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Monstrosity, Performance, and Race in Contemporary Culture

Bernadette Marie Calafell

In a society that increasingly touts post-racial and post-feminist discourses, the trope of monstrosity becomes a way to critically examine contemporary meanings around race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability. Focusing on ways in which historically marginalized groups appropriate monstrosity as a means of resistance, as well as on how we can understand oppression and privilege through monstrosity, this book offers another way to conceptualize the politics of representation. Through critical analyses of experiences of women of color in the academy, the media framing of alleged Aurora shooter James Holmes, the use of monstrosity in unpublished work from the Gloria Anzaldúa archives, post-feminist discourses in American Mary and The Lords of Salem, and Kanye West’s strategic employment of ideologies of monstrosity, this book offers new ways to think about Otherness in this contemporary moment.
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Introduction: Making Monsters

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INTRODUCTION

Making Monsters

“You’re lucky I understand that monsters are made, not born,” my partner remarks to me as we watch Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories. In this episode of the absurdist comedy duo’s semi-horror show, “Hole,” Tim Heidecker plays the familiar role of the little man bully to Eric Wareheim’s cuckold role, as Heidecker declares himself “king of the sac.” The sac in this case referring to the cul-de-sac that Wareheim and his family have just moved into, where Heidecker reigns supreme. We often joke that Wareheim who towers Heidecker at 6’6” frequently plays the cuckold in sketches to Heidecker’s little bully. My partner and I further liken the relationship to our own, as I fulfill the role of Heidecker the bully, though he is certainly no cuckold, he does often let me act as the little big man, if you will. He continues, “I know something must have happened to you make you feel like you need always be on the defensive, and it makes me sad, especially if people don’t know you.”

I agree. That thing that happened me to was living in a racist, sexist, classist, and homophobic society as a queer woman of color. That thing that happened to me was being continually marked as the problem rather than seeing how structures of oppression were at work. That thing that happened to me was being attacked pretty regularly by disgruntled former graduate students online, who didn’t...

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