Primary Faculty Mentor Name

Dr. Valerie Rohy

Status

Graduate

Student College

College of Arts and Sciences

Program/Major

English

Primary Research Category

Arts & Humanities

Presentation Title

Queer Nostalgia: Frank Ocean’s Blonde and Contemporary Queer Identity

Time

1:20 PM

Location

Williams Family Room

Abstract

In 2010, the It Gets Better Project was founded in response to a number of suicides related to incidents of bullying and discrimination against queer teenagers. It was founded on the principle that, once "out"--one's sexual identity realized and made public--things would "get better." It's a message difficult to critique, and in no way do I intend to do so, but it works through a number of assumptions and operates in contrast with other perspectives on queer identity and the process of individual realization. Particularly, Frank Ocean's 2016 album Blonde offers an alternative process of queer self-realization; one that involves a dialectical perspective on one's past and its influence--interruption, even--into one's present and future. Blonde asserts that a future without nostalgia--that is, without taking stock of one's past and the beauty and pain that was once there--is a future without self-realization. But by working with nostalgia, one may create a "Futura Free"--the type of future the It Gets Better Project seeks--but without the disavowal of one's past and present, and the over-idealized perspective on a future that redirects nostalgia towards a time and place yet to come. Through an analysis of Ocean's lyrics, I discern just what this process may look like, and why an alternative method such as Ocean's is so essential to the safety and sanity of those with queer identities. It is, perhaps, time to blur the lines of the "closet," and to direct this narrative towards a more diverse experience.

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Queer Nostalgia: Frank Ocean’s Blonde and Contemporary Queer Identity

In 2010, the It Gets Better Project was founded in response to a number of suicides related to incidents of bullying and discrimination against queer teenagers. It was founded on the principle that, once "out"--one's sexual identity realized and made public--things would "get better." It's a message difficult to critique, and in no way do I intend to do so, but it works through a number of assumptions and operates in contrast with other perspectives on queer identity and the process of individual realization. Particularly, Frank Ocean's 2016 album Blonde offers an alternative process of queer self-realization; one that involves a dialectical perspective on one's past and its influence--interruption, even--into one's present and future. Blonde asserts that a future without nostalgia--that is, without taking stock of one's past and the beauty and pain that was once there--is a future without self-realization. But by working with nostalgia, one may create a "Futura Free"--the type of future the It Gets Better Project seeks--but without the disavowal of one's past and present, and the over-idealized perspective on a future that redirects nostalgia towards a time and place yet to come. Through an analysis of Ocean's lyrics, I discern just what this process may look like, and why an alternative method such as Ocean's is so essential to the safety and sanity of those with queer identities. It is, perhaps, time to blur the lines of the "closet," and to direct this narrative towards a more diverse experience.