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Edge of Seventeen: Juvenile Agony and Youth Fantasies in New Queer Adolescence Films
Unformatted Document Text:  Even for the most fortunate among us, adolescence is a pretty tough passage to navigate. It doesn’t matter whether you’re gay or straight; just about all of us carry those memories of rejection, awkwardness, failing to measure up, or fearing whatever the hell was waiting for us down the long road to adulthood. I think most gays would suggest that road was often tougher for them than for most anybody else. As kids, we not only experienced the usual growing pains of your average teenager; we also had to carry with us the peculiar weight of confusing desires that frequently left us feeling isolated and alone, fearful that someone might discover our “secret.” And if, as teenagers, we also happened to possess effeminate mannerisms, whatever refuge secrecy might provide was no longer available to us; we pretty much outed ourselves every time we mingled with our peers. We’ve already read the sad stories of so many men who were victimized because of the way they walked, talked, or dressed (Bergling 2001, p. 66). Paradigmatically, the protagonists in Beautiful Thing, Edge of Seventeen, and Get Real are all considered sissies by their hostile school environment. They are gentle, delicate, stylish, dislike sport activities, and invest no time or energy in working-out. They all admire, fall in love and have sex with highly masculine boys who “look straight”: well-shaped, athletic, strong and characterized by a spectacular physique that contradicts anti-gay stereotypes of the effeminate, sissy drama queen. The bodies of these masculine objects of desire (and love) do not “frame” their own (homo)sexuality but function as a sort of corporeal “alibi” for their real desires (see Padva 2002). In contrast, the protagonists are perceived by straight society as “less masculine” and suspected to be queer. “Jamie is a bit closer to me, but I’d like to sleep with Ste”, says Jonathan Harvey, the playwright and scriptwriter ˜ of Beautiful Thing. “Ste is a bit of a stereotype of the ‘straight gay.’ It’s a sort of Cinderella fairytale about the unpopular gay kid who gets the football team’s captain” (cited in Bernheimer 1997, p. 84). Accordingly, it is Jamie, who is slim, delicate, and bullied by his classmates on the football field in an East London working-class neighborhood, who falls in love with Ste, who is muscular, athletic and admired by schoolgirls. In Edge of Seventeen, young Eric, slim, pale and smooth, and living in a typical middle- class American suburb, falls in love with Rod during his summer job in a restaurant. Rod is a muscular, hairy and tanned college student. Similarly, Steven in Get Real is a slim, delicate and pale high-school student in an English upper-middle class town with a fierce crush on John, a spectacular athletic track-and-field school running

Authors: Padva, Gilad.
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Even for the most fortunate among us, adolescence is a pretty tough passage to navigate.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re gay or straight; just about all of us carry those memories
of rejection, awkwardness, failing to measure up, or fearing whatever the hell was
waiting for us down the long road to adulthood. I think most gays would suggest that
road was often tougher for them than for most anybody else. As kids, we not only
experienced the usual growing pains of your average teenager; we also had to carry with
us the peculiar weight of confusing desires that frequently left us feeling isolated and
alone, fearful that someone might discover our “secret.”
And if, as teenagers, we also happened to possess effeminate mannerisms, whatever
refuge secrecy might provide was no longer available to us; we pretty much outed
ourselves every time we mingled with our peers. We’ve already read the sad stories of so
many men who were victimized because of the way they walked, talked, or dressed
(Bergling 2001, p. 66).
Paradigmatically, the protagonists in Beautiful Thing, Edge of Seventeen, and Get
Real are all considered sissies by their hostile school environment. They are gentle,
delicate, stylish, dislike sport activities, and invest no time or energy in working-out.
They all admire, fall in love and have sex with highly masculine boys who “look
straight”: well-shaped, athletic, strong and characterized by a spectacular physique
that contradicts anti-gay stereotypes of the effeminate, sissy drama queen. The bodies
of these masculine objects of desire (and love) do not “frame” their own
(homo)sexuality but function as a sort of corporeal “alibi” for their real desires (see
Padva 2002). In contrast, the protagonists are perceived by straight society as “less
masculine” and suspected to be queer. “Jamie is a bit closer to me, but I’d like to
sleep with Ste”, says Jonathan Harvey, the playwright and scriptwriter
˜
of Beautiful
Thing. “Ste is a bit of a stereotype of the ‘straight gay.’ It’s a sort of Cinderella
fairytale about the unpopular gay kid who gets the football team’s captain” (cited in
Bernheimer 1997, p. 84). Accordingly, it is Jamie, who is slim, delicate, and bullied
by his classmates on the football field in an East London working-class neighborhood,
who falls in love with Ste, who is muscular, athletic and admired by schoolgirls. In
Edge of Seventeen, young Eric, slim, pale and smooth, and living in a typical middle-
class American suburb, falls in love with Rod during his summer job in a restaurant.
Rod is a muscular, hairy and tanned college student. Similarly, Steven in Get Real is a
slim, delicate and pale high-school student in an English upper-middle class town
with a fierce crush on John, a spectacular athletic track-and-field school running


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