Monday, November 3, 2008

Cupid's Footsoldiers

I wrote about the book Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, and then I saw the movie, which is in theaters now. One of my problems with the book was that it seemed too unrealistic, and this was actually improved upon in the movie, at least to my own eyes and ears. But what I really wanted to talk about was the phenomenon of queer characters acting as "cupid" figures for straight characters. In Nick and Norah, Nick plays in a "queercore" band in which he is the only straight member. In the book, the gay band members are fairly sexual and seem to have their own romantic agendas (however, there's a drag queen character that does seem to have a "cupid-style" role). In the movie, the gay characters' only purpose seems to be to bring Nick and Norah together. In a scene not appearing in the book, the gay guys give Norah a pep talk in their band's van and make her put on a push-up bra. While most of the secondary characters in the book have had their roles reduced in the film, the gay characters seemed to change most fundamentally. Instead of being rowdy kids in a rock band, they became Queer Eye-esque, in fact, one (rowdy) teenage boy in the theater yelled, "Are they going to give [Norah] a new wardrobe now?" Obviously, there are all sorts of fears, prejudices, and curiosities about homosexuality tied up in this sort of portrayal. I won't write a dissertation here...

But, if you look at presumably asexual characters, they never play this role, even though I would sort of expect them to. It would be hard for me to imagine any of them, even the always-perky Gerald, bringing two sexual people together in a romantic way. You could come up with theories as to why this is, but I haven't found an explanation that makes sense to me yet. For example, you could say it's because homosexuality is somehow scarier or more threatening to people than asexuality. However, in Shortland Street, Hunter is very threatened by Gerald. And people who are unaccapting of any sexuality tend to be motivated by their own fears. Perhaps there just aren't enough asexual characters to say, although goodness knows I try.

What's strange is that I saw myself as a "cupid" figure, even before I identified as asexual with certainty. I remember having an acquaintance who, infamously, had never been kissed*. However, after knowing me a short time, she did manage to kiss someone. At the time, I was wondering why everyone was having all these experiences that I wasn't-- while I didn't want to have the actual experiences, I wanted to be "like everyone else". So I reflected on this, and came to the conclusion that I must somehow be causing the romantic exploits of others. Perhaps I had some sort of...powers. This seemed to be the only fitting explanation as to why these experiences eluded me. No, it wasn't just a fact that as people got older, most tended to gain sexual experience. Nope, I can (unconsciously!) control what happens to other people. I know that's probably not the case, but still...I can't find much evidence that that's definitely not the case. Okay, we're traveling a little too far into the bizarre recesses of my mind now. I suppose I was just wondering if "asexual as cupid figure" would be our pop-culture future. I can only guess that it probably won't be. As we all know, our culture doesn't always see us as we may see ourselves...and our questionable magic powers. Bullseye!

*The passive language with which most sexual/romantic rites of passage are discussed merit further exploration.


KC the MoUsY spell-checker said...

Wow... after reading this, my title "Cupid domestique" in the "Love me love my bicycle" Facebook group doesn't seem so ironic any more. xD

(At first I found it ironic because an asexual Cupid seems kind of self-contradictory, but I like your idea of an asexual cupid who brings others together.)

Lanafactrix said...

Perhaps it's due to the stereotype that no interest in sex equates to no interest in romance? I suppose the logic runs that an ace with no personal interest in a relationship wouldn't bother fixing up someone else. (By the way, I think the "gay male as matchmaker" trope is born of the stereotype that gay male relationships are ephemeral and meaningless--such men, unable to find true love, encourage it in others out of redirected frustration.)

Adrain_on_society said...

I feel the weight of wanting to be "like everyone else" without actually doing what they are doing. All through my life, I was looking for explanation for why I could never "be like everyone else". In actuality, I didn't really want to, because it would have involved doing the things that repelled me. It surprises me to think how long it took for me to figure out what seems now to be such a simple thing.

Ily said...

"I feel the weight of wanting to be "like everyone else" without actually doing what they are doing."

Well too.