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Edge of Seventeen: Juvenile Agony and Youth Fantasies in New Queer Adolescence Films
Unformatted Document Text:  Edge of Seventeen: Juvenile Agony and Youth Fantasies in New Queer Adolescence Films Youth films often feature such themes as painful adolescence, confrontation with the older generation, the contrast between socialization and selfhood, erotic pubescence, confusing infatuation, and the formation ˜ of sexual identity. The cinematic representation of queer adolescence emphasizes and sometimes also sensationalizes these themes, as the rebellious protagonist challenges not only the social order but also the sexual order and its powerful agents: parents, teachers, students, counselors, coaches, neighbors, and popular role models in mass culture etc. Ben Gove (1996, p. 177) notes that the insurmountably tricky question of when a ‘child’ becomes a ‘youth’ becomes a ‘young adult’ becomes a fully-fledged ‘adult’, is crudely answered with the riddling notion of puberty as a biologically enforced rite of passage from childhood erotic ambiguity to adult heterosexuality. Further, Gove points out that those who are accepted into the dominant adult fold, must decide whether to disguise their homosexual desires and experiences to match those of the master narrative; or to believe in the unimportance, even impossibility, of their own sexuality; or to brazen it out against a narrowly defined heterosexuality and, as a result, be consigned to the outskirts of adulthood by normative opinion, or else branded an eternal child (in the most disparaging adult-centered sense of ‘childishness’). These are the daunting options faced by gay and lesbian youths, whose emergent sexual longings and identities can only be comprehended as an almost apparitional ‘phase’, if at all, within the heterocentric rubric of puberty (p. 178). Gay males report on developing their gay identity between the ages of 15 and 17 and lesbians between the ages of 18 and 20 (Dawney, 1994, cited in Brown, Stele and Walsh-Childers 2002, p. 5). Most young homosexuals are not raised in an environment in which homosexual development is even recognized, much less encouraged. It is not unusual for men who have recently identified themselves as gay to have no idea what being gay is all about (Harsin 1991, 71). This combination of sexual misinformation and disinformation, ignorance, prejudice and hostility has tragic consequences. A study in New York City found that half of the homosexual and bisexual teens reporting an assault said that it was related to their sexual orientation, and for two thirds the assault had occurred within their families. Further, of those who

Authors: Padva, Gilad.
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Edge of Seventeen:
Juvenile Agony and Youth Fantasies
in New Queer Adolescence Films
Youth films often feature such themes as painful adolescence, confrontation with the
older generation, the contrast between socialization and selfhood, erotic pubescence,
confusing infatuation, and the formation
˜
of sexual identity. The cinematic
representation of queer adolescence emphasizes and sometimes also sensationalizes
these themes, as the rebellious protagonist challenges not only the social order but
also the sexual order and its powerful agents: parents, teachers, students, counselors,
coaches, neighbors, and popular role models in mass culture etc. Ben Gove (1996, p.
177) notes that the insurmountably tricky question of when a ‘child’ becomes a
‘youth’ becomes a ‘young adult’ becomes a fully-fledged ‘adult’, is crudely answered
with the riddling notion of puberty as a biologically enforced rite of passage from
childhood erotic ambiguity to adult heterosexuality. Further, Gove points out that
those who are accepted into the dominant adult fold, must decide whether to disguise
their homosexual desires and experiences to match those of the master narrative; or to
believe in the unimportance, even impossibility, of their own sexuality; or to brazen it
out against a narrowly defined heterosexuality and, as a result, be consigned to the
outskirts of adulthood by normative opinion, or else branded an eternal child (in the
most disparaging adult-centered sense of ‘childishness’). These are the daunting
options faced by gay and lesbian youths, whose emergent sexual longings and
identities can only be comprehended as an almost apparitional ‘phase’, if at all, within
the heterocentric rubric of puberty (p. 178).
Gay males report on developing their gay identity between the ages of 15 and 17 and
lesbians between the ages of 18 and 20 (Dawney, 1994, cited in Brown, Stele and
Walsh-Childers 2002, p. 5). Most young homosexuals are not raised in an
environment in which homosexual development is even recognized, much less
encouraged. It is not unusual for men who have recently identified themselves as gay
to have no idea what being gay is all about (Harsin 1991, 71). This combination of
sexual misinformation and disinformation, ignorance, prejudice and hostility has
tragic consequences. A study in New York City found that half of the homosexual and
bisexual teens reporting an assault said that it was related to their sexual orientation,
and for two thirds the assault had occurred within their families. Further, of those who


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