The Birdcage's reflection of Heteronormativity

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It is fairly evident when watching The Birdcage that the relationship shared between Armand and Albert reflects traditional roles within heterosexual relationships. Armand is portrayed as the more masculine of the two, although as he is a queer he is depicted as having a slightly feminine demeanor. Albert on the other hand in more feminine than most women, I would argue. This hyper-feminization of Albert more distinctly classifies him as a sissy. This portrayl of theses gay men is congruent with the dynamic of a straight relationship. This portrayl was most likely created by Hollywood to market the movie to a larger audience. This of course is problematic because it very narrowly defines homosexual relationships and more importantly it defines them as a bi-product of heteronormativity.
Things become more hopeful when we look to Judith Butler's idea that butch and femme identities reveal heterosexuality as something that is easily replicated and therefore has no inherent natual quality.
Although for the majority of The Birdcage it is clear that Armand and Albert truely function as though Armand was the man and woman there is a portion of the movie that could be argued in line with Bulter's theory. During the scene in which Albert cross-dresses as Val's mother I would argue that the simplicity of modeling a heterosexual relationship is releaved. This is so since Val's fiancees parents believe every moment of the performance Albert is putting on. In that scene we can see how easy it is for a straight audience (the fiancee's parents) to believe the heterosexual relationship Armand and Albert have created. In this instance they are really creating the illusion of a heterosexual relationship and because Albert does it so well and effortlessly I can see how Bulter could come with her theory. And so I agree, if butch and femme, or in this case masculine and sissy identities, parallel heterosexual relationships so well, were do we get the notion that heterosexuality, aside from procreation, is normative?

2 Comments

I definitely agree with you that Hollywood made the gay relationship congruent to a straight one in order to market to a larger audience. Movies like this always pick on queer-life and utilize extreme stereotypes. One of which you said in your post, the hyper-feminization of Albert. They made him so extreme it was almost embarrassing to watch it as a female. I'm glad that they didn't portray Armand as an extremely masculine character but rather gave him qualities of both. That's what I liked about Armand's character, even though it was easy to pick up that he was gay, he wasn't made to be an extreme character like Albert was.

I also think that it is extremely difficult to fall into an equal balance within a relationship. There is always going to be a distinction within the two by them each being a bit more feminine, masculine, dominant, and/or submissive. It's as if all types of relationships can be correlated with one another and not that all queer relationships are trying to imitate heterosexual ones.

I too liked that they made queer relationships comprable to straight relationships. It was so easy for Armand and Albert to "pass" as straight for so long because the relationship was such a happy and healthy one. It's still extremely stereotypical with to men who are both feminine, but a step up from older representations. I don't understand if they were going to show this binary of masculiniy and feminininty, they should have made Armond even more masculine, as if the facial hair and managing the club weren't enough. He should have been even more "macho" to prove the point. This movie had great potential to be over the top and satirize heterosexuality.

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This page contains a single entry by arse0042 published on February 11, 2012 1:14 PM.

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