FRAMING GAYS IN THE MILITARY
Thirty 3” x 4” framed digital prints of military-based videogame characters
The series Framing Gays in the Military addresses the sexual inclination of the macho types that the game industry chooses to portray as the "face" of simulated military. The interchangeable nature of the avatar - a mask that different players wear in virtual worlds - raises questions about such notions as masculinity, virility, and performativity.
Interestingly, homophobia is a quite common phenomenon in online gaming. The derogatory epithet “faggot” is frequently attached to players whose skills are deemed inferior to those of the alleged heterosexual players. And yet, such behavior is surprising considering the manifest homoerotic nature of military first-person shooters, centered around mostly male individuals chasing each other with a perpetually erected phallic gun. The goal of these games is to impregnate the enemy with virtual bullets. Achieving such objective is often accompanied by the practice of teabagging, where one player simulates the act of inserting his scrotum into the dead player’s character mouth in the fashion of a teabag into a mug with an up/down (in/out) motion.
This work was both inspired by/is an homage to Edra Soto Fernandez’ One Vision: Hollywood Soldiers (2003-2007) and Donald Moffett’s Gays in the Military (1991). The former is a series of portraits taken from video stills of Hollywood War movies which question our perception of warfare. The latter is a series of annotated drawings of celebrated military men from previous centuries. If Moffett’s Gays in the Military series was a criticism of the Pentagon’s refusal to openly admit that homosexual men already serve in the armed forces - and have throughout history - Framing Gays in the Military addresses the right of openly gay men and their avatars to serve in the virtual battlefields as well.
Framing Gays in the Military also investigates the nature of the “male gaze” in videogames: the looks, the poses, the gestures that the gaming industry emphasizes in their marketing materials. As such, this work is an act of appropriation: the original screenshots were re-cropped and slightly altered to fit the format of the Polaroid film.
Finally, Framing Gays in the Military invites the audience to rethink the relationship between simulation, representation, and performativity in the age of simulacra. These are the issues that constitute the meanings of the worlds we inhabit: the real and the virtual.
COLL.EO is Colleen Flaherty and Matteo Bittanti
San Francisco, September 18 2012
America’s Army: True Soldiers (Red Storm Entertainment/Ubisoft, 2007)
Army of Two: The 40th Day (EA Montreal/Electronic Arts, 2010)
Battlefield 3 (EA Digital Illusion CE/Electronic Arts, 2011)
Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway (Gearbox/Ubisoft, 2008)
Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood (Gearbox/Ubisoft, 2005)
Call of Duty: Black Ops (Treyarch/Activision, 2010)
Call of Duty: Black Ops II (Treyarch/Activision, 2012)
Call of Duty 2: Big Red One (Treyarch/Activision, 2005)
Call of Duty 3 (Treyarch/Activision, 2006)
Company of Heroes (Relic Entertainment/THQ, 2006)
Medal of Honor (Danger Close/Electronic Arts, 2010)
Medal of Honor: Warfighter (Danger Close/Electronic Arts, 2012)
Spec Ops: The Line (Yager/Take 2 Interactive, 2012)
SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Confrontation (Slant Six Games/Sony Computer Entertainment, 2008)
SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs (Zipper Interactive/Sony Computer Entertainment, 2011)
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas 2 (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft, 2008)
The installation was photographed by Kija Lucas