The Problem of Homosexuality: Desire-in-Uneasiness, Friendship, Family, Freedom

Brian Bergen-Aurand

Abstract


Zenne Dancer is a 2011 Turkish film written by Caner Alper and directed by Alper and Mehmet Binay. It is inspired by the story of Ahmet Yildiz, a gay Kurdish Turk allegedly murdered by his father in 2008 for dishonoring his family. Through its depiction of the unlikely friendship between three men, the film addresses the problem of homosexuality, the desire-in-uneasiness evoked by men being together, and the complex social structures of honor killings. In its address of honor killings, Zenne Dancer follows in a prestigious line of some of the best of Turkish and world cinema. Importantly, though, there are differences here as Zenne Dancer reimagines the relationships involved in crimes of honor. First, Zenne Dancer deploys the story of a father killing his son, rather than his daughter, to save the family honor, which is threatened by homosexual desire rather than the loss of virginity or illegitimate pregnancy. Second, rather than pitting the modern state against religion, tradition, or pre-modern culture, Zenne Dancer’s critique of honor killing implicates both the police and the military in the violence done in the name of tradition (not religion). Islam plays a much smaller part than economic deprivation or the trauma of war in this film. Third, the film complicates gendered expectations through its deployment of female characters—mothers, sisters, lovers—who all have their own relationships with and perspectives on these men. The film depicts heteropatriarchy as a system harmful to women and men and shows men and women enforcing and resisting that harm. In the end, Zenne Dancer connects these thematic concerns through a mixture of realist story, dance video, daydream, fairytale, and melodrama in a film ultimately concerned with the care of the self and the meaning of liberation. Thus, it resists falling into fictional “realist anthropology” or simplistic assertions of repression in confronting the complexities of honor killings, the problem of homosexuality, and friendship in cinema.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/cinej.2015.124

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