Although France legalized gay marriage last year, LGBT individuals in the country still feel marginalized. One contributing factor to this is the portrayal of homosexuality in the media, the topic Asad Javed '15, film and French double major, is spending the summer studying. He is working on the independent Emerson project of the same title with Professor of French Martine Guyot-Bender.
Javed is examining the intersection of arts and politics through the lens of French films from the 1970’s. It was during this era that the LGBTQ rights movement gained significant momentum in Paris, laying the groundwork for the major political developments towards equality that exist in the country today, as Javed pointed out.
“The project entails looking at films, recording every instance of homosexuality and then marking them based on an index that we have created,” he explained, in order “to see if cinema did or did not evolve in how it portrayed gay relationships on screen, and how explicit they were.” He is specifically interested in “whether the treatment of gay characters became more explicit and sexualized, or whether art and politics refused to let their circles overlap.”
Javed studied abroad in Paris during the spring semester, where he witnessed an anti-gay marriage protest. Although he had been exposed to similar events in the U.S. he was alarmed to see young adults marching alongside the older conservative crowd. Due to the recently passed marriage legislation, he referred to the modern day as “a historically remarkable time to study [homosexuality in France].”
Javed has always loved film, which was a main impetus for this project, combined with his love for French language and culture. “But mostly,” Javed revealed, “being gay myself, the treatment of gay characters on the silver screen is very important to me.” Referring to his research, he explained that “the visuals we normally encounter either sideline them or turn them into boa-sporting dressed-in-pink-and-glitter stereotypes. So the representation and, by consequence their depiction, interests me.”
Javed expressed that regardless of “whether film chooses to rebel against the constriction [of homosexuality] or celebrate the [social] liberties [of French culture], the issue in itself, the treatment of LGBTQ people in France and in the wider world, is a work in progress at best, and the world still has its miles to go over it.”
Asad Javed is a native of Lahore, Pakistan.