Overview of the Gay Characters in the New Cinema of Turkey

Overview of the Gay Characters in the New Cinema of Turkey

Özgür İpek
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0128-3.ch012
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Similar to the worldwide perceptions, gay characters in Turkish cinema are mostly perceived and used as elements of humor and comedy. They are also used as standards for measuring the masculinity of other male characters in some Turkish movies. And what about Today? What are the differences between the past and now? It is possible to say that Turkish cinema in 2000s involve more visible sexual identities apart from heteronormative understanding. This study will focus on the reflections and portrayals of only gay characters in New Turkish cinema.
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Popular films are under the influence of commonly accepted norms, rules, moral and ethic understandings in Turkey, just like in any other part of the world. Images presented to silver screen audiences are based on the idea of reflecting different realities in actual life such as femininity, masculinity, different sexual identities, male-dominance and situation of family in different societies. In other words, mainstream cinema or popular films are built on an understanding that reflects dominant social life, dominant viewpoints, life principles and dominant culture; what is perceived as ‘different’ in a society is rarely included in the movies framed with this understanding. Canonized, idealized value judgments are presented to the audience; social statues are reproduced in these films.

The issue of sexuality, like most of the other topics, is one of these value judgments and it is reproduced on the basis of the limitations of idealized society. Identities which are hidden or limited in social life –identities that are not completely, independently expressed in most of the traditional societies- are uploaded in the images in cinema. The productions of movie sector confirm these images and represent the so called ‘normal’ identities to the perceiver: The audience.

Popular movies are under the impact of dominant, traditional cultural structure that excludes all of the sexual identities other than heterosexuality; homosexuality (gay or lesbian), bisexuality and intersexuality are ‘abnormal’ according to the dominant understanding in the sector. Homosexual characters in movies since the beginning of cinematography have been mostly used as elements of comedy or humor. There are surely various films that reflect such characters through more casual dimensions; but even the modern cinema is full of examples that alienate different sexual identities or reflect them in a way that they are estranged or abnormalized. This attitude since the beginning of cinematography hasn’t much changed. Individuals with different sexual identities are characterized and represented in films with problematic approaches in terms of individual and sexual characteristics.

Gay characters are mostly in the background, they are usually not presented at the center of the story in a film, and they are mostly separated from their original identities. These facts had been dominant especially until 1980s except for a few positive representations in films. Homosexual characters had been reflected in a quite problematic manner in the cinema for a very long time.

2000s is the main period that will be analyzed in this study; gay characters in Turkish movies of the period will be the main focus of analysis. Before analyzing the reflections in Turkey, it is necessary to mention similar characters in the world cinema. It will be possible to present and understand gay characters in Turkish movies and analyze the cinematography in the country only when the topic is firstly discussed in terms of its characteristics around the world.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Zenne: Is the term which is basically refers to a man dancer who looks like a woman. Zenne plays like women in women's outfits at weddings and festivals in the traditional nomadic Turkish tradition.

Cinema: Is a term first coined by the academic B. Ruby Rich in Sight & Sound magazine in 1992 to define and describe a movement in queer-themed independent filmmaking in the early 1990s. The term developed from use of the word queer in academic writing in the 1980s and 1990s as an inclusive way of describing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender identity and experience, and also defining a form of sexuality that was fluid and subversive of traditional understandings of sexuality.

Queer: An identity used to be vague or non-specific about a person's sexual orientation, identifying with the LGBT community as a whole. Also a description of people's non-heterosexual sexual orientations in a non-specific and unbiased manner.

Queer Theory: Is a field of critical theory that emerged in the early 1990s out of the fields of queer studies and women's studies.

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