Master of Arts
Coates, Norma J
Abrams Ansari, Emily
For many pop artists, queer is what they do, not who they are. They perform queerness, rather than identify as queer. The research I present here suggests that popular culture’s understanding of queerness relies on a heteronormative lens, whereby queerness is objectified and paraded primarily as an artistic performance. My analysis demonstrates that David Bowie’s influence rests in his ability to create a space where his fans can perform queerness, without necessarily being queer. As such, Bowie’s performances have come to form our expectation of what a queer performance should look like. Continuing his legacy, Lady Gaga’s tribute to Bowie demonstrates her ability to not only adhere to the queer template of Bowie’s, but also to defy expectations. For Gaga, queerness is both a performance and a part of her identity, making her an ideal candidate to navigate the blurred lines between performing and being queer. I describe the consequences for the performance of being queer when popular culture’s understanding of queerness has been guided only through the extreme depiction of queerness. Finally, I explore queer pop as a possible space for queer performances by queer artists to flourish. Queer pop presents an opportunity to redefine both the act of performing and being queer. In summary, through an analysis rooted in the difference between being and performing, this thesis demonstrates that popular music adheres to a heteronormative perspective that ultimately objectifies queerness and promotes an extreme version of queer performance.
Summary for Lay Audience
In popular culture, queer is the opposite of normal or mainstream. Being queer is often linked with sexual and gender identities. But for many pop music artists, queer is what they do, not who they are. They perform queerness, rather than identify with it as a sexual identity. This research suggest that popular culture’s understanding of queerness relies on a mainstream view, where queerness is objectified primarily as an exaggerated performance. This objectification presents a type of queerness that has little to do with the lived experiences of the queer community, and shapes how mainstream culture comes to understand queerness. Through an analysis rooted in the difference between being and performing, this thesis demonstrates that popular music follows a mainstream perspective that ultimately objectifies queerness and promotes an extreme version of queer performance.
Parahoo, Rosheeka, "Exploring Being Queer and Performing Queerness in Popular Music" (2020). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 7010.
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