Language Arts 11
January 4, 2013
I started out the reading hating it, which admittedly did not lead to an unbiased reading, but I wound up having mixed feelings. Firstly, I hate the idea of “gay signs,” the idea that we can identify someone’s sexuality from their personality infuriates me (although, there is a very strong argument to be made for that line of thinking, which kind of leaves a bitter taste in my mouth). Although I hated Tyson’s revealing of the characters’ “gay signs”, Nick Carraway is without a doubt either gay or bisexual. He undoubtedly sex with Mr. McKee, illustrated clearly by the lines, “I was standing beside his bed and he was sitting up between the sheets, clad in his underwear,” (pg. 344) honestly, what else could they have been doing? However, whether or not I was biased to start with, there were a few glaringly obvious flaws with Tyson’s queer interpretation of The Great Gatsby, the majority of which being copious cases of crystalline clear contradictions.
Firstly, Tyson makes an argument for Nick’s attraction to New York City showing a representation of his homosexuality by arguing that the city represents, to him, more or less, a city for gay people, “Where in the East does he go? He goes to New York City, which both he and Jordan associate with transgressive sexuality.” (pg. 348) Okay, not my main point in this paragraph, but there are two things wrong with this sentence before I even get to my main point. Firstly, according to Microsoft, transgressive isn’t even a word. Secondly, neither Nick nor Jordan express an association of homosexuality with New York, they express an association of sexual freedom, which in terms of The Great Gatsby’s promiscuous themes, is more related to sleeping around with multiple partners than homosexuality. Aside from the fact that this is a bogus argument towards Nick’s homosexuality to start with, Tyson contradicts herself later in the chapter, saying, “So repelled is Nick by the moral laxity of New York…” (pg. 349) If Nick is repelled by New York City, and to him (according to Tyson), The Big Apple represents homosexuality, then I’d say it’s fair to assume that Tyson has inadvertently come to the conclusion that Nick is in fact a heterosexual.
Another invalid argument that Tyson makes regards the twins that Tyson argues represent “same-sex ‘doubles’ that function as lesbian signs.” (pg. 344) These two represent nothing in the book more than the wild zany crew that make up Gatsby’s parties. That’s not the real issue though, the problem that I take offense to is Tyson’s inclusion of the lines, “In fact, the depiction of these two characters in the 1974 film version of the novel are that film’s only concession to the possibility of a queer dimension in the story: in the film, the women are portrayed dancing together in a manner the sexual meaning of which cannot be missed.” (pg. 344) Tyson seems to forget that she is supposed to be writing a queer theory interpretation of a book, and not of some director’s interpretation of that book. It also seems to slip her mind that films often sexualize scenes to get the attention of the heterosexual male and homosexual female audience.
Since I proclaimed to have mixed feelings about the reading, I suppose I should go a bit into that. I think Tyson made an excellent point early on in the chapter that she could have turned into an excellent queer theory interpretation of The Great Gatsby, “For one thing, the three romantic triangles that generate most of the novel’s action are all adulterous: Daisy, Tom, and Myrtle are all breaking their marital values.” (pg. 343) I was actually quite excited to hear Tyson talk about how every heterosexual relationship in the book is incredibly flawed, and how Fitzgerald uses that to support homosexuality, but there was not a single mention of this argument beyond the previously quoted lines. I like the idea of basing queer theory readings on relationships a lot more than on flimsy evidence that a character may or may not be a closet homosexual.
In conclusion, I think there’s a very strong argument to be made for a queer interpretation of The Great Gatsby, and I believe it’s very possible that Fitzgerald may have written it with that specifically in mind, but Tyson was not the one to reveal that hidden meaning. She uses flimsy evidence that she often contradicts only a few paragraphs later; all in all, I’d say this was one of her weaker interpretations.
1) How might the classic patriarchal relationship displayed on shows like The Flinstones (Fred/Wilma), or The Lucy Show, (Lucy/Ricky Ricardo) be interpreted through a queer theory lens?
2) What does the overly sexualized nature of our advertising say about our country’s innate desire to be heterosexual?
3) Why do you think it is that in media, lesbianism seems to regarded as very attractive, while gayism is displayed in a much more negative light?