- Love and Money: Queers, Class, and Cultural Production by Lisa Henderson
In Love and Money, Lisa Henderson investigates the interplay of queerness and class in contemporary American film, television, literature, and scholarly writing. Henderson’s book engages with the problems and possibilities embedded in academic analyses, media representations, and lived experiences of intersecting queerness and class identities. Her main concerns are the probable losses of not understanding queerness and class as intertwining discourses and the zealous and often destructive force of conventional academic inquiry of those discourses. Against this potential of loss and destruction, Henderson offers a complex investigation of queerness, [End Page 174] class, and cultural production that advocates for the necessity of plausible optimism, fantasy, slowness, and found joy. Considering that academic rigor is often imagined outside of or in opposition to categories such as “optimism” or “joy,” Henderson takes a risk in affirming them. It is a commendable risk, as her intricate analysis demonstrates why a rigorous consideration of queer cultural production and class should include a cultural politics of love and solidarity.
Lisa Henderson’s project in Love and Money exceeds the (perhaps by now simple) recognition that queerness and class intersect in everyday life and in cultural production. While this recognition rings true among many in media and cultural studies, anchoring queerness and class as central to academic analysis remains a challenging undertaking. Henderson successfully meets this challenge. Moreover, she unpacks why entrenched notions of queer and class analysis and politics make an integration of both difficult. As a first step toward an integrated analysis, Henderson argues for a broad definition of social class that includes cultural production and thus exceeds purely economic markers (which include labor and capital in a traditional Marxist approach to class, or occupation and income in a liberal approach).1
Throughout the six chapters of her book, she uses this expanded definition of class to navigate an expansive terrain of queer cultural productions including mainstream television (Modern Family [ABC, 2009–present], The L Word [Showtime, 2004–2009], Six Feet Under [HBO, 2001–2004]) and film (Brokeback Mountain [Ang Lee, 2005]), independent film (Boys Don’t Cry [Kimberly Peirce, 1999], Desert Motel [Liza Johnson, 2005], and By Hook or by Crook [Harriet Dodge and Silas Howard, 2001]), and contemporary literature (the novels of Dorothy Allison). In so doing, Henderson unravels how producers, texts, and viewers and/or readers place queerness and class into conversation. She thus also demonstrates that, against common perception, a popular discourse on class does in fact exist in the United States.
Moreover, Henderson argues that many of these works demonstrate that queerness and class analysis do not need to exist in an antagonistic relationship with each other. Specifically drawing on the importance and plenitude of queer friendship (in contrast to romantic love), she contends that queer friendship “test[s] the contemporary assertion of queer, class, and racial segregation in the United States, a universe of upmarket, same-sex married homonormatives over here, and something else (anti-relational, queer radical communalists, maybe, or masculine Left revolutionaries) over there.”2 Henderson thus refuses the idea that cultural recognition (e.g., in the form of same-sex marriage) necessarily involves buying into middle-class normativity and that economic redistribution (as the goal of Marxist-leftist politics) necessitates a disavowal of cultural—and specifically queer—identity. Rather, she insists that recognizing class and queerness as significant markers of cultural identity does not preclude or impede the struggle for economic redistribution.3 Indeed, she argues that acknowledging the [End Page 175] often-difficult intersections of class and queer identity is a reparative gesture and a first step toward a politics of queer solidarity across class lines.
For Henderson, the embrace of a reparative reading (a concept she borrows from Eve Sedgwick) is an outcome of her own struggle with expected modes of academic critique. Henderson’s acknowledgment of this struggle and her decision to address it (rather than make it invisible in the process of editing) is one of the most fascinating...