Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How to be a Grad Student: Learn How to "Queer" Things (In this case, Chewbacca)

Character studies have been done.  We've explored every aspect of Sherlock Holmes and Elizabeth Bennett.  And every major and minor literary/historical character has been recast as a homosexual by someone in academia - sometimes, it feels like there's nothing left for we academics to do with ourselves.  But, do not despair, a new horizon grew out of the 90s and has opened many roads to us.  Now, we can "queer" people.

To "queer" someone, you just need to argue that they display someone abnormal sexual identity.  It's easy.  Here, I'll show you by queering the mighty Chewbacca:

Chewbacca spends all of his time with his heterosexual life partner, Han Solo.  (Han's last nane, "Solo," seems to be an indication of his desire to claim hetero-normativeness and maintain his alpha-male image while traveling with another male.)  Chewbabba's sexuality is considered male, but his role in society is without sex - he is as sexually sterile as a pet, or a tool.  His life-debt to Solo makes him virtually a slave to Solo's career and part and parcel to the rogue's scoundrel-esque lifestyle where they explore the world outside of society's norms and culture's expectations.  Chewy does not interact with women or men in a romantic way, and is never seen in the films to interact with another Wookie - nor does he long for this interaction.  Is the life-debt a "neutering" act?  Is the Wookie's resolve to his own promise so strong that his internal desires are completely and successfully denied by it?  And, if so, does this discipline come from a societal tradition of leaving one's true self in order to serve another, as a sort of bondage?  Truly, through the character of Chewbacca, George Lucas has used a space opera to explore alternative sexualities in cross-cultural sitations and foreign environments.

(Hint: Use the phrase "cross-cultural" in everything you write.  Academics drool over it almost as much as "cultural identities.")

This sort of exercise is a great way to say something unique about an academic figure without doing any actual work.  No research is involved, but lots of claims are made.  No, you'll never have to tell anyone what is meant by "cultural norms" or "societies' expectations" because no one will ever ask.  No proof is needed, and no textual evidence will be required from you.  If someone points out that Chewbacca's character doesn't really reflect this stance, then just say, "You can't deny the subtext!"  They will back down, because they probably also have arguments built upon imaginary subtexts and they wouldn't want to weaken that stronghold.

And, lest you think my Star Wars example is silly, I have run into people at conferences who were busy queering characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and thought that Twilight was, like, so immature with its sparkly vampires of...sparkly-ness).

Does this with work characters who are more sexually normal?  You bet it does.  It doesn't matter that Mr. Brady of The Brady Bunch is happily married and sleeps in a bed with his wife, because you can still find something different about him and assert that, in some way, he's not as a male in the way society would expect.  In fact, queering seemingly normal people is considered pretty impressive, where as queering Dorian Gray is about as easy as beating a philosophy major in an arm wrestling contest.  (Which is pretty easy to do, unless you're an art history major.)

7 comments:

  1. Dude, Chewie has a wife and kids.. or should I say "had" until a that moon landed on him.

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  2. I completely agree with you. I'm not in grad school yet, and I'm already being groomed to think this way. I don't discount all of "queer theory," but it's taken too far (like most other "theories."

    I didn't comment to say that though. This post made me think about language in SW. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any creature covered in hair that can speak English. All the others (except for bad guys and some droids.)

    I wonder what that is supposed to mean.

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  3. James, you can't deny the subtext!

    Dustin, obviously, only English speaking souls are nominal, and all others are simply "others." Shame on Lucas.

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  4. The Dynamics of Innerbeing and Monological Imperatives in Dick and Jane: A Study in Transrelational Gender Modes.
    http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/1993/02/11

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  5. I just feel like you're wrong on this one. If anyone was gay in Star Wars it would be R2 and 3PO. Or if you were really bold you could say Lando and get the double win for Black and Gay

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  6. Was I the only one struck by the similarity of the poses between Chewbacca and Adam's profile in the right column?

    Perhaps it's just the head angle, or perhaps Adam is covertly identifying with Chewbacca in his longing to express his true sexual identity, which has obviously been subverted and refuted throughout his adult life.

    (I kid. I'm a kidder. I first ran across this phenomenon when some study or other pronounced Sesame Street's Bert and Ernie as gay companions.)

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  7. Any true Star Wars fan should read this to fully understand Chewbacca, the hero of Kashykk, and the whole series really. http://km-515.livejournal.com/746.html

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