Queer as punk : queercore and the production of an anti-normative media subculture
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This dissertation examines the historical contexts, major themes, and archival practices of queercore, an anti-normative queer and punk subculture comprised of music, zines, film, art, literature and new media that was instigated in 1985 by Bruce LaBruce and G.B. Jones in Toronto, Ontario. Via their fanzine J.D.s., LaBruce and Jones declared “civil war” on the punk and gay and lesbian mainstreams and conjured queercore as a multimedia subculture situated in pointed opposition to the homophobia of mainline punk and the lifeless sexual politics and assimilationist tendencies of dominant gay and lesbian society. In the pages that follow, I engage wider histories of radical queer politics and punk aesthetics and values to reveal the generative and long-standing symbiosis between these two energies – a symbiosis that informs queercore, but that also extends beyond its temporal and material boundaries. Through close analysis of queercore films (e.g. No Skin Off My Ass, The Lollipop Generation, The Living End, By Hook or By Crook), music (e.g., Pansy Division, Tribe 8, Beth Ditto/The Gossip, Nomy Lamm) and zines (e.g., J.D.s, SCAB, Bimbox, Bamboo Girl, i’m so fucking beautiful), I establish queercore’s primary themes: explicit sexuality (the use of risky, erotic queer punk images and performances to undermine heteronormativity and confront accepted notions of gay and punk identity); imagined violence (the deployment of a threatened, as opposed to actualized, violence in the hopes of frightening and, thus, destabilizing powerful white, bourgeois, heterosexual masculinity); and bodily difference (the circulation of affirmative representations of marginalized queer bodies, and specifically those that are fat, disabled and/or gender non-normative). Finally, I conclude with an exploration of the institutions and individuals currently involved in queercore archival efforts, thus placing my project within a crucial lineage of subcultural preservation. Taken as a whole, this study asserts that queercore articulates and disseminates a set of alternative identities, aesthetics, politics and representations for queer folks to occupy and engage within social space, providing a dynamic anti-normative, anti-corporate, D.I.Y. (do-it-yourself) alternative to a consumer-capitalist hetero- and homo-normative mainstream.