The media places us in boxes and those boxes can be problematic as they allow others to define who we are rather for us to define ourselves. The media places us in boxes through celebrities––celebrities exemplify the “ideal” individual. While compiling photographs for my zine I was struck by the homogeneous nature of the photographs––while I was looking at over ten queer celebrities there were so many commonalities between their style and portrayal. For my zine, I decided to show the problematic nature of boxes by taking photographs of queer (and some not queer) celebrities and queer media icons and placing them in boxes. Generally, the opposite is true: the media, through celebrities puts us in boxes so that consumers can assimilate to the “celebrity norm” which creates unreal perceptions of gender and sexuality. I find the concept of boxes fascinating––especially the role that the media plays in creating such boxes. What would happen with out the media’s creation of boxes and what would happen if the people creating the boxes were average human beings? These are the questions that I explore in my zine.
I started by placing myself in a box––contrasting how I see myself and then how the media/society sees me. Today, boxes have become such a prevalent part of our life. The media has trained us to look at a person and immediately place their gender and sexuality into boxes based on a quick glance or short conversation. Through the clear depiction of such boxes, I am talking back to the media and society and showing the harms of placing people in boxes.
With the exception of Miley Cyrus, who is not queer, and Missy Higgins all of the celebrities I show have released statements publicly defining their sexuality. I chose to include Miley Cyrus because I think she appropriates queer representation in her style (this statement puts her in a box and therefore it is an exceptionally interesting example of the prevalence of boxes!) Missy Higgin’s sexuality has been the topic of many conversations––some of her songs allude to the possibility that she is singing about her feelings for other women but she has not publicly affirmed or denied these speculations. I think that these two examples show the problems of ––they allow others to define you thereby taking away some of your agency.
By taking queer celebrities and placing them in boxes highlights the gender binary––you are either masculine or feminine and anything in between is too confusing to be portrayed in the media. This is the problem of boxes––you are either one or the other. Boxes are straight and rigid but people are complex and flexible. The boxes that exist are infinite and they are incredibly problematic. While I am doing the same thing that the media does in placing these celebrities into boxes, I hope that by compiling a zine of photographs and boxes it will show how boxes limit a person’s ability to be themselves; both by ascribing an identity onto them and by limiting their choices. This is what the media does to all queer people and so I want to throw this back onto celebrities to show the problems of stereotypes and boxes. This zine is meant to empower queer women to be themselves, to create their own identity rather than to assimilate to society’s exceptions.
In writing this zine, I hope to satirize the boxes that are created by society and the media. I am putting the celebrities into boxes but I am doing so in an over the top manner which I hope highlights the problematic and two dimensional labels that are ascribed by society.
The DIY culture allows me to do this and to share my thoughts on gender and sexuality and how that relates to identity. The nature of zines lets me tell my story and share my thoughts. Authors of the zine Off the Map say it well, “For some of us, zines are more accessible, more inviting; they tempt the reader to tell her own stories, to see that the author (or authors) are no heroines, no experts, but just people, just kids telling it like they see it, and live it” (7). I am no expert on boxes but here are my thoughts… I hope that they inspire you to think critically about queer representation and portrayal in the media. Enjoy!