This essay examines the construction of Two-Spirit identity in three contemporary narrative films, Big Eden, Johnny Greyeyes, and The Business of Fancydancing, arguing that, despite each story's focus on a queer Native protagonist, by their conclusions each film fractures Two-Spirit identities. Whereas Big Eden elides indigenous identity, Johnny Greyeyes and The Business of Fancydancing segregate indigeneity from queer sexuality, thereby relegating queerness entirely to off-reservation spaces. As this essay demonstrates, when the films' protagonists cross reservation lines, they literally leave behind their queer lovers and figuratively abandon all that those lovers represent when the storylines turn nearly exclusively to familial and cultural ties. As a result, such films suggest that the boundaries of nation in indigenous contexts are constructed and maintained by the heteronormative gaze and that Two-Spirit people are therefore forced to choose between sexual and national affiliations. This theme of division, in which indigenous affiliations with tribe and nation are split from expressions of queer sexuality, demonstrates how contemporary representations of Two-Spirit identities in narrative film continue to mirror the ongoing legacy of settler colonialism. In the case of Big Eden, Indian people, and thus any potential for actual Two-Spirit erotics, vanish completely under the weight of colonial desires; in the case of Johnny Greyeyes, though the aftermath of settler violence is both highlighted and healed by invoking a Two-Spirit relationship, articulations of Two-Spirit desire are bounded by the walls of the prison; and, finally, in the case of The Business of Fancydancing, regulating settler logics, which long degraded and denied Two-Spirit cosmologies, are replicated and, in fact, reinvigorated by deploying a gay imaginary that rests on dominant constructions of queerness.
1 April 2010
Research Article|April 01 2010
Lisa Tatonetti; VISIBLE SEXUALITIES OR INVISIBLE NATIONS: Forced to Choose in Big Eden, Johnny Greyeyes, and The Business of Fancydancing. GLQ 1 April 2010; 16 (1-2): 157–181. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10642684-2009-017
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