Lake Forest College
The topic discussed in this paper is the use of gender performance as a form of entertainment for a heterosexual audience. From this topic, arise many different questions. I have been lead to wonder: what forms of gender performance are there? What makes a performance geared towards heterosexuals? How do these performances affect the queer agenda? How is gender performance in the media viewed by queer culture as well as heterosexual culture? This topic was originally inspired from a game for the Nintendo 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. In this game, your character meets someone named Sheik, who takes on the role of a male. Later, Sheik is unveiled and turns out to be the princess Zelda. This got me wondering about how gender performance is much more prevalent in mainstream media than one might think, as well as what people’s reactions to the already present forms of it are. While most people think of gender performance as something only seen in drag bars and movies, it is often included in a more subtle fashion in many more forms of media. A multitude of video games include female heroines that embody male stereotypes. Characters such as Samus from Metroid Prime, who is encased in an armor suit, only to reveal herself as a female at the end of the game, or Merry Maggie, who was a cross-dressing amphibian from the Nintendo game Banjo-Tooie are just a couple of characters from video games that perform as a gender not their own. Furthermore, many game developers are creating games that allow the character to cross dress, such as in the game Fable, or have homosexual relationships, such as in the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series. It is disputed how these inclusions of LGBTQ elements in video games are seen by the public. The policies of video game companies regarding transgendered and homosexual content has spoken quite a bit about the media’s stance on the subject throughout the past several decades. Additionally, gender performance is commonplace in many of the movies we see. Popular films such as Tootsie, The Silence of the Lambs, Some Like it Hot, White Chicks, Boys Don’t Cry as well as many other mainstream movies are examples of gender performance as entertainment. Each of these films contains some aspect of gender performance, if not encapsulating the main focus of the film. Beyond these mass marketed forms of media is the essence of gender performance as entertainment; drag shows. Establishments that host drag shows such as the Baton Show lounge in Chicago, Lips in New York, or Hamburger Mary’s in Los Angeles all utilize gender performativity to entertain an often heterosexual audience. These sorts of media representations of gender performance beg the question of: what makes them geared for a heterosexual audience rather than artistic expression? The context in which the performance is given is often a key indicator of the audience the content is aimed at. This can greatly influence the response of both heterosexual audiences as well as the LGBTQ community. I feel that this is an important take on gender performance because it is so widespread amongst a broad audience. The level of exposure to this content may have a latent influence on the many consumers. Whether social acceptance of LGBTQ lifestyles influences the content in the media, or that the acceptance follows media exposure, it is important to note the many forms that it is delivered. Finally, the context of the gender performance is also a chief factor in how it is to be viewed, and whether or not transgenderism is to be negatively or positively stigmatized.
Literature Review In Sarah E. S. Sinwell’s Sex, Bugs, and Isabella Rossellini: The Making and Marketing of Green Porno, she discusses the work of Isabella Rossellini. Isabella Rossellini is the co-director and featured actor in the short film series Green Porno, featured on the…