Sex, Gender and Heteronormativity: Seeing 'Some Like It Hot' as a Heterosexual Dystopia

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Billy Wilder's classic film ‘Some Like It Hot’ (1959) prefigures Judith Butler's concept of performativity in relation to sex, gender and sexuality. Butler introduced this in Gender Trouble (1990), demonstrating that sex, gender and sexuality are naturalized effects of citation and repetition. In that text she explains that denaturalization is visibly demonstrated by drag. Later in Bodies that Matter (1993) she argues that drag in ‘Some Like It Hot’ does not denaturalize heterosexuality, but rather fortifies it. What then for Butler divides denaturalizing drag from non-denaturalizing drag? Butler locates denaturalizing drag in the film ‘Female Trouble’ (dir. John Waters, 1974), where Divine's drag-queen persona satirizes gender in a hyperbolic performance. However, Butler misconstrues the cross-dressing performances in ‘Some Like It Hot’ as drag, which are better understood as instances of theatrical disguise. Narrative analysis reveals that all the characters in ‘Some Like It Hot’ function within a dystopian critique of heteronormativity. Because the film takes a performative view of sex, gender and sexuality, it can validate three queer couples who defy the strictures of heterosexual romance. Butler thus overlooks a discourse of critique and destabilization alternative to gay perspectives. Current developments in sexual politics, broadly conceived, track both Butlerian concepts of performativity and dystopian critiques of heteronormativity.
Translated title of the contributionSex, Gender and Heteronormativity: Seeing "Some Like It Hot" as a Heterosexual Dystopia
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125 - 151
Number of pages27
JournalContemporary Political Theory
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2009

Bibliographical note

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan


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