“Fighting evil by moonlight, Winning love by daylight”
Commonly known for its feminist themes and exploration of gender and sexuality, Sailor Moon was originally a manga series written by Naoko Takeuchi in 1991, which was then adapted into an anime that premiered in Japan during 1992. The series focuses on the life of a middle school girl named Usagi Tsukino, who comes across as lazy, stubborn, clumsy, yet still kind-hearted and friendly. Usagi encounters a talking black cat named Luna, who gives her a magical brooch that allows her to transform into a “Sailor Moon” whose duty is to protect the earth from the evil known as the Negaforce. On her mission, Usagi meets and befriends a number of other girls who have been given the same responsibility and they become known as the Sailor Scouts. The original text was written as a Shōjo manga series, the term Shōjo (which translates to 'young woman’) implies that it is a comic written with the intention of targeting young female readers. This is especially important because we see that this narrative was intended to reach youth audiences which is particularly interesting because the series actually includes denotatively queer characters.
Looking at the films of the Golden Age of Slasher films (1978-1984), and the role that POV perspective complicates viewer disidentification. Not to discount the abundant misogynistic, patriarchal messages reinforced by slasher films exploitation and glamorization of violence upon mostly female bodies, slasher horror can simultaneously work to reinforce dominant narratives, and simultaneously, force an audience into a point of identification with an otherwise marginal, ‘queer’ identity.
A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)
Sleepaway Camp (1983)
Written and Edited by Johanna Cameron for Queer Film + TV (RHMS 375).
The 2017 film Call Me By Your Name, based on Andre Aciman’s novel, is set in Italy during the summer of 1983. It follows the relationship between Elio, a 17 year old American boy living with his parents in Northern Italy, and Oliver, a graduate coming to research with Elio’s father. The two initially don’t seem to get along, causing Elio more and more distress as animosity seems to bubble at the surface of their relationship. Elio’s apparent need for Oliver to like him only grows more and more visible, with very few looks at Oliver’s true feelings towards him. They finally break the boundary together, and start a physically intimate relationship. Even then, the two never discuss their future once Oliver inevitably leaves. The uncertainty and variability of their relationship throughout the movie unsettles the plot line, with the viewer never knowing if the limb which they stand on will be strong enough to hold up their relationship.
While the story is cast back to the 80s with a dream-like joie de vivre, the intimate tension between the two main characters, Oliver and Elio, is pulled taut throughout the duration of the film. While the story centers around a newfound love between the two young men, the narrative relies not on love and care, but on precarity and uncertainty. While Oliver and Elio never directly run into homophobia or opposition to their relationship, the secretive manner with which they act implies that their romance is a condemned one. Not only does their hidden affection for one another leave their relationship on unsteady ground, but the mutual feelings that they presumably share are also sites of uncertainty. Many viewers have criticized the movie for being “slow”, referencing how nothing seems to ‘happen’ for the first half of the movie. Having watched the movie six times, I would argue that this oversight is accredited to viewers not paying attention to the subtle give and pull tensions that act as undercurrents throughout the movie, and are heavily prominent in the first half. Setting the movie in the past effectively counterbalances this tension as it gives the audience the opportunity to believe in the possibility of a future for the couple. As we are positioned to look backwards at a story that endlessly marches towards us, our present placehold is lent a sense of familiarity and chance. As the 80s is a past that is not distant enough that it is unfamiliar to present day viewers, the security afforded by the movie’s place in time balances the uneasiness of the film, and additionally gives the film a whimsical and nostalgic tone.
In their introduction to Trap Door, Reina Gossett, Eric Stanley, and Johanna Burton explore the question of whether trans visibility in the media “is a goal to be worked toward or an outcome to be avoided at all costs” (Known Unknowns, pg. xx). This questioning is a necessary product of the simultaneous increase in transgender media representation and anti-trans violence, leading many to view representation as “doors” that provide access to “resources, to recognition, and to understanding” and as “traps” that “accomodate trans bodies” so long as they reinforce “dominant narratives” of otherness, and marginalization (pg. xxii). To understand this discrepancy, it is important to revisit the impact of prior trans representations that have produced a hostile climate of backlash and reaction.
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994) contains within it a representation of transness, one that works to link gender deviance to an underlying psychosis, one built upon seductive deception, and that culminates with an overwhelming message “that being queer is worse than death” (Osenlund, 2014). The film came out in the early 90’s, a time of supposed progress for the LGBTQ community, the era of a New Queer Cinema and of broader strides of mainstream representation. As evidenced in big features such as The Silence of the Lambs (1991), and The Crying Game (1992), the cultural fascination with linking gender transgression to criminal psychosis or as an inherently deceptive act was conceptually thriving. Ace’s gender “criminal” is Lois Einhorn, a typical no-nonsense police lieutenant who, frankly, has no time for Jim Carrey’s asinine antics. As the film progresses, she is revealed as a former kicker for the Miami Dolphins, Ray Finkle, and is linked as the perpetrator of the films’s central mascot heist. Following this reveal, the locus of criminality shifts entirely from the theft to the sexual deception of Lois having kissed Carrey in an earlier scene, leading to a grotesque reaction of disgust in which Carrey attempts to undo the penetration of his masculinity to Boy George’s “The Crying Game”, linking the two films scenes of revelation fueled disgust. The ending of the film replicates this disgust with a public shaming and dehumanization of Lois, who is essentially discarded at the film’s climax, seen as a less than worthy life-form than the now recovered Miami Dolphins mascot.
While the film doesn’t necessarily add anything to already prevalent transphobic/homophobic strands of American culture, its legacy as cult-status among a largely male audience reveling in the “Finkle is Einhorn, Einhorn is a man!” mantra has undoubtedly reinforced, and is reinforced by the “trans panic” phenomena that motivates the killing of transwomen. As put by Cece McDonald, the idea of warning people against the “danger” of being tricked or “made to believe [a] person was a different gender” is an act that motivates violence towards trans people, and itself “is violence” (p. 32). This film is a prime case study example of how harmful trans visibility can frame the marginalization and dehumanization of trans bodies as a socially acceptable, and even a celebrated form of violence.