Extraordinary Straightness

A prelude to discussions on queer pop culture and literature.

Can we just talk for a minute about the extraordinary heterosexuality of the recent Game of Thrones episodes? Too many couples. Too many love affairs between a man and a woman. Almost every character is in some lover’s quarrel. Dany and Jon. Cersei and Jaime. Cersei and Euron. And then all the characters whose lives are intertwined by weird minor couplings. Tormund and Brienne. Arya and Gendry. Sansa and maybe Tyrion. Not sure what to make of that last one. Can the straights just relax for a minute? We have White Walkers - um, climate change for those of you who didn’t get the metaphor - to deal with.

Watching Game of Thrones last week left me exhausted. Exhausted by how much I’m supposed to care about these heterosexual pairings. I don’t. I have a hard time relating to the love I see on TV. For much of my life, I thought I was incapable of being loved in the ways these characters, and many, many, many others throughout popular culture are loved. I don’t mean to say this as a woe is me but more so the reality of my upbringing.

I never saw myself represented on TV. There weren’t many characters who made me feel understood or whose lived experiences reflected my own. Even now, as I write this, I can not think of a queer character specifically defined as queer who had an impact on my adolescent life, a time when I had the most need to feel understood. I’m sure I’ll be able to come up with a list of queer-coded characters - characters who, if we’re going with the technical definition of queer, are a bit strange or odd or go against the norm. Characters whom I related but was never sure exactly why, sensing myself in the depictions of their abnormalities.

Coming out of the closet is an ongoing process and a potentially traumatic experience. Unlearning the destructive and insidious beliefs ingrained from growing up in a heteronormative society takes time and effort. Self love is a deep love that is denied to many queer people. I’m not strong enough to say I love every part of myself; I still harbor homophobic beliefs and self-hatred even in the most mundane of ways. I’m working on it.

As I have come to understand my sexuality, pop culture and literature have become the lenses through which I view myself. Over the past few years, I have deliberately immersed myself in queer pop culture and literature. For a while, I watched what I called “Sad Gay Boy Movies” which were sad love stories geared towards me, a gay boy. I read queer literature, especially early works by authors such as Gore Vidal, Paul Monette, and James Baldwin who speak of a coming of age defined by men who could never reciprocate the love they receive.

For the next few weeks, these newsletters will focus more on queer pop culture - whether it be by discussing queer films such as Spa Night and Esteros or analyzing the language TV shows and films use to perpetuate heteronormativity. For those who are new to discussing queer identity or culture, I’ll be sure to define terms as they come along or clarify any moments of confusion.

Let me know your thoughts. If you know anyone who would also be interested in reading about queer pop culture and literature, share this post. Thank you for everyone reading so far. Here’s to the next few weeks.

Letters of Recommendation:

“Fixer Upper” is Over, But Waco’s Transformation is Just Beginning” - Anne Helen Peterson

Reply All’s PJ Vogt Drinks a Lot of Diet Coke - Chris Crowley

The Healing Magic of Caldo de Pollo - John Paul Brammer

Cuz I Love You - Lizzo (Album)

High Maintenance - HBO