Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Le Gai Savoir

Where does “gay” come from? How did a designation for happiness become associated with homosexuality? Does that mean that those who aren’t gay are sad? Are straight couples unhappy? The answer is usually yes, but that applies to everybody. Most people are unhappy despite their orientation. However, that’s a whole other story. Fifty years ago, if you said someone was gay, you would think that they were bubby or frivolous. Back in l969 Godard directed a movie called Le Gai Savoirwhich is an allusion to Nietzsche’s The Gay Science. Neither the Nietzsche tract nor the Godard movie have anything to do with homosexuality. The title of Godard’s movie is translated as The Joy of Learning. Now most people would think that the movie had something to do with the kind of knowledge you get at LGBTQ headquarters, ditto The Gay Science,which might have an appendix about safe sex. How language accommodates to changing manners and mores! Queer went through a stage of being a derogatory epithet. Now it’s an academic discipline! Words like "fag" and "dyke" have had less illustrious histories with the former being the name given to cigarettes in England, Before the Revolution (to invoke the title of Berlolucci’s l964 movie). The only "fag studies" course you're probably going to find would either be offered by the English subsidiary of an international tobacco company or in a linguistically oriented film department exploring the use of the word in the British "angry young men" films of the 60s.

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