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Making Things Perfectly Queer

Interpreting Mass Culture

1993
Author:

Alexander Doty

Making Things Perfectly Queer

Doty demonstrates how queer readings can be—and are—performed by examining star images like Jack Benny and Pee-wee Herman, women-centered sitcoms like Laverne and Shirley and Designing Women, film directors like George Cukor and Dorothy Arzner, and genres like the musical.

Doty demonstrates how queer readings can be—and are—performed by examining star images like Jack Benny and Pee-wee Herman, women-centered sitcoms like Laverne and Shirley and Designing Women, film directors like George Cukor and Dorothy Arzner, and genres like the musical.

Alexander Doty is on the verge of being recognized as the single most important figure in gay media studies. His work is entirely original, unusually important, exceptionally well argued, and engagingly written. His most important insight is that queer positions, readers, readings, and discourses are not just confined to those who happen to be gay or lesbian, but are culturally available to everyone. Making Things Perfectly Queer offers the kinds of readings of films and television that permanently alter the way one sees.

Constance Penley, University of California, Santa Barbara

Doty argues that films, television, and other forms of mass culture consistently elicit a wide range of queer (sexually liminal) responses, and suggests an interpretive framework for understanding mass culture that stands as a corrective to many standard cultural approaches.

Making Things Perfectly Queer

Alexander Doty teaches film and mass culture in the English department at Lehigh University He is the author of articles on film, mass culture, and queer studies, and is currently coediting an anthology on lesbian, gay, and queer mass culture theory and criticism.

Making Things Perfectly Queer

Alexander Doty is on the verge of being recognized as the single most important figure in gay media studies. His work is entirely original, unusually important, exceptionally well argued, and engagingly written. His most important insight is that queer positions, readers, readings, and discourses are not just confined to those who happen to be gay or lesbian, but are culturally available to everyone. Making Things Perfectly Queer offers the kinds of readings of films and television that permanently alter the way one sees.

Constance Penley, University of California, Santa Barbara

In Making Things Perfectly Queer, Alexander Doty has produced the most lucid expression so far of the value of queerness to cultural criticism. Each chapter is an innovation in its own right.

Andrew Ross, Princeton University

Doty, who teaches film and gay and lesbian studies at Lehigh University, is concerned in this volume with uncovering gay/lesbian/bisexual elements in unexpected places in popular culture. He wishes 'to challenge the politics of denotation and connotation' in traditional 'heterocentric' critical practice. Otherwise ‘heterocentric texts can contain queer elements, and basically heterosexual, straight-identifying people can experience queer moments,’ he writes, especially if one understands 'queer' as encompassing more that just sexual behavior, but, rather, a range of cultural phenomena as well. Doty offers cogent analysis of the interaction between queerness and auteurist film theory, particularly as applied to a gay director like George Cukor or a lesbian filmmaker like Dorothy Arzner; of the lesbian inflections of female-bonding sitcoms like Laverne and Shirley; and of Pee-wee Herman and gay male misogyny. Doty is an incisive writer, well versed in both pop and academic literature. His work is less jargon-ridden than is usual in critical theory books, and his choices of subject matter should help broaden the audience for this provocative book.

Publishers Weekly

Simultaneously on the cutting edge of scholarship and fun to read.

Isthmus

Illuminating-and fun-deconstruction of Pee-wee Herman, Jack Benny, and chapters on audience reception and authorship.

Library Journal

Making Things Perfectly Queer illuminates both the potential and the limitations of queer theory as praxis in the analysis of mass culture. By weaving together queer theory and popular culture methods, Doty goes where few theorists have gone before. Doty’s work offers an engaging discussion of shows seldom explored for their queer moments. This book is important because it illuminates the theoretical problems queerists encounter and creates a blueprint of possibilities for scholars working with similar materials.

Lesbian Review of Books

The strength of Doty’s writing is his incredible eye for the telling detail-the lines culled from 1940s Jack Benny shows are incredible nuggets of postmodern, found analysis-and a pervasive knowledge of popular culture that allows him to wander through film, video, and print materials, finding fragments which he brings back to his theme to construct an essay. What Doty has done is to place these ideas and arguments in a broader, contemporary, theoretical framework that incorporates clearer, more articulated ideas about feminist theory, gay and lesbian liberation.

Cineaste