Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Youtube Analysis #4

After reading through Foucault's "The History of Sexuality" and Butler's "Performative Acts and Gender Constitution", this idea of sexuality and gender linking itself to power becomes evident in the Mad Tv "Gay Straight Guys" skit. As the skit opens up, the audience is presented with two guys who are partaking in a very distinctly masculine American pastime: watching the big game with a fellow male sports fan. While this masculine behavior may not necessarily imply heterosexuality, the blond guy's statement that he "[...] has to meet Susan [and her parents] later" for dinner establishes his relationship with a woman and a connection to the aforementioned sexuality. Similarly, the brunette guy responds with "Oh, dinner with the parents. I did that last week with Kelly; good luck dude" to also lay some claim to heteronormativity.

As of this point in the skit, the audience begins to see what Foucault describes as society's attempt "[...]to reduce sexuality to the couple---the heterosexual and, insofar as possible, legitimate couple" (897). By laying claim to relationships with readily identified female individuals, the two guys are establishing a sense of sexual normality within the social reality of the skit. That manufactured normality is then accentuated by the distinctly masculine behavior and attitude of each guy: they both wear identifiably masculine football jerseys, both address each other in masculine sounding voices, express excitement and emotion through their enjoyment of the game, and continue to emotionally and physically bond through the game and conversation about their respective heterosexual relationships.

If Butler's assertion that "the formulation of the body as a mode of dramatizing or enacting possibilities offers a way to understand how a cultural convention is embodied and enacted" (905) holds true, then their behavior serves to reinforce both the traditionally masculine persona of men and the connection between masculine behavior and mentalities and heteronormativity. Since this behavior is "[...] a shared experience [...]" (906) by all members of society, then it is possible to acknowledge that any sort of subversion or, in the language of power dynamics a perversion, becomes either a collective rebellion or stigmatization.

At the height of their excitement, a sexual outburst occurs: they embrace and heavily kiss. Quickly forcing themselves apart, the blond guy asks "what just happened?", only to be ignored by the brunette's denial driven response that "The Buck's scored". Since Foucault's assertion that "a norm of sexual development was defined [at a young age] and all possible deviations were carefully described" (892), the two characters know they have crossed a social taboo; an abominable act that threatens heteronormative sexual practices. In their attempt to deny their passions, they attempt to re-orient that abnormal behavior within a socially acceptable context: "it was just a thing, a football thing. It happens all the time."

It is at this point then that their behavior and mentality make a drastic change; what they experienced was distinctly queer and thus, they must now position themselves within a queer discourse. The admission that "yes, I was a little bit excited" by the brunette then leads to the conclusion that they are now both "a little bit gay". Interestingly enough, it is this idea of pleasure that Foucault touches on that allows the audience to explore the subtext of the character's enjoyment: "The pleasure comes of exercising a power that questions, monitors, watches, spies, searches out, palpates, brings to light; and on the other hand, the pleasure that kindles at having to evade this power, flee from it, fool it, or travesty it. The power that lets itself be invaded by the pleasure it is pursuing; and opposite it, power asserting itself in the pleasure of showing off, scandalizing, or resisting" (897). Their queer experience then becomes a way for them to challenge, but more importantly, reaffirm heteronormativity as their ensuing conversation allows them to explore the idea of what makes a person gay.

However, it is their perceived engendered behavior and mentality that directly contradicts any notion of them being gay. Since they aren't into "scented candles" and are more into "[...] cheerleaders, short shorts, [and] bouncing hooters", they can't be gay. Their subsequent effeminately inspired dancing though then allows them to reengage their passions for each other as that specifically engendered behavior allows them the agency to do so; singing "I'm gay" over and over again during this further justifies their homosexual behavior.

It is then that their engendered behavior creates and justifies a heteronormative power structure that demonizes and dictates how and what people should feel and do. If they follow their masculine persona, they are then heterosexual and thus, normal. However, the truly liberating aspect of the skit is that despite their misgivings and attempts at placating the power structure they created, in the end they still embrace in a last kiss.

Works Cited:

Butler, Judith. "Performative Acts and Gender Constitution." Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Rivkin, Julie and Ryan, Michael. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2004.

Foucault, Michel. "The History of Sexuality." Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Rivkin, Julie and Ryan, Michael. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2004.

MadTv. "Gay Straight Guys". Fox. 12 August 2009. < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ulb3tZU8vsk>

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