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Edge of Seventeen: Juvenile Agony and Youth Fantasies in New Queer Adolescence Films
Unformatted Document Text:  just a phase or a pitiful masquerade for their real homosexuality, which is hard for them to accept. These boys are not represented as bisexual and their sexuality is not undefined but uncovered and manipulated by their fears and anxieties. In other words, in representing them as renouncing their true gay identity, these films expose their premise that there is a distinction, perhaps even an essentialist dichotomy, between straight and gay sexualities and one should realize what one is and live one’s erotic identity properly. Although this notion may sound too essentialist, too rigid and narrow, and too solid, it still has its benefits. Confused queer adolescents who suffer from the forced socialization demanded by their family, school and community desperately need an identity that can locate them in a certain position in regard to themselves, their families, friends, and institutions; an identity that will enable them to enjoy their desires, loves and devotions. The radical notion of sexual fluidity and misidentification with any particular sexual identity is not always liberating. It can sometimes aggravate a youth’s agony in his search for self and social definition – knowing who he is, what he wants, and what kind of sexual, social and cultural life style to choose or to aspire. All four films introduce their viewers to the queer community aspects of its alternative life styles. All four protagonists – Jamie, Steven, Eric and Jane – realize they are not doomed to permanent displacement but can indeed find their place in a supportive and enjoyable environment. If we look at the Happy Ends of these movies, they all demonstrate maturity, acceptance, pride and happiness, albeit via different strategies. Beautiful Thing ends in a touching scene: Jamie and Ste and Sandra and Mamma Cass’ fan, Leah, in their working-class neighborhood, dancing to the sounds of a romantic song. Eric in Edge of Seventeen goes to the local gay club where he meets his true love John, and Angie dedicates her song to him: “Nothing but blue skies from now on”. At the end of Get Real, Steven breaks up with John who is still afraid to come out, and drives off instead with his fag hag Linda. The camera zooms out from the departing car to the sounds of Aretha Franklin’s “Freedom”. Finally, the didactic manifesto The Truth About Jane ends at the local Pride Parade where Jane’s father, her closeted school teacher and the teacher’s lover, and even Jane’s mother demonstrate their solidarity and march together beneath the rainbow flags. As Larry Gross points out, many teenagers and even adults who are confronting the choice between the stifling agony of the closet and the possibility – even certainty – of familial and societal rejection, are living in pathological circumstances and do not

Authors: Padva, Gilad.
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just a phase or a pitiful masquerade for their real homosexuality, which is hard for
them to accept. These boys are not represented as bisexual and their sexuality is not
undefined but uncovered and manipulated by their fears and anxieties. In other words,
in representing them as renouncing their true gay identity, these films expose their
premise that there is a distinction, perhaps even an essentialist dichotomy, between
straight and gay sexualities and one should realize what one is and live one’s erotic
identity properly. Although this notion may sound too essentialist, too rigid and
narrow, and too solid, it still has its benefits. Confused queer adolescents who suffer
from the forced socialization demanded by their family, school and community
desperately need an identity that can locate them in a certain position in regard to
themselves, their families, friends, and institutions; an identity that will enable them
to enjoy their desires, loves and devotions. The radical notion of sexual fluidity and
misidentification with any particular sexual identity is not always liberating. It can
sometimes aggravate a youth’s agony in his search for self and social definition –
knowing who he is, what he wants, and what kind of sexual, social and cultural life
style to choose or to aspire. All four films introduce their viewers to the queer
community aspects of its alternative life styles. All four protagonists – Jamie, Steven,
Eric and Jane – realize they are not doomed to permanent displacement but can indeed
find their place in a supportive and enjoyable environment.
If we look at the Happy Ends of these movies, they all demonstrate maturity,
acceptance, pride and happiness, albeit via different strategies. Beautiful Thing ends in
a touching scene: Jamie and Ste and Sandra and Mamma Cass’ fan, Leah, in their
working-class neighborhood, dancing to the sounds of a romantic song. Eric in Edge
of Seventeen goes to the local gay club where he meets his true love John, and Angie
dedicates her song to him: “Nothing but blue skies from now on”. At the end of Get
Real, Steven breaks up with John who is still afraid to come out, and drives off
instead with his fag hag Linda. The camera zooms out from the departing car to the
sounds of Aretha Franklin’s “Freedom”. Finally, the didactic manifesto The Truth
About Jane ends at the local Pride Parade where Jane’s father, her closeted school
teacher and the teacher’s lover, and even Jane’s mother demonstrate their solidarity
and march together beneath the rainbow flags.
As Larry Gross points out, many teenagers and even adults who are confronting the
choice between the stifling agony of the closet and the possibility – even certainty –
of familial and societal rejection, are living in pathological circumstances and do not


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