Week 6 Reading Assignment

“It is certainly the first film in which the characters are homosexuals , without homosexuality being made into a problem” (571). Fassbinder uses his film, Fox and His Friends, as means of presenting an alternate reality- one which homosexuality is as valid and societally-accepted as heterosexuality (572). While sadly, this isn’t the case in reality, this setting is one sought after for decades by gay activists throughout history.This unconventionality in presentation took a stab at impeaching the dominant heterosexual perspectives in cinema. This presentation of homosexuality separated from the homosexual struggle reduces the impact of the gay activists’ mission, as seen in the way they “criticized the culture industry’s [in the film] construction of a dominant and seemingly naturalized heterosexual perspective, which repressed and erased gays and lesbians ” (566). This mission being the attempt to, “educate and organize gay men and lesbians…so the gay and lesbian community could find its political muscle and change the way in which the public sphere viewed and treated gays and lesbians” (566). This can be compared to the struggle of feminists who strive to challenge hegemonic male society and can be read as Fassbinder disregarding the present politics of homosexuality and taking for granted the presence and acceptance of homosexuality.

The nature of the homosexual explicitness found in Fassbinder’s, Fox and His Friends clashes with the alternative, and more realistic application of homosexuality and its struggle, as seen in the setting of Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist, which takes place in fascist Italy.  We see the presence of an  oppressive hegemony through Benito Mussolini’s Republican Fascist Party and what that entailed. We encounter Marcello Clerici, our protagonist and his battle in disclosing his homosexual tendencies in the embrace of the fascist ruling. The ‘monstrosity’ of his character lies in his attempt to conform (as alluded to in the title)  to the “norm” of fascist regulations, which is a clear suppression of his homosexuality.  The theme of suppression is also prevalent in the role of the female characters in the film. Their identities are suppressed, as seen in the way Clerici refers to his fiancee’s “normal” state as being in the kitchen. Clerici finds himself suppressing his deviant sexuality as well, hoping to fit into the cults of masculinity, and avoid shame in a politically-charged setting where his identity prevents him from obtaining a sense of [masculine] power.  In contrast to the events of The Conformist, the lack of “battles” found in Fassbinder’s, Fox and His Friends signifies how the progression of time attempts to neutralize these differences in sexuality and becomes more self-assured and well as oblivious to the political climate, keeping the end goal of homosexual acceptance in sight.

Works Cited:

Peucker, Brigitte. A Companion to Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Chichester: West Sussex, 2012. 565-76. Print.

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