Grace Jones is one of the most influential gay icons of all time. An actor, model and singer, she continually challenges societal gender norms. Her androgynous appearance is one of the most obvious indications of her gender deviance. In movies, she was usually typecasted to specific roles that portrayed her as someone who defied all stereotypes of not only her sexuality but her race as well. The portrayal of Jones in media over the years has impacted the LGBTQ community and hence gave her the title of one of the most influential gay icons.
This video is a scene from the movie “Boomerang” and this is an interesting snippet of how gender performance is swapped between Jones and Eddie Murphy.
This scene started off with Murphy talking about his visions and his thoughts. He did not hesitate to start off the conversation and it seems like he wanted to establish the gender roles that is line with heteronormativity. As the gender role of a “prototypical” heterosexual male is to take the initiative and make the first move, he started his conversation with Jones in the report style without letting Jones intervene. He was performing his gender until Jones started talking.
“So when are we going to fuck?”
This is something that is not typically expected from the female interlocutors. The look on Murphy’s face indicated that he was surprised that Jones was not performing her gender in terms of societal norms. She employed “neutral language” and not “women’s language”. Jones was direct and used the competitive communication style where she was clear about what her wants were and did not take into consideration Murphy’s opinions. She is deliberately performing the opposite gender role and it was interesting how Murphy started to use feminine linguistic cues as he continued to talk to Jones. He was more indirect, used hedges and used intonation patterns that resembled questions which were considered to be feminine characteristics of speech (Lakoff & Bucholtz, 2004).
In American culture, baseball was the metaphor for sex and sexuality. In this model, sexuality is constructed where men are expected to pursue sex and should keep on chasing, while women are supposed to avoid sex and are expected to say “no”. According to this baseball model, roles are not supposed to be swapped around and different genders were supposed to stick to the roles that they were assigned (Dreyfus, 2014).
However, in this case, it is the total opposite. Jones was basically not performing to her stereotypical gender role and this threatened Murphy’s masculinity. He was very uncomfortable as Jones was not following the societal codes of conduct of how the different genders are supposed to act.
“You are going to turn down a pussy like this?” as Jones lifted her skirt and showed her vagina to Murphy. Clearly, this move indicated the gender deviance Jones was performing as she did not abide by societal norms. This was a turn off for Murphy maybe because, in his head, he labelled her as a deviant and so, rejected her. However, his rejection was not taken seriously and Jones continued the “chase”. After multiple failed attempts, Jones questioned Murphy’s sexuality and considered him gay as she assumed he did not like women.
In this case, there was a clear director’s choice for the swap in character’s gender roles. If the roles were to be performed by the respective sexes, it would not have been as impactful as it was. It is interesting how when a woman chases the guy like what Jones did becomes humorous but if it was a guy doing it to a girl, we wouldn’t see it as funny. If Jones was a guy, this creepiness would just be associated with his desires. This just reflects the current construct of sexuality and gender roles of different sexes and if you do not follow the norm, you are considered a deviant.
Dreyfus, C. (2014). To Slide or to Slice? Finding a Positive Sexual Metaphor. Retrieved March 02, 2018, from http://www.scarleteen.com/article/in_your_own_words/to_slide_or_to_slice_finding_a_positive_sexual_metaphor
Lakoff, R. T., & Bucholtz, M. (2004). Language and woman’s place: text and commentaries. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
M. (2012). Retrieved March 02, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7VH8LKDnr0
4 Replies to ““No man can turn down this pussy!””
This is so true! This is typical so in my culture, or specifically in my family too, where girls should be behaving a certain way and boys in another. And this follows us through where even in today’s society, the men are societally the powerful ones and the women the weaker one. This is even reflected in the languages we used and the more so popular one by Lakoff labelling as women’s language. I agree there was a clear distinction of gender roles being swapped. It is also interesting to see that when Murphy’s masculinity was challenged, instead of being more firm and fierce with his reply (continue using ‘neutral language’), he adopted women’s speech style which eventually portrayed him to be ‘weak’. The stereotypes of men’s and women’s language is as prevalent so. Not forgetting such stereotypes are passed over, especially for gays, when they are always expected to speak in a certain way- mainly the more feminine way. Just because we see their sexuality preference as weak and naturally associated it to the stereotypical weaker gender which is female and thus assuming they speak similarly so.
Hello Azzam! This video is certainly interesting and its fascinating to see how being deviant is portrayed in this short clip. Indeed, there are many societal expectations of how men and women should act, and those who are deviant are often seen as outcasts. I am really curious as to why just deviant behaviour is actually portrayed here as ‘humorous’. Is it the intention of the director to make it satirical as a subversive message at how society reacts to the deviant? Or is it merely a reflection of how people who are deviant from heteronormativity might never be taken seriously?
I like how this video flips the gender roles of the two characters. As observed by Azzam, Jones was using neutral language and pursued sex, which is usually the norm for males. This makes the scene an especially interesting one as Murphy rejects Jones’ demand for sex, which is something that is seen by Jones that shows that he is gay. I think that the heteronormative society that we live in today conditions us to think that all straight men desire sex with women, and turning down sex (like Murphy has done in this video) means that one does not desire women and instead desire men. Jones’ constant challenging of Murphy’s masculinity, while she employs masculine features in her speech, shows how she is deviating from the norms that are usually associated with females. This scene is able to illustrate how one’s identity, or sexuality, can be performed.
I think Azzam has provided an interesting video clip that shows the swap in stereotypical gender roles. This clip shows how the character that Grace Jones was acting did not conform to the typical feminine way of speaking where it is subtle. Instead, she was straightforward and daring in expressing her thoughts and desires. On the other hand, the character that Eddie Murphy plays changed from a dominative speech to a subtle speech when facing a strong-headed lady. This shows how speeches can be adopted and changed in different situations. A male does not only have to speak to establish dominance, likewise a female should not speak to express compliance only. In fact, speeches should not even be categorized using genders. Instead, it is more related to who has more authority. However, in most cases, males would have more speaking authority. Thus, their speech would be more of the dominating kind.
It is also interesting to see how a word has very different meanings in this clip. Jones’ character has repeatedly said the word “pussy” to imply different things in the clip. Initially, she was referring to her own female private part, which is the vagina. Then, she used it to call Murphy a coward instead. This change in meaning is more significant since Jones considered her “pussy” to be amazing, that no one could ever turn down. Yet, Murphy turned it down and that makes him a coward.