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Edge of Seventeen: Juvenile Agony and Youth Fantasies in New Queer Adolescence Films
Unformatted Document Text:  headmaster’s moral censorship. Steven explains to the surprised audience that he had written the article because he was sick of feeling totally alone, and that he wanted to have friends who would like him for who he was. He adds that he wants to be part of a family who love him for who he is and not someone he must pretend to be in order to keep their love. When John, his closeted athletic lover, signals to him not to “frame” him, Steven whispers, “Thanks for proving my point,” and adds, “I’m gay… It’s only love. What is everyone so scared of?” Steven’s courageous spectacle is followed by mannerly applause by the audience who seem to tolerate this nonconformist opinion that challenges straight society’s educational and cultural systems, including the headmaster’s bigoted censorship. Steven’s struggle is politicized in this film – his tears are not only his personal tears but also represent those of many other agonized queer adolescents who cry for more understanding, tolerance, and unconditional love. The message of this film thus appears to be that his coming out is both essential and must be performed in public. On the one hand, this enthusiastic campaign for coming out during one’s teen years has serious implications. In problematizing this massive heroization and glorification of asserting youth’s queer identity, Cover (2000) points out that the pressure for young people to come out and state a definitive sexuality commonly leads to homelessness, educational and social problems, violence, and – as we have seen fairly recently in the case of murdered University of Wyoming student, Matthew Shepard – death. Cover argues, on the basis of such experiences, that what should instead be advocated by a lesbian/gay discourse, is the idea that a person should state her/his sexuality only in strategic ways, and that there is no moral compulsion towards some mythical sense of honesty or social responsibility or necessary visibility (Cover 2000, 81). On the other hand, according to Arendt’s liberal philosophy, embraced by many civil rights, feminist and queer activists, political opinions can never be formed in private; rather, they are formed, tested, and enlarged only within a public context of argumentation and debate. Further, difference of opinions will arise wherever men communicate freely with one another and have the right to make their views public; but these views, in their endless variety, also seem to stand in need of purification and representation (Arendt, 1965). Steven’s sensational martyrdom is represented (and purified) with the sort of massive self-revelation and public exposure in which Frank

Authors: Padva, Gilad.
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headmaster’s moral censorship. Steven explains to the surprised audience that he had
written the article because he was sick of feeling totally alone, and that he wanted to
have friends who would like him for who he was. He adds that he wants to be part of
a family who love him for who he is and not someone he must pretend to be in order
to keep their love. When John, his closeted athletic lover, signals to him not to
“frame” him, Steven whispers, “Thanks for proving my point,” and adds, “I’m gay…
It’s only love. What is everyone so scared of?” Steven’s courageous spectacle is
followed by mannerly applause by the audience who seem to tolerate this
nonconformist opinion that challenges straight society’s educational and cultural
systems, including the headmaster’s bigoted censorship. Steven’s struggle is
politicized in this film – his tears are not only his personal tears but also represent
those of many other agonized queer adolescents who cry for more understanding,
tolerance, and unconditional love. The message of this film thus appears to be that his
coming out is both essential and must be performed in public.
On the one hand, this enthusiastic campaign for coming out during one’s teen years
has serious implications. In problematizing this massive heroization and glorification
of asserting youth’s queer identity, Cover (2000) points out that the pressure for
young people to come out and state a definitive sexuality commonly leads to
homelessness, educational and social problems, violence, and – as we have seen fairly
recently in the case of murdered University of Wyoming student, Matthew Shepard –
death. Cover argues, on the basis of such experiences, that what should instead be
advocated by a lesbian/gay discourse, is the idea that a person should state her/his
sexuality only in strategic ways, and that there is no moral compulsion towards some
mythical sense of honesty or social responsibility or necessary visibility (Cover 2000,
81). On the other hand, according to Arendt’s liberal philosophy, embraced by many
civil rights, feminist and queer activists, political opinions can never be formed in
private; rather, they are formed, tested, and enlarged only within a public context of
argumentation and debate. Further, difference of opinions will arise wherever men
communicate freely with one another and have the right to make their views public;
but these views, in their endless variety, also seem to stand in need of purification and
representation (Arendt, 1965). Steven’s sensational martyrdom is represented (and
purified) with the sort of massive self-revelation and public exposure in which Frank


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