Writing 305: The Politics of Visual Rhetoric

The Queer Art of Failure

Photo of Jack Halberstam by Assaf Evron

Source: www.jackhalberstam.com

In this book, Jack (also Judith) Halbertstam examines animated movies for children through the lens of critical theory. Halberstam argues that modern animated movies offer one an opportunity for a revolution, transformation and rebellion in terms of acceptable societal norms, particularly values pertaining to the family, queerness, gender and sexuality. His witty “Pixarvolt” evolved through movies ranging from Toy Story, which, according to Halberstam, depicts the genre as male, Oedipal and centered around the traditional family, to Chicken Run, which depicts chickens revolting against their owner as challenging their socio-economic hierarchy. In this regard, Halberstam believes that there is a ‘group logic’ and ‘queer element’ to such sotries, making the narrative innately feminist.

Halberstam believes that challenging societal norms and hierarchies can be understood through the dwindling projection of human exceptionalism on animals. He wrote:

As the Chicken Run example shows […], animated animals allow us to explore ideas about humanness, alterity, and alternative imaginaries in relation to new forms of representation (p. 33).

Generally speaking, Halberstam’s piece is characteristic of a well-constructed argument. Several sudden references to Marxism, neoliberalism or postcolonialism (Foucault) could perplex some readers. Moreover, perhaps due to my lack of familiarity with the discourse, heterosexuality appears to be portrayed as inherently evil, or inferior to the ‘alternative’ forms of sexual identity. Nonetheless, the piece’s merits lie in a broad literature survey, effective engagement with sources and a carefully constructed argument. Halberstam convincingly presents his critique and shows that collectivity (vs. individualism) and “alternative imaginings of community, space, embodiment and responsibility” as well as of oneself can be found in the fairly new “antihumanist discourse in Pixarvolts” (p. 44-45).


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