They call it climbing, and we call it visibility
They call it coolness, and we call it visibility
They call it way too rowdy, and we call it finally free
Le Tigre, “Viz”

I’m house-sitting again! :D This means I have more time on my hands than I normally do. What should I do with it?

How about contributing to the growing reexamination of popular media by identifying and analyzing its rolequeer elements? Here’s one such contribution about Disney’s Aladdin (hint: Aladdin was hella rolequeer). a href="">thegreatgodum suggested Harley Quinn/Poison Ivy slash. And unquietpirate suggested er-funny-how-there-are-people-writing">Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I’m not really sure where else to look first, so I’m asking you. Don’t worry about suggesting rolequeer things specifically. After all, we don’t really know where we’ll find them, yet, because no one’s been looking for those details. So, instead, I want to ask simpler things like, “What movies were particularly formative for you? What was your favorite childhood movie? Which characters in popular media resonated with you and why?” That sort of thing.

Besides, I have a lot more time on my hands than I normally do. If the worst thing that comes out of this is I get movie suggestions, that’s a win, too. :)

These recs run from light to heavy. I’ve been considering whether to point out Maleficent to you. It has a nominally-Dom/awesome-Sub relationship - Maleficent’s raven for the win, you guys. If unquietpirate’s around, she might appreciate the titular character in monster furry!feels and Goth!feels ways. And it has other aspects that are hella cool, but also spoiler-y, so … suffice it to say that this movie broke with Disney’s usual formulas on a number of different levels. Or if spoilers don’t bother you, I can go into more details.

I also think you might like V for Vendetta. I love V, and Evey, and Valerie’s whole monologue - our dignity sells for so little, but it’s all we really have. It is the very last inch of us - seems blisteringly relevant to the facet of rolequeerness that’s about separating our sense of self from the stories society tells us about ourselves. V for Vendetta was deeply personal for me. I was touched that the movie respected the way V self-defined and didn’t unmask him, even in death. And V was the closest thing to a protagonist that I could actually consider heroic that I’d seen in Western media in a very long time. I don’t approve of his being watered down from an actual anarchist into a … violent proponent of democracy, obviously. But the graphic novel is very sexist, and I’m glad the movie filtered that out. And the movie actually challenged the modern use of “terrorist,” and the criminal behavior of the state. It’s rather extraordinary that, not that long after September 11, someone had the guts to include the line - If our own government was responsible for the deaths of almost a hundred thousand [of its own] people… would you really want to know? That’s the reality it’s trying to wake people up to: one where the “protectors” are the very thing everyone needs the most protection from.

But both of those are stories that I liked as an adult. One (of many) movies that was formative for me as a kid was Wuthering Heights, the version with Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon. It was the first love story that I can remember resonating with me. Romance was an aspect of fiction that I suffered through, overall; an obligatory part of most movies but definitely not something I could appreciate. All the stupid singing and googly eyes and exaggerated declarations of tender feelings, you know? And Wuthering Heights portrayed a love that I could relate to, a love that was fierce, intensely personal, and amoral. I was bitterly disappointed that I couldn’t find more romances with that kind of fire and depth to them, and it broke my heart that other characters who didn’t understand Cathy ultimately managed to tame her. It wasn’t a happy story, but it had two characters who were really in love. This was an affinity that they’d kill for, or die for, and with good reason. This was the loyalty of two people who could be true to each other by being true to themselves, and a oneness that needed no compromise; no watering down of harshness, no above and no below. This was wildness and perfection and passion, and I cherished them.

Heathcliff and Cathy were both abrasive, temperamental, selfish people who got admonished a lot to change, improve their character, and sand down their rough edges. But as children, they didn’t ever have to feel like it was a question of giving up what they were like or never being loved, because they had each other. They had someone in the world who liked them and wasn’t put off by their wildness; someone who, in every way that mattered, was just as “bad” as they were. They could be authentically themselves, and love each other. The servants told Cathy that god hated disobedient children, and that no one would ever have her until she became more ladylike, but their threats rang hollow, because she had Heathcliff. And he loved her now.

The way I understood it, the tragedy of Wuthering Heights was that Cathy allowed herself to be separated from the person she really was, and turned into a (mostly) suitable wife for Linton. That wasn’t reasonable. Cathy marrying Linton was like an alligator filing its teeth and trying to get along with a deer. And everyone was telling her that was the sensible thing for her to do! Heathcliff was never a good person, but he was the love of her life. Through heaven and hell, through this world and beyond, they were always about each other.

Cathy let custom hem her in when Heathcliff turned up again, and trying to be what she was “supposed” to be killed her. Heathcliff needed only one thing to break her out of her confinement - her permission to do it. In that sense, Heathcliff was actually a pretty subversive romantic lead. He took his orders from Cathy. He never overrode her or did anything she didn’t tell him he could do. He was selfish, he was unrestrained, but never at her expense. He honored her limits, even when it was the last thing he wanted to do. Even when it meant they’d die apart.

Despite that, his love for her was unshakeable. Which is how the story rolls around to his most famous speech, in which he begs the now-dead Cathy to haunt him. I loved them both all throughout the story, but I loved him all the more for being willing to ask the universe at large for that. To anyone else, it would have been a curse. To him as well, possibly. But he was willing to invite her ghost into his life whole-heartedly because he couldn’t imagine and didn’t want to go on without her. In a way, I can admit that’s fucked up. And I certainly won’t deny that he turned into a bitter old villain in her absence.

That said … I saw love in everything they were and did with each other. In their words and looks and silences, in their one great misunderstanding, in their waywardness, in their willfulness, even in their madness. And I related to it a whole hell of a lot more than I ever did to the soft, generic thing that generally passes for love in fiction.

Wuthering Heights has a reputation for being scary, crazy, and somewhere between abusive and incomprehensible, but in my experience, it’s just something you get or you don’t. It rubs you the right way or it doesn’t. And if it does, it’s quintessentially powerful. It’s a very “… what is status, what is wealth, what is morality, what is anything compared to real love?” love story. And it’s also the story of a person who categorically refuses to suffer quietly, if they must be separated from the one person they don’t know how to live without.

Tags: maleficent, v for vendetta, wuthering heights, stories that affected me