Comparative Literature | Introduction to Pop Culture
C151 | 1210 | Shawn Conner

MWF   1:25-2:15     BH 244
This section meets COAS A & H requirement and carries Culture Studies

Topic:  Queer Eye on Popular Culture
The Fab Five from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy is taking America by
storm, invading the homes of heterosexual men and wiping out every
last vestige of the habits of those disgusting, testosterone-driven
creatures known as “straight” men.  So how can we explain the
ascendancy in popularity of shows like Queer Eye, Boy Meets Boy, Will
& Grace, and Queer as Folk?  Why is “fag hag” comedian Margaret Cho so
popular at this particular moment, so much so in fact that she’s sold
out nearly every venue on her current tour across the U.S.?  Why are
more television shows such as E.R., Six Feet Under, Sex and the City,
The Wire, and the soap opera All My Children (can you believe Erica
Kane’s daughter is a lesbian? scandalous!) featuring gay and
lesbian characters?  Is this shift toward increased inclusion of
homosexual characters completely positive, or are there still some
potential problems in the way these characters are portrayed?

In this course, we will critically explore this “queer” shift that is
occurring in television, and we will also be looking at other
expressions of popular culture—films, novels, memoirs, music,
magazines, etc.—in order to see how gay, lesbian, and transgender
peoples are represented and portrayed.  We will also be considering
how gender and sexuality comes to be constructed, characterized, and
dramatized and why certain representations or portrayals have either
been lauded or harshly (negatively) criticized.  One of the most
important goals of this course is to consider all possibilities of
interpretation of popular culture materials, taking into account how
different audiences respond to particular items.  We will be reading
and critically discussing Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Post-Dykes to
Watch Out For, Eric Orner’s graphic novel Ethan Green:  Exposed,
Hector Bianciotti’s What the Night Tells the Day, Rita Mae Brown’s
Rubyfruit Jungle, Taste This Performance Group’s Boys Like Her:
Transfictions, James Earl Hardy’s B-Boy Blues:  A Seriously Sexy,
Fiercely Funny, Black-on-Black Love Story, and Hanif Kureshi’s My
Beautiful Laundrette.  We will also read selections from the following
texts (available through electronic reserves):  RuPaul’s Lettin’ It
All Hang Out, Cherríe Moraga’s Loving in the War Years, Chastity Bono
’s Family Outing, and short writings by Vaginal Davis.  Finally, we
will view in-class clips from popular television shows as well as
clips from some of the following films:  Tongues Untied, Notorious C.
H.O., Pixote, Before Night Falls, Doña Herlinda y su hijo, Caged Heat,
Fresa y chocolate, Basic Instinct, Boys Don’t Cry, My Beautiful
Laundrette, Desert Hearts, Pink Flamingos, Kate’s Addiction, Boys on
the Side, and Go Fish.  The requirements for this course are two four-
to five-page papers, occasional in-class writing exercises and
quizzes, a midterm, and a final exam.