The way in which Tony Kushner’s Angels in America converses with the relationship between queerness and the Divine is one of the best and most complex I have seen in media.
From the very start of the play we see the pairing of queerness and spirituality with the Jewish funeral which is depicted. Then, we are introduced to Joe who struggles with his sexuality and Mormon faith. But the pairing of religion and queerness which I find the most important and interesting is Prior’s relationship with spirituality and religion. The choice to to make a gay man who is dying of AIDS the character in play who is the self proclaimed prophet, most connected to the divine is important especially in a post AIDS America, with so much stigma still surrounding the illness. The moment which stands out to me is when the Angel itself refers to Prior as the prophet, “Greetings Prophet! The great work begins!” the Angel proclaims when meeting Prior. In having the divine itself recognize Prior as a prophet Kushner challenges traditional ideas of religion and inexplicably connects the queer to the divine.
The piece of queer media which stands out to me as being valuable in terms of this class is the film The Birdcage starring Nathan Lane and Robin Williams. What I find so valuable and resonant in terns of this particular piece of queer media is how it depicts elder queer love, queer community, and queer joy. Granted, the men who are in love in the film are not old per se, but they are queer people who are beyond their twenties or thirties, which is something that I think more queer media needs representation of. A lot of the texts we have read and that I have read in other classes discussing LGBT issues were written or written about younger queer people (ex. Saeed Jones is in his thirties, Eli Clare was in his thirties when Exile and Pride was published, etc. ). Which of course is valuable but it is also valuable for the voices of elder queers to be heard so that the younger generation can not only appreciate its history but look forward to its future. Obviously I understand how the AIDS epidemic has impacted how and how much we head elder queer voices, so I recognize that that poses a challenge.
Also, I think this film, while it does fall into certain queer stereotypes, it also depicts the presence of queer joy. Certainly some of our texts discussed similar themes but a lot of what we have read focuses on the struggles associated with queerness and I think it is just as important to read and study and prioritize the joy that is being queer and experiencing the LGBT community.
“My mother was not the queer one, but my father. Something got beat out of the man… But it is this queer I run from.” ( Moraga 2)
This particular phrase took my breath away when I first read it. Not only because of personal resonance but because it is so ripe for analysis in terms of sexuality and gender.
First starting out with Moraga’s clarification that her mother was not the queer, but rather her father was. I cannot say for certain why Moraga chooses to make this clarification but clarifying this is interesting because it implies that her mother would have been assumed to be more queer than her father for some reason. Whether that be because of cultural perceptions of masculinity and men in heterosexual relationships, or the way that Moraga views her own queer identity as being very related to her being a woman, or both, it’s an interesting choice. It begins to put into conversation gender and sexuality and their relationship which Moraga talks about several times in this particular reading.
Then, the idea that Moraga identifies her father as the “queer”, which one would assume would bring them closer in terms of identity, but then she rejects that preconceived notion by saying that he is the queer she runs from. It is his version of queerness which she rejects, which puts him in a sort of subcategory of queer.
In the context of our class this is relates to the complexity of queer identity and how we recognize queerness in ourselves and others. The idea that one person’s personification of queer can be very different from another’s is complex and hard to comprehend that one kind of queerness can be at odds with another.
“The dress is an oil slick. The dress\ ruins everything. In a hotel room\ by the water. I put it on when\ he says, I want you to take it off.” (Jones 29)
These are the opening lines to Saeed Jones’ poem, Drag. Immediately as readers we are placed close to the author’s experience through his use of the first-person perspective. Just in these few first lines we see immense contrast. The image of a dress being an “oil slick” it a hotel near the “water”, is one of repulsion and separation. This accompanied with the contrasting “I” vs. “he” that is presented in these lines creates the image of things being pushed away from one another. This could serve to represent a multitude of ideas including that Jones himself could be somewhat repulsed by what he is experiencing, which further contrasts with the image of the dress, which is symbolic of beauty and desire, the opposite of repulsion. This relationship between desire and repulsion is one that I see throughout Jones’ poetry that we have read. The idea of desiring something but being simultaneously repulsed due to shame or trauma is one that I see in several of his poems.
This section is separated into Jones’ thoughts and words and the other man’s words. Since Jones is whose thoughts, we experience we are on his side, in his corner. This is another theme seen in Jones poetry where he will incorporate the words and actions of other entities to contrast with his own words and inner thoughts, I am specifically thinking of the poem “Prelude to a Bruise”. This brings up closer to Jones and creates an intimate poetry experience.