Bookish Matters

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

—Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Friday, March 4, 2011

Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Homophobia

Jools said, "Do you think Miss Wilson has ever snogged anyone?"...
Rosie said, "Oh, I don't know, she has a certain charm. I think I may be on the turn actually, because I thought she was quite fit when I saw her in the nuddy-pants with her soap on a rope."
We all looked at her. Sometimes even I am surprised by how mad and weird she is.
I said, "Jools, swap places with me, I am not sleeping next to Lezzie Mees."

—from Stop in the Name of Pants! by Louise Rennison

Have you ever read any of the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson by Louise Rennison? Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging? They're a series of ten books, British young-adult chicklit, which came out between 1999 and 2009. I think they are fantastic. They've been cracking me up since I was 16. But as of yesterday I have taken issue with them.

The author seems generally aware of her protagonist's, Georgia's, faults. Georgia is vain, selfish, immature. The author does this intentionally and uses irony to make the reader both laugh with and at Georgia. But the author doesn't seem aware of her characters' underlying homophobia. When the characters joke about lezzies or being on the turn, there is no irony.

Georgia describes midget gems:
Little sweets made out of hard jelly stuff in different flavors. Jas loves them A LOT. She secretes them about her person, I suspect, often in her panties, so I never like to accept one from her on hygiene and lesbian grounds.

It's unexpected, these anti-homosexual jokes; it seems out of character for an author that otherwise does not seem behind the times* for this type of YA. It also seems out of character for women in general. I've never known girls (no matter their position on homosexuality) to tease each other about being lesbians. And even if this is in character for British teenage girls, that doesn't mean that Rennison needs to include it in her books, to perpetuate the problem. Are we supposed to laugh at these jokes? I'm not laughing.

*Come to think of it, the novels are behind the times in other ways, too: There's no mention of cell phones nor internet, even though Georgia is constantly on the phone. Not that technology and homophobia are comparable.


  1. I read a bunch of them when I was a teen and, like you, never noticed the homophobia. I'm sure if I read them now it would hit me in the face. -sigh-

  2. The homophobia isn't overt, but once you start to notice how many non-ironic gay jokes there are, one must assume that that's what's working within the characters.