Continuing the discussion on homophobia in School Daze…

Arohde16 (sorry I do not know who is who with the usernames) brought up an interesting discussion about homophobia in School Daze. After receiving criticism for being careless with homophobic scenes in his movie, Lee responds he was simply “holding up the mirror” to the issue. Although Lee is known for leaving questions unanswered or nicely resolved, the issue is probably more complicated than simply “holding up the mirror”. I think it is interesting if you look in Tongues Untied, in one of the shots of the men calling the hotline in the background is a poster of “Looking for Langston” in his room. When looking at Tongues Untied and Looking for Langston in unison it is obvious they are clearly raising a mirror to the issue of homophobia but are also showing why is it wrong. Also, looking at these two films linked together, we see them working together. In Looking for Langston, we have the adjusting of the audience’s gaze onto the male body instead women being sexualized and objectified. Looking for Langston, is emancipatory is many ways and attempting to break through these social barriers of oppression. Then in Tongues Untied, it works to break these barriers in a different way, through a stronger emotional and rational appeal. We are given examples of homophobia in personal anecdotes and media and then shown the pain this causes through carefully crafted language and poems. When one looks at these films as a unit, they represent a voice speaking out against homophobia. But when looking back on School Daze and the remarks Lee made about the film in relation to homophobia, maybe holding up a mirror isn’t good enough? This might be the view of a cynic, but maybe the audience should be guided more into understanding the issue of homosexual oppression in American culture, especially on many colleges. Now maybe it is not fair to criticize Lee for some of these provoking scenes in isolation, but the fact that he offered no redeeming value to them can be skewed as troublesome for many. But then again, Lee has never been one for giving picture perfect answers wrapped in a bow. So to further the discussion on homophobia in School Daze maybe we should ask to what extent is holding the mirror up satisfactory for addressing an issue and to what extent does more guiding of the audience need to be constructed within the film?

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1 thought on “Continuing the discussion on homophobia in School Daze…”

  1. Hey, Nicholas! I very much appreciated your post. Especially the way you re-frame the issue that you problematize very well. i.e. I agree that it is important to ask whether or not holding up a mirror is good enough. I’ve been troubled by (and will likely blog about) what I take to be a prevalence of assumptions that have come out in the classroom dialogue. I see this in the reactions of our peers when we treat most subjects (and I find myself needing to catch or check myself as well).

    There are a few areas (as far as I can think & see right now) where these a significant segment of the class appears to have a tacit understanding that these assumptions are fair and valid. One such area is Lee’s purported “clumsiness” with issues of gender and sexuality. By no means am I asserting that he is perfectly adept and agile when treating these subjects; however, I find it problematic when a discussion is based on an assumption that has yet to be shown or proved. I’m by no means anywhere close to perfect or omniscient, so I will often need people to explain what they see as obvious so that I can eventually see it as well.

    To respond to your question: yes, I think holding up a mirror is enough. This is not to say that works which are more explicit in the lesson they are teaching are lesser in importance or value. But I think there is a lot to be said for trying to provide people with as accurate a mirror as one possibly can. It allows us to frame our conversations using the complexity that is always present in human relationships. If one’s goal is to provide everyone (including oneself) with an opportunity to learn and grow past a particular issue, then a mirror is amazingly useful. From there, making a statement can take on even greater importance.

    Let me know if there’s any part of what I’ve said(written) that isn’t clear, is invalid, or is unsound. This is where my head is currently at, but I’m happy to change that if I understand why (and in what way).

    Liked by 1 person

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