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:
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.)