Cruising queerness in Alejandro Modarelli’s “El amargo retiro de la Betty Boop”



McCarthy E (2022) Cruising queerness in Alejandro Modarelli’s “El amargo retiro de la Betty Boop”. Chasqui: Revista de Literatura Latinoamericana, 51 (2), pp. 183-202.

In her blurb on the back of the book, the writer and journalist, María Moreno notes that "las 'locas' de Modarelli no son mujeres encerradas en un cuerpo de hombre, son activistas escapadas de la política de la identidad que claman con fervor una especie de 'Manifiesto contra el puto occidental globalizado.'" This note prepares the reader for the stories they will encounter, stories that do not support a neoliberal model of gay liberation that reduces queer people to a socially sanctioned model of some palatable form of identity. The story operates in three parts: the first is narrated as a study of the history of sex in public toilets in Buenos Aires, the second an oral history (pun intended) recalled by the eponymous Betty Boop, and the third is a letter from her friend, La Diosa Arrodillada. This polyphony of voices allows the texts to span the personal and the political, giving multiple perspectives on both. Duggan's critique of the neoliberal erasure of queer identities relates to the US, but certain parallels with Menem's Argentina, which was influenced by such thinking, can be found in the ways she describes the move to "a dramatically shrunken public sphere and a narrow zone of 'responsible' domestic privacy" (182). Whilst Modarelli's text identifies the effect of the privatization of what were once public spaces as one of the contributing factors in the limitations placed around queerness, its critique of homonormativity avoids "performatively (re) constituting those tendencies as particularly one-dimensional and hegemonic" (Brown, "Thinking Beyond" 1497) by exploring the issue through multiple voices, creating more rounded characters whose lives are changing because of their age as well as the disappearance of spaces in which they once had sex. [...]the text shows that the characters find "other practices that exist that foster alternative ways of relating" (Brown, "Homonormativity" 1066), such as frequenting the café, whilst acknowledging that these new spaces fail to replicate the dynamics of the public toilet. Initially the characters appear to have almost unlimited sexual freedoms within the toilets, but they do not conform to the dominant image of masculinity set out by the Argentine dictatorship of the late 1970s and early 1980s, which Diana Taylor notes (93-94) saw men as strong, authoritarian figures inhabiting the public realm.

Chasqui: Revista de Literatura Latinoamericana: Volume 51, Issue 2

FundersUniversity of Glasgow
Publication date30/11/2022
Publication date online30/11/2022
Date accepted by journal14/09/2022
Publisher URL

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Dr Eamon McCarthy

Dr Eamon McCarthy

SL in Spanish and Latin American Studies, Spanish