Question #2 - Hedwig and the... Happy Inch?

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I am awfully sorry about posting this as late. It seems that my thinking about this class's issues always take much longer to "mature" than I expect. Before I start attempting to create the semblance of a line of thought, here are a few words on my academic situation: I am not completely sure as to what my field of study really is, being some sort of a misplaced piece in the French department - the only thing I do there is teaching... and being French (if that means anything). I am currently working on a big big project - my Masters thesis - for my university in Paris. I'm attached to the department of English over there, officially specializing in American literature and supervized by one of the very rare French professors who know more about queer theory than I do (and I'm not saying that I know much!). I left Grenoble, my hometown, just for him. Just for Jean-Paul Rocchi. I wouldn't say that I'm an American literature specialist: I'm now sitting somewhere across film studies, philosophy, linguistics, English, French, gender/sexuality studies and... shall future tell me what it is that I'm doing?

For now, on a more specific note, my focus is on Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I mentioned a few things about it in an older post (my class reflection). I have been very lucky with all these past few weeks' readings, since most somehow matched with my reflections of the moment.For instance, Munoz's Disidentifications inspired me a lot as I was struggling to find a way to express in which sense the scenic and non-scenic performances of Hedwig, the main character, are a sort of permanent disidentifications (or "disidentificatory performances", using Munoz's term), and that it is through a theatrical narrative that Hedwig - the character - and Hedwig (the movie) create "something that wasn't there before" (quoting Hedwig, who actually refers to love here - would this week's readings allow us to make a link between love and disentifications... or is it pushing things too far?).

Before becoming Hedwig, our main character was Hansel, a young fan of American pop singers, who lived with his mum in communist East-Berlin. He used to sing along American Forces Radio, his head in the kitchen oven, where his mum forced him to play. As Hedwig herself says, "[David Bowie, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop] left as deep an impression on me as that oven rack did on my face". Munoz's reading of the star made me think of Hedwig/Hansel as this character made out of her/his childhood's role models, who is also our (spectator's) own star (or maybe anti-star?).

Tomorrow, I'll be showing two clips taken from the movie, which I think are particularly representative of what I understand as disentifications. I guess I haven't mentioned yet that the movie is what one would call a musical, however atypical (and way greater than most musicals). So I'll be showing two "music clips", namely "Wig in a Box" and "Midnight Radio". Both of them, in my opinion, touch on these issues of optimism, futurism and utopia. What I'd like to discuss, in relation to these clips, is whether Hedwig and the Angry Inch can be considered as a successful representation of queer optimism. So far (i.e. before this week's readings) I'd been seeing Hedwig's identy(ies) as melancholic, but Snediker's text made me ponder over my over-extensive use of the term... is melancholy's negative connotation a problem? Couldn't we broaden its meaning? And anyway, do I really want to buy into queer optimism? I know this is only a movie, so whatever intertwists between past, present and future make up for Hedwig's identity(ies) and relations with the world, they are much easier to interpret and work out than "real" life's (outter narrative's) social relations. By the way, (I know this is a difficult question), what can be the political strength of a movie (or any artistic work in fact)?

I have to say that I have yet to be convinced by the political efficacy of queer optimism - I have the feeling that one can only constructively write on queer negativity. Isn't optimism, as Snediker somewhere puts it (sorry I've lost the page), what simply is? How can theoretical work, being by nature so attached to the signifier - to what things really mean - reach beyond the negativity by which the signifier can only exist? Isn't it "counter-nature" for theory to inscribe itself outside of negativity? I am tempted to see political action and art (art often being, I would say, some sort of political action) as what has the potential to speak for itself (better than any endless theoretical speech), performing their inherent hope, utopia... however we want to name this "not yet queer" (Munoz, "Feeling Utopia").

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Sounds interesting! I've never seen the film, but I've heard about it, so I'm excited to see the clips today.

Having not seen the film, I'm not sure how much I can contribute to your thoughts here, but I wonder if there might be space in your project to also talk about the fear/hope aspect of the readings as well within the film. I mean, playing in an oven has the potential to generate fear, yet it seems that the strong influence of pop music could suggest hope. Again, I don't know the film well, so this is just a far off thought!

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