berlin. Her life is explained through memories and several songs performed by Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Everything about the character of Hedwig is queer. She was born in Berlin, a very queer city. She grew up under the confines and limitations of socialism, but somehow manages to feed her soul with American music. When Hedwig falls in love with an American solider, she must cut off her penis in order to get married and move to America. As Hedwig and the Angry Inch travel around America performing for sparse and unthankful audiences, she seems much more female than male. Her face is small and finely structured, her body is graceful and petit, and her trace of a German accent gives her an air of dignity and eloquence.
    Hedwig faces a great deal of opposition. She is unwelcome in society, trying to push her way in by proving that her protégé and ex lover, Tommy Gnosis, stole songs they wrote together. Queer Theory allows us to better understand just how much Hedwig must face on a day-to-day basis. According to Annamarie Jagose, there is so much hatred associated with the word “queer” that some people will never ever be comfortable identifying with that term. However, this film is a classic example of how queer cinema defies traditional values and gender rolls and makes no apologies for it.
    I found this film to be quite wonderful. I was abroad in Berlin last semester and I greatly appreciated how the queerness of the city was embodied in Hedwig. I found her story to be epic and tragic. The songs performed by Hedwig and the Angry Inch were a very clever way to address several aspects of what it means to be queer, especially “Origin of Love.” I think this part of the performance the audience could look past the blatant and exuberant transvestite and see a human being they could identity with.

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