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Edge of Seventeen: Juvenile Agony and Youth Fantasies in New Queer Adolescence Films
Unformatted Document Text:  Capra used to revel in the 1930s and 1940s. 6 Steven’s confession is not a rebel without a cause – Steven is bullied, isolated, abused, and forced to hide his real identity, and his emotional, physical, sexual and cultural needs. This forced and enforced masquerade is a burden for him. However, his massive simultaneous attack on his schoolmates, his school management, his parents, and his community, melodramatic as it is, will not change the world. Although Eric’s speech is an important protest, it could also provoke ˜ even more antagonism towards him and increase the alienation between him and his family and the social order. The process of desire in melodrama interrupts or problematizes precisely the order that the law has established in the face of ‘lawlessness’ and social disorder; melodrama does not suggest a crisis of that order, but a crisis within it, an ‘in-house’ rearrangement (Neale, 1980, p. 22). Hence, Steven’s coming out guarantees that his community knows that he is gay, but nobody knows how this confession is going to affect his daily life in this highly conservative society that is unlikely to change overnight. Further, similar to Beautiful Thing and Edge of Seventeen, the protagonist did not know that his parents had already known about his homosexuality before his public disclosure. This misleading epistemology intensifies the dramatic situation and highlights the political notion that hiding one’s queer identity is useless, not only because it’s “ok to be gay,” but also because this masquerade is always imperfect, fragile, exhausting, and depressing. After Steven has been arrested in a police night raid on a local park known as a meeting place for gay men where he had fulfilled his desire for John, his bigoted father worries: “You could be molested by some dirty old queers.” Then he adds: “Just the thought makes me sick”. Steven comments on his father’s homophobic statements: “Where else are we supposed to go?” This response makes his parents think that he is involved with drugs. After his mother finds John’s photos (in partial nude) in Steven’s room, she realizes her son is gay. His father only comes to terms with it much later. At a reception in Steven’s high school, he and his wife meet John’s parents, and he understands that his son had spent a whole weekend alone with John has tried to hide this fact from him. Just before the “ceremonial” coming out scene, the parents sit in their car and Steven’s mother tells her husband that their son is gay. Their hard talk is not shown on screen but his father’s silent 6 ˜ Michael Wilmington (1999, p. 79) arguably notes, however, that where the Catholic Capra wanted his heroes to confess, to extract themselves from the web of social hypocrisy in which they were entangled – and incidentally, win their lovers as well – Steven’s situation here is more hopeless.

Authors: Padva, Gilad.
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background image
Capra used to revel in the 1930s and 1940s.
6
Steven’s confession is not a rebel
without a cause – Steven is bullied, isolated, abused, and forced to hide his real
identity, and his emotional, physical, sexual and cultural needs. This forced and
enforced masquerade is a burden for him. However, his massive simultaneous attack
on his schoolmates, his school management, his parents, and his community,
melodramatic as it is, will not change the world. Although Eric’s speech is an
important protest, it could also provoke
˜
even more antagonism towards him and
increase the alienation between him and his family and the social order. The process
of desire in melodrama interrupts or problematizes precisely the order that the law has
established in the face of ‘lawlessness’ and social disorder; melodrama does not
suggest a crisis of that order, but a crisis within it, an ‘in-house’ rearrangement
(Neale, 1980, p. 22). Hence, Steven’s coming out guarantees that his community
knows that he is gay, but nobody knows how this confession is going to affect his
daily life in this highly conservative society that is unlikely to change overnight.
Further, similar to Beautiful Thing and Edge of Seventeen, the protagonist did not
know that his parents had already known about his homosexuality before his public
disclosure. This misleading epistemology intensifies the dramatic situation and
highlights the political notion that hiding one’s queer identity is useless, not only
because it’s “ok to be gay,” but also because this masquerade is always imperfect,
fragile, exhausting, and depressing. After Steven has been arrested in a police night
raid on a local park known as a meeting place for gay men where he had fulfilled his
desire for John, his bigoted father worries: “You could be molested by some dirty old
queers.” Then he adds: “Just the thought makes me sick”. Steven comments on his
father’s homophobic statements: “Where else are we supposed to go?” This response
makes his parents think that he is involved with drugs. After his mother finds John’s
photos (in partial nude) in Steven’s room, she realizes her son is gay. His father only
comes to terms with it much later. At a reception in Steven’s high school, he and his
wife meet John’s parents, and he understands that his son had spent a whole weekend
alone with John has tried to hide this fact from him. Just before the “ceremonial”
coming out scene, the parents sit in their car and Steven’s mother tells her husband
that their son is gay. Their hard talk is not shown on screen but his father’s silent
6
˜ Michael Wilmington (1999, p. 79) arguably notes, however, that where the Catholic Capra wanted
his heroes to confess, to extract themselves from the web of social hypocrisy in which they were
entangled – and incidentally, win their lovers as well – Steven’s situation here is more hopeless.


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