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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Heterosexuals and Queer Kissing

Reading Charles Morris’s and John Sloop’s lengthy article on queer public kissing, one passage in particular caught my attention. At the beginning of the article they cited a scene from Dude, Where’s My Car? where the main characters played by Ashton Kutcher and Sean William Scott engage in an open-mouth kiss without showing the slightest bit of hesitation or disgust. Queer filmmaker Bruce LaBruce claims that this kiss did “more to advance the cause of homosexuality than 25 years of gay activism.” But what is the significance of the two being heterosexual? In class today, we discussed a Snickers commercial where two men accidentally kiss and are disgusted afterward and are compelled to “do something manly” to prove they’re not gay. We saw this as poking fun at homophobic people, but what’s wrong with two heterosexual men not desiring to partake in homosexual activity? The scene in Dude, Where’s My Car? has the men express no disgust at their queer kiss, but why did they not use homosexual men to do this? Could it be because the characters were stoned? Or the need to mimic the other characters, Fabio and his girlfriend, exactly? Or, it could be the time period of when the movie was filmed and the attitudes towards queer public kissing at that time. Viewers probably would have responded adversely to a scene of two gay men kissing, but since they knew that the Kutcher’s and Scott’s characters were straight, they would not have been as offended. This way, the pro-queer kissing sentiment is conveyed with minimal backlash.


  1. This is actually a really interesting observation. A kiss between two men doesn't seem as "shocking" knowing that the kissers are heterosexual than if they are gay. For some people, having heterosexual people kiss is more "comfortable" because they don't experience any gay bias towards the actors and their characters (generally in the form of some sort of homophobia). No one discriminates against Heath Ledger or Jake Gyllenhaal today for their role in Brokeback Mountain. Heath Ledger is praised for his role as the Joker in Batman: The Dark Knight and Gyllenhaal is about to star in Prince of Persia as Prince Dastan, the lead role. Maybe the fact that two heterosexual people kiss sort of "eases" society into a comfort with two men kissing by disrupting the typical "gay" bias that might normally turn people away. This is a tough question to answer and one that makes me feel like any way I try to answer it I might be offending someone or saying something that isn't true for all people. But I do wonder why this works.

  2. I think it has to do with the idea of 'the other.' Ledger and Gyllenhaal are heterosexual and therefore not 'other' (from a heterosexual's standpoint). So heterosexual onlookers can relate to them more easily, whereas with an out-and-out homosexual kiss it's a little more difficult to relate to (for some people). I agree with vaughnE that it's sort of difficult to answer. I don't know why.

  3. Overtly heterosexual men engaging in homosexual behavior seems to be construed as less of a threat to the heteronormative society. These instances most often occur either in a comical context, in which two straight characters kiss for "shock value," or in the event where heterosexual men are cast as gay characters. Both of these cases are easily forgiven my much of society. For the comedians, their actions are viewed as juvenile subversions of ideal masculinity. It is the social equivalent of a self-deprecating prat fall. The actors who step outside of their own sexual identities for a role are lauded for their courage and open-mindedness. Either way, the homosexual act is considered a burden an actor must assume in order to prove his Hollywood merit. Therefore, these scenes still exacerbate preexisting notions of homosexuality as being socially perverse.