In this witty yet insightful book of essays, Jill Gutowitz examines the influence of pop culture in the uplifting and silencing of queer culture. Reflecting on her own experiences, Gutowitz draws connections between her experience of finding her sexuality and that of the tumultuous media portrayals of women, especially queer women, through the last two decades. Publishing in 2022, this book is hot off the press and is timely in its mission of providing awareness of how the Internet impacts youth grappling with gender identity and sexuality. In addition to its relevance, the book is a very easy and accessible read for younger generations.
Gutowitz’s humor is what makes this book memorable. She layers personal anecdotes about identity and self-worth with humor that lightened the tone but didn’t distract from the message. Because of her seamless use of humor, Gutowitz can address readers personally, but like a joke between friends, the message is not lost in translation. I appreciated her use of humor in tackling serious subjects because this way of communicating is relatable and reflective of real-world conversations. Gutowitz, even though her humor and wit are apparent, maintains a severity in her tone that suits the task of pop culture.
Gutowitz sheds a new light on the homophobia and sexism of pop culture in the early 2000s, especially with the rise of tabloids and the Internet. Growing up during the rise of the Internet, Gutowitz is able to analyze the impact of media on her own life and how it impacted her journey of coming out. She shows how the Internet can be used as an escape from reality, but the Internet isn’t always the best way to do this, especially for young adults discovering their identities. I found her discussion of the Internet and it’s impact on development reflective of what many people struggle with.
In addition to her commentary on the Internet and tabloids, Gutowitz also delves into the importance of representation and identity. One issue that her book reflected on is the ethical implications of queer baiting in media. Gutowtiz reflects that growing up she never saw healthy lesbian relationships, only ones in which both women felt ashamed, trivialized their feelings, or ended in tragedy.
The erasure of positive queer relationships in media is pervasive and most of the time society would rather highlight toxic queer baiting or exploitive sexualization of lesbian relationships. Gutowitz book is important because it not only humanizes queer celebrities, but it also shows the firsthand impact of negative media portrayals on young adults questioning their sexuality. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about pop culture and queer identity, or someone who wants a good laugh.