Outskirts online journal

Kathryn Hummel

Further information

About the author

As a Social Sciences researcher, Dr Hummel studies narrative ethnography and arts-based inquiry, concentrating on South Asia, literature and popular culture; as an author, Kathryn’s books include Poems from Here, The Bangalore Set and The Body That Holds. Her award-winning new media/poetry, non-fiction, fiction, photography and scholarly research has been published, presented and performed worldwide. Kathryn is the current editor of ‘Travel. Write. Translation’ with Verity La. 

[email protected] 

Publication details

Volume 36, May 2017

The unruly woman as straight man: The function of female film characters in gay best friendship 



Portrayals of gay best friendship—here defined as the heterosocial relationship, often erotic but usually non-physical, that develops between a heterosexual, cis-gender woman and a homosexual or queer-identifying man—became an undeniable trend in mainstream Western film at the end of the twentieth century. In particular, the romantic comedy My Best Friend’s Wedding and the romantic drama Get Real were heralded as films exemplifying this “screwball comedy match for the millennium” (Jacobs 1998, 20). Such portrayals of gay best friendship are, as Boze Hadleigh observes, a case of two steps forward, one step back (1993), since the inclusion of non-conforming couples in mainstream narrative requires simultaneous regulation in order to render them palatable to audiences “imbued with heteronormative sensibilities” (Shugart 2003, 68). Due in part to a mass media producer and majority audience, both of which are characterised by heteronormative ideology, this regulation is also achieved by assigning the straight woman a role that, although initially appearing unconventional, tempers the impact of sexual and gender progression beyond heteronormativity within gay best friendship and the broader film narrative. Using the methodology of critical discourse analysis, this study examines Get Real’s Linda and My Best Friend’s Wedding’s Julianne in terms of their appearance, and its effect on their desirability and sexual function, the construction of their gender type in relation to male and female heteronormative characters, and to each character’s respective gay best friend, Steven and George. In addition, this study explores the significance of female ‘unruliness’ to identity politics in gay best friendship (Rowe 1995), and examines how the straight woman is ‘de-gendered’ through her role in gay best friendship. 


Download PDF (full text)

Back to top