Queer Desire Has Always Been There (Ep. 116: Kurt Cobain)

This Week's guest: Hamed Sinno

What did you rebel against when you were a teenager, and are you still rebelling today? This week's guest is Hamed Sinno, whose Lebanese upbringing afforded him only brief glimpses of gay culture and queer voices in pop culture. In college, he formed a band with some friends and discovered to his surprise that his defiant songs resonated with other folks. But with that heightened visibility came new risks -- particularly when he came to America.

This Week's Recommendation: Once More With Feeling

Thanks again to Hamed for joining me, and if you're having trouble finding his band, you can try Googling the English translation -- Leila's Project. I do advise finding translations of the lyrics, because they're quite lovely: confessional, emotional, brutally honest. And so for my recommendation this week, check out the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Once More with Feeling."

The episode came a bit after a weird 90s trend of inserting surprise musicals into otherwise nonmusical TV shows, but unlike, say, The Drew Carey Show, there is an actual reason that the characters on the show burst into showtunes: a dangerous demon curse that forces them to confess feelings that are too hard to say without being sung.

As is par for the course with Buffy, the show is funny and clever but with a dark undercurrent that, when the music's over, leaves the characters to deal with the consequences of honesty. Some are brought closer together, others pushed apart, and some are closer but in a way that might not be an entirely good thing. 

What I love about this episode is how singing changes the act of communication. It comes at a point of crisis on the series, where the characters have, like so many families, spiraled into a failure to communicate. The opportunity to perform changes all that -- it turns difficult words into a show, introduces a level of remove that makes confession bearable. And then the music's over. And it's time to deal with what's been said, which may be painful for everyone -- but not as painful as the secrets they kept.

Clips of Stuff We Talked About


Parisian Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0