"We are the new Lithuania"
Deconstructing Queerness and Nationalism in Romas Zabarauskas' You Can't Escape Lithuania (Nuo Lietuvos nepabėgsi) and Porno Melodrama
In the Baltic States, LGBT representation in the media is limited at best. While LGBT activism continues to gain support and visibility, LGBT characters are considerably less common on film and television, and only Lithuania has produced films with openly gay or lesbian characters in main roles. This stands in contrast to the tendency in Baltic media and politics to lay claim to Nordic values and to identify as Northern European rather than Eastern European. In this paper I examine how two Lithuanian films grapple with identity and place in their depictions of gay characters. Porno Melodrama (Romas Zabarauskas, 2011) follows a gay couple as they are forced to choose between nationalistic homophobia and fleeing to “safer” cities in Western Europe. Nuo Lietuvos Nepabėgsi (You Can’t Escape Lithuania, Romas Zabarauskas, 2016) features a fictionalised version of its director in a meta-narrative meditation on the meaning of cinema as well as the place of queerness in the “new” Lithuania. In this article I interrogate how sexual and national identity are placed in contra-distinction to one another in the two films by Romas Zabarauskas: in Porno Melodrama, where gay identity is met with violent retribution; and in You Can’t Escape Lithuania, where queerness serves as a critique of the underlying foundations of gender, sexuality and nationalist narratives of belonging. I critique Western conceptions of homonormativity and homonationalism, where their problematic mapping onto a Baltic context fails to take into account the diverging reality in which neoliberalism has not been accompanied by more inclusive attitudes to sexual and gender diversity.
Copyright (c) 2021 Clinton Glenn
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