Scene Selections: LGBTQ+ Art that moves us
From Shakespeare’s sonnet for “the world’s fresh ornament” to Avery Tucker’s “All Blacked Out” elegy, LGTBQ+ history is written in a lineage of art. It works against a world inclined to reject, projecting modes of thinking, feeling and loving from its marginalized residencies. Ultimately, it queers, or blurs, lines of division to proffer radical inclusivity.
By Mike Donovan, Scene Editor ([email protected])
Butch Baby wields synth pop analogues and wry witticisms like power tools: means to drill down to the abject and playfully queer the politics of modern love. Submerged in the underworld, the outfit — comprised of Notre Dame junior Audrey Lindemann and IUSB junior Josie Squadroni — soaks up binary notions of gender, geography, sincerity and identity with a proverbial loofa, rendering each dichotomy (especially those which purport to separate and cleanse) the butt of personal hygiene’s biggest joke.
Then, the duo laughs — a large, full-throated, multi-tracked outpouring meant to voice eerie representations often felt but rarely expressed in polite company. The laugh is contagious, inviting anyone within earshot to participate in its euphoria. It demands the walls that separate subjectivity from the symbolic be torn down.
While others sit in the pan, flashing profusely, trying to attract listeners, Butch Baby stands outside the circle, gripping the handle and shaking.
“Thinkin Bout You” by Frank Ocean
By Ryan Israel, Scene Writer ([email protected])
In July 2012, Frank Ocean posted an open letter on his Tumblr page. The letter told the story of Ocean’s first love — “Four summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too.” Days later, Ocean would release his debut album “Channel Orange.” The album told stories of love and lust, decadence and glamour, pain and joy. It’s an incredible masterpiece of modern R&B, a riveting statement on modern love, and it came from a queer black man.
No song on “Channel Orange” better encapsulates love than “Thinkin Bout You.” A somber violin plays. A tornado flies around a room. The smooth, melancholy beat kicks in, accentuated by slow clap drums. The question is asked — “Do you think about me still?” The song radiates with longing, longing for a love that is gone, but “It won’t ever get old, not in my soul, not in my spirit, keep it alive.” On “Thinkin Bout You,” Ocean tells a story of love that knows no gender, no time and no limit. It happens in a flash — one summer, one week, one day — and then it’s gone, but it can always be remembered by thinking about “you.”
“Orlando” by Virginia Woolf
By Hanna Kennedy, Scene Writer ([email protected])
Nearly all of Virginia Woolf’s novels, essays and short stories can be — and have been — interpreted in light of their lesbian and queer themes. And none more so than “Orlando.” Published in 1928, “Orlando” is Woolf’s love letter to fellow writer Vita Sackville-West. The two women met in the early 1920s and began a romantic affair that lasted for years.
“Orlando,” which Vita’s son called “the longest and most charming love letter in literature,” tells the story of its eponymous character, a dashing young man — at least at first — living in Tudor times. The book earns its pioneering reputation, however, when its hero becomes a heroine. Orlando’s transition between sexes has led the book to be categorized as one of the first examples of the English language trans novel, and one in which the change is navigated with a sense of profound truth. Upon waking from his — now her — trance, Orlando looks in the mirror and observes: “Different sex. Same person.”
“The Birdcage” Directed by Mike Nichols
By Jake Winningham, Scene Writer ([email protected])
“The Birdcage” isn’t just a great movie about a gay romance; it’s a great movie about romance, period. Very few works of art in general are so honest about the push-and-pull of relationships. Everybody involved in the production chips in: Elaine May’s script gleefully lobs one-liners like hand grenades, and director Mike Nichols steps back and lets his cast do their thing. And what a cast it is: Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest are hilarious as the WASP-y couple unaware of their potential in-laws’ living situation, and Hank Azaria and Christine Baranski work overtime in what could otherwise be thankless roles. The true power of “The Birdcage” comes from the two men at its center: as Armand and Albert, Robin Williams and Nathan Lane both turn in career-best performances. The film treats its protagonists with a respect most movies never afford to their gay characters. Neither one is a stereotype, but rather a fully realized, humane portrayal of a loving couple presented with an impossible situation. By the end of the film, both their opposing couple and the audience can’t resist the charms of the Goldmans. The movie’s closing song says it best: We are family.
“On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” by Ocean Vuong
By Gina Twardosz, Scene Writer ([email protected])
David Sedaris’ body of work is a masterclass in hopeful writing with a cynical outlook. For 20 years, he has never held anything back, including his homosexuality. His wittily morbid take on his own life experiences has encouraged accessible discourse surrounding homosexuality. More recently, Ocean Vuong’s “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” is a hauntingly exalting novel that encapsulates the fictional experience of a gay, Vietnamese-American boy named Little Dog. “On Earth” breathes life into a nuanced portrayal of coming of age and coming out. It is funny, full of witticisms and pop culture references, but also heartbreakingly sad, moving beyond a singular experience to focus on the collective suffering of many marginalized groups, such as immigrants and LGBTQ+ individuals.
In many ways, Sedaris opened the door for the popularization of LGBTQ+ literature, normalizing the craft of personal essay which has empowered many underrepresented individuals to speak their truth openly and honestly. “When I was this kid’s age, you’d be burned alive for such talk,” so speaks Sedaris about homosexuality in his 2008 collection of essays “When You Are Engulfed in Flames.” He means this humorously, of course, but he alludes to the reality of homophobia and shame that pervaded the 20th century. Yet, Vuong is an openly gay, critically acclaimed emerging writer who just received a MacArthur Fellowship for “On Earth,” a novel that breaks the mold of both coming-of-age novels and memoirs since the novel is semi-autobiographical. We are (slowly) moving towards a greater library of LGBTQ+ literature that spans a variety of voices.