Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dyer - Stereotyping

Dyer, Richard. “Stereotyping.” From Gays and Film. New York: Zoetrope, 1984.

Centrally, Dyer is arguing that stereotypes serve the dominant hegemony by reinforcing their position and values against potentially problematic groups.

Dyer notes that merely attacking stereotypes by saying they are wrong falls short. Often they contain truth within them, and even motivate the people they are describing to behave in line with them.
"What we should be attacking in stereotypes is the attempt of heterosexual society to define us for ourselves, in terms that inevitably fall short of the 'ideal' of heterosexuality (that is, taken to be the norm of being human), and to pass this definition off as necessary and natural." (31)

Iconography - works as a shorthand to place a character. For gays it is particularly significant because gayness is not so easily apparent as race.

The function of the character within the film's structure emphasizes stereotypes. Dyer points out examples of how heterosexual structures inevitably remain intact, even in the most critically feminist films.

Dyer discusses how the further a character moves from type the more it is a character. This draws from novels with, under the aesthetic ideal of realism, characters situated in a particular time and place rather than based on history or historic type (archetype). He acknowledges that the attempt to play gays as characters is progressive and has value, but is ultimately problematic in that it prevents solidarity between the individual and his/her sex caste. Ex. Dog Day Afternoon, Pacino's character never identifies with the painted gay activists outside. The solution to his personality issue is bank robbing. This reminds me of Siegfried Kracauer's insistence that the aesthetic essence of film is realism.

[I wonder, then, if a film like Milk is massively significant, because it's realism comes from an actual historic person rather than a created character.]

Member types - "linked to historically and culturally specific and determined social groups or classs and their praxes, which are almost bound to be outside the present cultural hegemony..." (37)

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