Reading and Queering Plato in Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a musical film about a queer punk rocker, alludes to a part of Plato’s Symposium in which Aristophanes narrates a mystical origin of love: that bifurcation of gender types yields sexuality types. After Judith Butler’s idea of gender binary as a by-product of the oppressive practice of heterosexuality I want to consider the use of Plato in the movie not as a simple reproduction of the Greek mythology but as a disruption or a subversion of the mythology’s seamless unidirectional connection between sex, gender, and sexuality. Here Hedwig serves as a symbolic queering agent in the oppressive, constructed binary gender and sexuality categories. I show this through a close reading of Hedwig’s songs and their diegetic performances in which aspects of Hedwig’s gender and sexuality are highlighted within the context of her personal history. I interpret the deployment of the punk rock aesthetics in performance, a style that definitively celebrates the abject, to be indicative of Hedwig’s positive outlook on life as a stigmatized queer individual. The ending of the film gives a politically progressive message that gender division is neither essential nor universal and, echoing Butler, is conditioned by the oppressive norms of the heterosexual society. The film’s conventional narrative structure encourages the viewer to empathize with Hedwig despite and for her queer gender and sexuality. The identification with Hedwig thus makes the film politically queer and activist.
KeywordsGreek Mythology Minority Sexuality Group Binary Gender Queer Identity Rock Star
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