THE RISE AND FALL OF GAY CULTURE by Daniel Harris

THE RISE AND FALL OF GAY CULTURE

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A muddled polemic that sprays bile in many directions but hits few of its targets. Essayist Harris contends that there is a distinct gay subculture in America that is headed for extinction as a result of gay people's assimilation into the cultural mainstream. As evidence, he traces the evolution of selected subjects of traditional gay interest, such as personal ads, bodybuilding, pornography, sadomasochism, drag performances, and gay-positive literature. His oft-reiterated conclusion is that ``the obliteration of the gay sensibility, of our effeminacy, campiness, promiscuity, and aestheticism, is actually built into the program of the gay movement, which . . . will ultimately strip us of our distinctive ethnic features'' by ``disseminating images of happy, healthy homosexuals'' who have become ``unthreatening replicas of mild-mannered heterosexuals.'' He faults the standard hero of recent pornographic literature for being ``an ambiguous erotic half-breed,'' having ``the libido of a gay man but the body and mannerisms of a truck driver,'' as if the notion of a gay truck driver can only speed the corrosion of the epicene gay sensibility. Harris often falls back on a primitive argument that blames advertisers for courting the gay market and thereby poisoning ``subcultural'' gay minds with mainstream propaganda. Even plain white underwear is a culprit, says Harris: ``Many homosexuals . . . want their briefs dehomosexualized.'' When Harris posits that the run-of-the-mill '90s drag queen dresses like Sissy Spacek at the climax of Carrie, one can only wonder what clubs he frequents. A chapter called ``The Kitschification of AIDS'' sneers at maudlin AIDS tearjerking, but doesn't indicate why it's more reprehensible than with any other disease or disaster, or why publicity for more extreme non-mainstream values should have any place in AIDS fundraising. An irksome screed that's contemptuous of social progress and creepily nostalgic for the days of public repression and maniacal Judy Garland worship.

Pub Date: May 30th, 1997
ISBN: 0-7868-6165-7
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Hyperion
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1997




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