Richard Dyer’s analysis of the 1961 film The Victim brings into account how alternative readings of LGBTQ films can challenge the hegemonic message it is trying to portray. In terms of The Victim, for example, he argues that while the film advocates for the decriminalization of homosexuality, it does so only on the condition that being gay is a sickness that should be treated with pity. Yet Dyer also examines how different viewers may come to a different conclusion due to “class, gender, race, sexual orientation, and so on,” although it is impossible to conclude exactly how even with these markers in place (Dyer 107). Rather than being about surface-level identifiers, he believes that “the way you read a film is a question not just of what your social situation is but of how you inhabit it” (Dyer 107). Applying these ideas to The Servant produces interesting results, as one can truly see the complexities of watching cinema; an LGBTQ person, for example, would very quickly discern the cinematic cues that reference homosexuality. In this sense, the film is open about deviant sexualities and their existence in a heteronormative world in much the same way The Victim is. Yet there is another commonality between them — in The Servant, homosexuality is positioned as a morally lacking life decision that destroys the main character’s life and straight relationship in one fell swoop. A queer viewer may pick up on these critiques, or not; a straight audience may entirely miss the references to deviant sexualities, or believe that its representation is a positive one. The way that one inhabits social situations changes how a film can be read, examined, and critiqued on both a personal level and a larger societal one.
Dyer, Richard. The Matter of Images: Essays on Representation. London: Routledge, 2002. Print.