Analysis of Lavender Text.
The 8th Annual Lavender Languages and Linguistics
The American University
Friday September 22nd, 2000
Cooperative (Gay) Discourse in Têtu
Denis M. Provencher, University of Wisconsin, La Crosse
Text and Context:
This portion of the daylong textual analysis workshop will examine the use of lavender language in Têtu magazine. Têtu appeared on French newsstand in 1995 and represents France’s most recent attempt to publish a national gay (and lesbian) news magazine. Indeed, this French magazine resembles its British and American gay counterparts in both form and content. In fact, Têtu’s editorial staff has expressed its desire to create a sense of "community" similar to a US-based model of consumerism and identity politics found in such publications as The Advocate, Genre, and Out. For this reason, Têtu’s journalists and editors regularly use elements of cooperative discourse to create an implied gay male reader, both of a certain social-economic class and political persuasion.
I have chosen two short texts for this session that will help illustrate the magazine’s attempt to create such an implied gay male reader. The first example is an advertisement that encourages Têtu’s readers to subscribe to the magazine. The second example is a (humorous) advertisement used to inform readers about the release of Cher’s most recent album and perhaps encourage them to buy it.
Please note: I take responsibility for all translations.
Methodological Approach: Cooperative (Gay) Discourse
My textual analysis is influenced by William Leap’s research on cooperative discourse. First, let me offer some background to Leap’s work. In Word’s Out, Leap argues that gay text making relies on principles of cooperative discourse that he defines as: "speaker comments [that] appeal directly to shared knowledge and experience, particularly knowledge and experience building on gay-centered cultural themes."(Leap 1996: 19). Leap discusses several elements in a gay English context that contribute to cooperative discourse including exaggeration, persistent sexual and erotic messages, gay-oriented metaphor and innuendo, insults or verbal dueling and teasing, (self) parody, misogynist remarks, comic relief, and references to gay characters and events in history. Text making in these terms appeals to collective notions of "authentic" gay experience and ensures that speakers become co-participants in the speech event.
Hence, Leap’s work on cooperative discourse and gay English are useful in my textual analysis of Têtu for two reasons: 1) the journalists and editors in Têtu use a language of inclusion that draws heavily on assumed shared experiences to create an imagined community of readers; 2) similar to many other forms of mass media in France, Têtu relies heavily on English-based and especially American models of expression. Ultimately, by using cooperative discourse as my point of departure, I will lead workshop participants through a lavender reading of excerpts from the French gay press. I will show how many of the rhetorical strategies associated with cooperative (gay) discourse occur in the text making of Têtu. Participants will also be invited to share their own input and "preferred" approach to textual analysis that may help enrich my present study of French gay text making as seen in Têtu.
Text # 1 (An announcement for the arrival of a new gay national news magazine):
Publication date: Têtu July/August 1995: 11
HERE ARE 12 THINGS YOU CAN NO LONGER BUY
ONCE YOU HAVE SPENT YOUR MONEY ON A SUBSCRIPTION TO TÊTU…
200 FRANCS—1 YEAR 11 ISSUES
1/2 Levi’s, 1 Caterpillar (left or right foot),
2 sauna passes, 4 movie tickets,
4 gin and tonics in a club, 2 club passes +
2 coat checks + 1 Chupa, 13 packs of cigarettes,
1/4 round-trip charter ticket from Paris to London
1/10 round-trip charter ticket from Paris to New York
28 daily newspapers, 2 hours on-line, one nighttime taxi ride around Paris
HOWEVER, IF YOU PREFER BUYING 200 CONDOMS AT 1 FRANC A PIECE, WE’LL UNDERSTAND.
[PHOTO OF TETU MAGAZINE’S INAUGURAL ISSUE]
A REALLY NEW AND QUITE INTERESTING GAY MONTHLY NEWS MAGAZINE…200 FRANCS—1 YEAR 11 ISSUES.
Text #2 (An announcement about the release of Cher’s most recent album Believe):
Publication date: Têtu January/February 1999: 35
The big existential question at the end of this year is surely and truly: "Can you love Cher’s new album without appearing as the tackiest of queens?" Yes, of course. Believe, her new album, is so reminiscent of Tea Dance circa 88 that it should be released with a bandana and poppers to succeed. Here are just a few reasons to completely love Believe, with the presumption that a dormant queen exists in all of us.
-Cher is 52 years old but she dresses and carries herself like she was 20 (how is that, does she remind you of someone?)
-She only likes really young guys (at least 20 years her junior). Her list of past loves includes: Warren Beatty, Tom Cruise, Bon Jovi’s guitarist, Ray Liotta…
-She thinks that cosmetic surgery is one of the best inventions of the twentieth century. Teeth, breasts, thighs, cheeks, bellybutton…everything is fake on Cher.
-Her son is a rocker who hangs out a bit too much with drag queens to be honest.
-Her daughter Chastity, politically active lesbian, writes for the gay and lesbian magazine The Advocate and is the press attaché of the militant association GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation).
-She has been to hell and back on drugs.
-She has become new age and vegetarian.
-Believe is the ideal album to listen to when doing your housework or exercise (which is pretty much the same thing).
Cher, Believe (WEA) www.cher.com