“’Will you ever stop waving at us the Rainbow flag?’ – ‘Never!’” said Roy to his mother, Rina, in Out in the Dark, a movie addressing the issue of homosexuality and closeted LGBT people in Palestine, as well as the conflict between Palestine and Israel.
Isn’t it true that, in some cultures, children’s sexuality remains unrecognized, thus, leading to their significant distress and internal conflict? Isn’t it true that the children that are only starting to find out about their sexuality and realizing that they might be gay refuse from coming out because of fear to lose the only support system that they have in the conservative society, i.e., their family’s approval? Isn’t it true that, in some countries, sex categories are imposed on children, thus, causing them to experience severe distress and, finally, be forced to choose between denying their identity and being socially ostracized or even tortured or killed?
In this paper, it will be shown that the proponents of the deconstructed functionalism and Marxism theories are correct. The supporters of the deconstructed functionalism theory argue that society should not be viewed as a mechanism where people are assigned specific roles, including gender-related ones, and where they are expected to comply with the identified roles. Therefore, the issue of homophobia is viewed as unacceptable in the environment of deconstructed functionalism, and gender-related prejudices are deemed as the relics of the past that must be abandoned: “Functionalist theory assumed that individuals come to internalize the gender-role behavior patterns appropriate for their biological sex through socialization” (Hale 64).
The supporters of Marxism argue that two classes can be identified in the modern society, i.e., the bourgeois and the proletariat, pointing to the need of the former to yield to the latter; from the gender perspective, however, the Marxism theory suggests that gender roles should be rather rigid, and that gender should be linked to the biological sex of a person, therefore, limiting their options of playing specific roles in the society. Although there is some value to the Marxist interpretation, it contains several weaknesses. The following review of some aspects of the plot will reveal some of those weaknesses.
According to Greenglass (Hale 64), there is a significant difference between how boys and girls are socialized in the contemporary world, including any culture. For instance, it is typical for boys to be encouraged to develop characteristics such as aggression and even violence, whereas girls are typically allowed to be submissive and obedient. Furthermore, boys are taught to suppress their emotions and consider them as weakness, thus, juxtaposing the male behavioral frameworks to female ones and creating a gap between the two genders, at the same time putting significant pressure on boys (Hale 64).
The movie under analysis can be viewed as a graphic example of gender stereotyping taken to the nth degree and preventing people from exploring their sexuality. Out in the Dark is a graphic example of the effects of gender stereotyping on boys and adolescents; it showcases the pointlessness of the rigid and outdated ideas of masculinity and femininity, instead, declaring the need to celebrate the uniqueness of every individual and allowing people to explore their identity by trying different roles in the society. Connecting the problem of social perceptions of gender and sex, to the religious and political ideas that define the existence of the said prejudices, the movie sends a message of tolerance and acceptance as the only possible solution.
Furthermore, Out in the Dark proves that love, no matter what shape it may take, must become the ultimate tool for bringing together the two nations that are, Therefore, the film proves that reconciliation must be regarded as the most reasonable solution to the current dilemmas faced by the Israeli and Palestinian people, as well as the social prejudices that affect the development of the Palestinian society to a considerable degree. Furthermore, the opportunities for addressing social dysfunction, which stems from the lack of tolerance and the unwillingness to abandon the stale gender normativity concepts, are provided when viewing the problem from the perspective of the deconstructed functionalism perspective, thus, allowing one to put an end to sex categories being imposed on children and, instead, celebrating children’s uniqueness and the discoveries that they make about their social and gender-related identity. As Nimr put it in the movie, “When I started coming to Tel Aviv… I was sure I’ll never be accepted here because… I’m from the other side… Very soon I realized that it didn’t matter at all” (Out in the Dark).
“Since your family threw you out and as you were already a student here” (Out in the Dark).
Greenglass (Hale 64) argues that there is a need to reconsider the current approach toward gender normativity so that children could not feel forced to follow a specific behavioral standard that is not compatible with their nature and identity. Furthermore, the theorist claims that the pressure put on boys because of gender-associated prejudices may jeopardize the social development of children, especially as far as the progress of boys is concerned. As a result, difficulties in building relationships can be expected, thus, leading to boys feeling pressured into participating in the activities that they do not like or voicing the ideas that they do not support. The outcomes of the specified phenomenon can be observed in the movie quite evidently as Nimr is terrified of coming out to his family and explaining that he is in love with a man. The terror that Nimr faces when he is forced out of his comfort zone and is thrown into the environment where his family may turn against him is addressed quite vividly in his conversation with Daniel: “They threatened me that unless I work for them, they’ll out me to my folks” (Out in the Dark). The anguish experienced by the lead character is felt in every agonizing sentence that he utters, and the fear of leaving Tel-Aviv for the place where he is pressured into hiding his true identity is obvious in this scene.
The Marxism proponents also argue that gender should remain consistent and that the principles of gender normativity should remain part and parcel of social relationships. I disagree. According to Greenglass (Hale 64), it is crucial to move away from the traditional perception of gender roles and, instead, consider the opportunity to explore new models of gender interactions. By forcing boys into assuming specific roles and behaviors, one abuses children. Foisting specific sex categories on children knowing that they may be intrinsically alien to the children’s nature is unacceptable. Instead, one should consider observing how children, particularly, boys choose to communicate with the rest of society. Consequently, children need to be encouraged to develop the patterns of interaction with which they feel most comfortable. As the movie shows, children must be allowed to explore their sexuality: “‘So, you simply give up on us?’ ‘I’m not giving up on us!’” (Out in the Dark). Forcing them to perform specific gender roles without asking whether they are compatible with their nature is abusive to children.
“They will kill you instantly not just only for being gay” (Out in the Dark).
Gil says this to Nimr once the threat of people learning that he is gay emerges. Particularly, the relationships between Nimr and his family are addressed. Therefore, the movie also raises the issue of family dysfunction in the society where prejudices reign. Indeed, being afraid to tell his family members that he is gay, Nimr indicates that his family is torn asunder by the social biases that persist in the Palestinian culture. Instead of supporting families, values and traditions destroy them. With individuality being banned, children feel abused in the realm of their own homes. Thus, the quote becomes Nimr’s cry for help to get out of his predicament.
A sex category is like a prison. Prisons keep people away from their family members and make them ostracized by the rest of society. Similarly, prejudices draw a line between the people that deem themselves as normal and others whom they seem as alien. Because of years of prejudice and gender stereotyping, contemporary society still retains controversial opinions regarding various social constructs, gender being one of them. Children and adolescents can be considered the most vulnerable group in the scenarios involving gender- and sex-related social constraints being imposed on people without their consent (Hale 65). The problem becomes especially complicated for the members of the societies that can be described as highly religious and prefer to view the concept of a family as a rigid social structure with defined roles and behaviors. The movie Out in the Dark addresses the problem under analysis directly, pointing to the absurdity of the existing conflict and showcasing the significance of a compromise.
Hale, Sylvia M. Contested Sociology: Rethinking Canadian Experience. Pearson Education Canada, 2013.