In David Lynch's Blue Velvet, music is a key component of the film's intricate staging of gender and sexuality. “Mourning and Music” interprets four scenes in which characters either sing songs or imitate singing. It argues that the unsettling appearance of gender and sexuality within musical performance functions as a likely origin for the murderous rage of the film's antagonist, Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper). Frank tries, via mimicry, to displace intimations of homosexuality that arise within musical performance. But the film suggests that mimicry is likely to fail as a strategy for the containment of desire, since desire itself is already constituted through imitation. In other words, one cannot fail to become—if only in a partial, incomplete way—what one imitates. Frank's “becoming gay” would appear to drive his violent acting out against men, women, and music. It represents a failed work of mourning for a lost lover of the same sex or perhaps for same-sex desire itself—a destructive relationship to a form of desire he can scarcely acknowledge.
David Copenhafer; Mourning and Music in Blue Velvet. Camera Obscura 1 December 2008; 23 (3 (69)): 137–157. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-2008-010
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