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Edge of Seventeen: Juvenile Agony and Youth Fantasies in New Queer Adolescence Films
Unformatted Document Text:  desperate sexual intercourse with Maggie demonstrates how useless and harmful is his masquerade – Eric feels like a pretender and Maggie feels abused and exploited after her best friend has tried to solve his sexual dilemma ˜ through her body. The sequence of Eric’s “official” coming out to his mother begins with her playing a romantic melody on the piano after many years of not having played. Her response to her son’s confession is similar to Sandra’s response to Jamie’s hysterical disclosure in Beautiful Thing: “I know”. As Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick points out in her book Epistemology of the Closet, knowledge is not itself power, although it is the magnetic field of power (1990, p. 4). Regarding the complications in the notion of gay identity, no one person can take control over all the multiple, often contradictory codes by which information about sexual identity and activity can seem to be conveyed. Hence, Sedgwick notes that in many, if not most, relationships, coming out is a matter of crystallizing intuitions or convictions that had already been in the air for a while and established their own power-circuits of silent contempt, silent blackmail, silent glamorization, silent complicity. “After all,” she adds, “the position of those who think they know something about one that one may not know oneself is an excited and empowered one – whether what they think one doesn’t know is that one somehow is homosexual, or merely that one’s supposed secret is known to them” (pp. 79-80). Like Jamie’s mother and Steven’s mother, Eric’s mother too is furious at her son because he did not tell her enough about his sexuality and hid the truth from her – not because he is gay. Like the other two mothers of gay sons, Eric’s homosexuality does depress her, but she avoids homophobic statements. In contrast, Jane’s mother in The Truth About Jane reflects a double standard – she is allegedly liberal open-minded and has a close male friend who is black and gay but her daughter’s coming out exposes her limited openness as she finds it extremely difficult – almost impossible – to accept her own child’s queerness. The mother’s character is designed, however, as a victim of her own hypocrisy ˜ and of the heterosexist attitudes that are still prevalent among many educated upper-class Americans. Even more melodramatic is Steven’s coming out in Get Real, set in a ceremony where Steven is to be given a prize for his article on a youth’s life at the beginning of this millenium (an article that he had not wanted to submit but which his father had found and sent to the competition without his son’s knowledge). Steven admits in public that he is the anonymous writer who had submitted an article about a gay teenager’s hardship to the school magazine, but which was never published because of the

Authors: Padva, Gilad.
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desperate sexual intercourse with Maggie demonstrates how useless and harmful is
his masquerade – Eric feels like a pretender and Maggie feels abused and exploited
after her best friend has tried to solve his sexual dilemma
˜
through her body.
The sequence of Eric’s “official” coming out to his mother begins with her playing a
romantic melody on the piano after many years of not having played. Her response to
her son’s confession is similar to Sandra’s response to Jamie’s hysterical disclosure in
Beautiful Thing: “I know”. As Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick points out in her book
Epistemology of the Closet, knowledge is not itself power, although it is the magnetic
field of power (1990, p. 4). Regarding the complications in the notion of gay identity,
no one person can take control over all the multiple, often contradictory codes by
which information about sexual identity and activity can seem to be conveyed. Hence,
Sedgwick notes that in many, if not most, relationships, coming out is a matter of
crystallizing intuitions or convictions that had already been in the air for a while and
established their own power-circuits of silent contempt, silent blackmail, silent
glamorization, silent complicity. “After all,” she adds, “the position of those who
think they know something about one that one may not know oneself is an excited and
empowered one – whether what they think one doesn’t know is that one somehow is
homosexual, or merely that one’s supposed secret is known to them” (pp. 79-80).
Like Jamie’s mother and Steven’s mother, Eric’s mother too is furious at her son
because he did not tell her enough about his sexuality and hid the truth from her – not
because he is gay. Like the other two mothers of gay sons, Eric’s homosexuality does
depress her, but she avoids homophobic statements. In contrast, Jane’s mother in The
Truth About Jane reflects a double standard – she is allegedly liberal open-minded
and has a close male friend who is black and gay but her daughter’s coming out
exposes her limited openness as she finds it extremely difficult – almost impossible –
to accept her own child’s queerness. The mother’s character is designed, however, as
a victim of her own hypocrisy
˜
and of the heterosexist attitudes that are still prevalent
among many educated upper-class Americans.
Even more melodramatic is Steven’s coming out in Get Real, set in a ceremony where
Steven is to be given a prize for his article on a youth’s life at the beginning of this
millenium (an article that he had not wanted to submit but which his father had found
and sent to the competition without his son’s knowledge). Steven admits in public that
he is the anonymous writer who had submitted an article about a gay teenager’s
hardship to the school magazine, but which was never published because of the


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