Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Connotation Vs. Denotation

Representations of queerness are solely dependent on the time and place that they occur. Interpretations of queerness also depend on the individuals experiences with different cultures, people, and information that correspond to a "queer" situation. Thus encoding and decoding queerness is culturally and individually unique. Therefore, in order to analyze media with queer theory we need to focus on indication rather than inclination (denotation rather than connotation). This approach focuses more on the the direct meaning associated with words or actions portrayed rather then their potential secondary personally contrived meaning. Denotation is  more like relating moving air with wind instead of linking a more abstract idea like childlike and innocence.  Raymond's article is attempting to separate the two analytical tools so that we can focus on a more telling meaning of the idea of queerness. This way of analyzing can be used to explicate the kinds of representations that we see in media that involves homosexual relationships. Raymond argues that the homosexual relationships that we see in media have a connotation of queerness, but denote a more hetero-normative relationship. This is to say that we get a secondary almost "metaphorical" idea about queerness from the basic fact that there are two same sex people in a relationship, but the situations and iterations that happen in the relationship don't directly portray queerness. Raymond talks about how media reinforces norms by associating pleasure with normative actions and situations. "All function to produce pleasure as they disguise the ways that they reinforce norms relating to sexuality and, less obviously race, age, and class"(104 Raymond). This offers a good perspective on how Raymond views a media consumer's decoding of representations. She suggests that representation is a two way street, but since we have been raised into a culture with norms, it is difficult to break free from the idea of queerness instill in us by our surrounding. "Like the fish that does not fell the weight of the water, human beings live in a world of social games embodied and turned into second nature"(104 Raymond). This idea of viewer interpretation gives us insight into the problem of denotation vs. connotation. Homosexuality is represented in a way that contrasts it from heterosexuality (connotation) instead of preference of personal identity(denotation). The homosexual is always represented in a way that allows a predominantly heterosexual audience to gain particular associations with homosexuality. The tropes of attention to "high fashion, weight, career, and popular media"(105 Raymond) cause viewer's to connotativly  associate homosexuality as a contrasting lifestyle instead of an individual that just has different sexual preferences. This causes the audience to feel like they can to visit the world of homosexuals and understand them through these tropes. This way of looking at gay representation ignores queer theory and reinforces a dichotomy sexual orientation. 

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