Academic journal article Creative Forum

"We All Know She Is a Lesbo. but What about You?"

Academic journal article Creative Forum

"We All Know She Is a Lesbo. but What about You?"

Article excerpt

All representations are coded: they do not merely reflect a world outside the bounds of the text, but mediate external discourses, while constantly rewriting and reconstructing them. In the area of sexuality, representations are created and recreated in a variety of ways across different media, genres and forms and produced through diverse codes and conventions. In Shobha De's book Strange Obsession and Karan Razdan's film Girlfriend narrate the story of homicidal lesbians Minx and Tanya respectively and use some of these codes and conventions to create and recreate stereotypes of lesbians. Both these texts belong to the realm of popular culture and are therefore accessible to a large audience. They are concerned with making the "deviants" visible by using recognizable stereotypes. This paper will begin by locating some these stereotypes and will then go on to deconstruct them. A part of the paper will also look at the stereotypes that recreate gay and bisexual men as comic or ridiculous. The aim of the paper will be to prove that inspite of the normalizing and stabilizing deployment of these stereotypes; their effect is often unpredictable and creates moments of anxiety.

Homi Bhabha argues in the context of racial stereotyping that the fixity and stability of stereotypes is only apparent (Bhabha 1994: 6684). Stereotypes are a function of the desire to control through knowledge; the stereotype, its fixed contours and endless repetition, constantly reassures "us" that such and such group is known--this is what "they" are likened every time you look, "they" are still the same as we always knew they were. Stereotyping also facilitates the creation of the fixed "self" in opposition to the known "other". Stereotypes of gays and lesbians reproduce norms of gendered heterosexuality because they indicate that the homosexual man or woman falls short of the heterosexual norm: that they can never be a "real" man or "woman". The repetition and multiplication of stereotypes however does not confirm and unify the identity of the figures, it infact takes on a duplicitous function: it reveals the split and doubled nature or "decenteredness" of stereotypes.

In contemporary India, stereotypes of the threatening yet alluring other exist in all realms of discourse. The realist conventions of popular cinema and literature veil the ideological sign "homosexual", (re) presenting the constructed images, the stereotypes as natural and realistic. Yet the stereotypicality of the stereotype, the endless need to repeat it, betrays, suggests Bhabha, the underlying knowledge that in actuality no social group is fixed or really under the grasp of knowledge. The relations of power, particularly, are not static. They have to be endlessly remade and reasserted because the solidified, forever, already known quality of the peripheral groups are a mask for realities that are disturbingly fluid and never really known.

The female body is often portrayed as fluid, unstable and chameleon-like. Mikhail Bakhtin argued that the essentially grotesque body was that of the pregnant birth-giving woman (1984: 339). The female body is often portrayed as the other, but the lesbian body is so threatening that the most extreme forms of stereotypes are associated with it. The most common stereotype is that of the masculinized lesbian body - a pseudo man whose body is an inferior male body (Creed 1999: 114). The deviant sexuality and the truth of their desire are written on their bodies for all to see. In Strange Obsession, Minx not only looks like a man but also carries a man's hanky and uses cologne (De 1982: 13). She is always dressed in black turtlenecks and jeans and has short-cropped hair. It is the mannish-lesbian who takes on the role of the "man" and protects the defenceless feminine "victim". Minx saves Amrita from a scrape in Bombay and from thereon becomes her benefactor in the big, bad city. The adjectives that are used most often to describe her demeanour, walk and tone of voice are "determined" and "brusque" (De 1982: 4-5). …

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