On Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love from the Perspective of the Gaze

By Sha Chen

Geek Love reckons with patriarchal themes and the marginalization of “freaks,” represented in the novel by the Binewski family. A close reading of the novel reveals opportunities to apply gaze theory to analyze it. Previous scholarship has barely touched upon these topics in Geek Love. Reading the book from the perspective of the gaze creates a new understanding about marginalized groups. This paper will focus on the gaze in the book through four sections. First, this paper gives a brief introduction about the gaze theory. I will then contrast the male gaze and female gaze in the novel, collapsing the binary of male and female. Next, this paper elaborates on the gaze of mass media represented by the camera’s gaze, specifically explaining how it exerts influence on consumers but fails to affect Oly. Finally, this paper centers on the crowd’s gaze on the Binewski family and how the family members collapse the stereotype about them to establish their self-identity. The goal of this paper is to collapse the binary of male and female and justify the self-identity of marginalized groups represented by the Binewski family.


The concept of the gaze originated primarily from Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan. Freud stretched out the theory of the gaze through the term “scopophilia.” Driven by libido, the individual gets a pleasurable feeling by gazing at the object. The object is defined through the act of gazing by the gazer based on their character and development. Jacques Lacan, based on Freud’s psychological analysis, centered on the realization of gaze. He noted that others’ gaze facilitates greater self-consciousness, which may produce anxiety and an unsettled mind. He articulated that the gaze is composed of the real physical gaze and the spectre gaze, which is driven by the desire. In his theory of three orders, Lacan pointed out that the real is prior to the imaginary and the symbolic because of the power of eyes and the spectatorship. Michel Foucault also mentioned the gaze from the perspective of penology. Foucault took the patient’s body for example, saying that the patient’s body is only visible to the doctor, which shows the power of the clinic gaze. Also, Foucault studied prison structures and found that the gaze from the guard station makes inmates self-regulated, thus successfully controlling their conduct. Later, Laura Mulvey provided a new perspective for the topic of the gaze in her essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Mulvey discussed the gaze in the field of cinematography. She used psychoanalytic theory to expose how the male gaze exerted influence on female characters under the patriarchal society in narrative cinema. Based on Freud and Lacan, Mulvey argued that men suffer the sexual anxiety and the threat of castration, and women are regarded as fetish objects. Male pleasure is achieved through gazing on female’s body, which is similar to “scopophilia” in Freud’s term. (Trier-Bieniek 1-2)


Gazing through the glass wall, Arty consolidates his power upon the followers as the leader of the quasi-religious cult.

In Geek Love, the gaze on the female body can be easily recognized. The scene in The Glass House Club where Miranda works as a stripper is the most notable place for such a gaze: “A very thin girl, her skin tight to her bones with as little muscle intruding as I’ve ever seen on someone who could still sit up…Then she ground her hips around until she faced us and undid the bead that held her G-string in place” (Dunn 16). In this description, we can see it is women’s bodies and costumes that men mainly look at. As strippers, being gazed at by men is an important part of their work . In this sense, Miranda is a successful stripper because men “looked at her, watched her” (Dunn 17) when she performs on the stage. Compared with Miranda, Denise, who also serves in The Glass House Club, achieves being gazed at in an extreme way. She has all her hair burned off during a performance, which causes irreversible harm to her body as is described: “…the roots were destroyed and the hair will never grow back. She looks bad” (Dunn 32). Girls like Miranda and Denise are usually thought to be the victims in the patriarchal society. Women are treated like commodities in the society of the novel, striving to realize their value through men’s gaze. In this way, they put themselves into the position of objectification (Christ 215-216). On one hand, “Women, being already castrated, are by nature dispossessed and therefore destined to desire ‘possession’ by the masculine gaze” (Gambaudo 784). On the other hand, the male gaze can be traced back to “scopophilia” which produces pleasure through looking and a sexual drive manifesting itself in the gaze (Manlove 84). The gaze “can provide satisfactions independent of physical, tactile pleasure. The pleasure in looking at the sexual object is, Freud argued, an intermediary stage along the path to sexual fulfillment” (Synchron 3). Aware of both their own psychological need and men’s psychological and physical desire, both men and women internalize an object status as well as a subject status. Also in this way, as a stripper in the novel, Miranda uses her body in order to obtain material things. Miranda needs money to pay rent and she knows that through engaging in the striptease, she can afford rent. Denise is also anxiously in demand of money and she doesn’t want to work. This is why she risks injuring herself and still feels happy. These two characters actually get what they need through utilizing the male gaze. They both consciously objectify themselves, “as long as there is reciprocity” (Schultz 371). Compared with women, men don’t have such sex privilege. That is why it is prevailing to be a trans person in The Glass House Club, like Paulette who “would return in December as a real girl” (Dunn 17). Women, though appeared as the object of the gaze, are actually in charge of the gazer and utilize it for their own sake. Men’s superiority is collapsed in terms of body privilege.

Paulette illustrates another example demonstrating women’s sexual advantage. Paulette, the pre-transitioning male is a woman “with perfect breasts” (Dunn 17), but still holds male traits which are exposed in public as the “removal of her G-string revealed a shriveled penis and scrotum” (Dunn 17). Paulette is a character representing both female’s body and male’s body. When the female part of her body is exposed, Paulette is confident; when the male part of her body is exposed, she becomes shameful. From her, we can see the preference of females’ bodies to males’ bodies. Females’ bodies are charming and captivating, whereas males’ bodies are castrated and shriveled under the same gaze. This suggests men might suffer the anxiety of being castrated, as they are “phallicised” by the threat of losing their identity: “By ‘phallic’ Mulvey refers to a process by which ‘woman’ is the sexual signifier of ‘man’ and ‘it is her lack of a phallus that produces the phallus of man as a symbolic presence” (Gambaudo 785). To alleviate such anxiety and threat, men need to “own and activate the gaze…to be in the masculine position” (Kaplan 319). Through initiating the gaze, men are trying to keep maintenance of their masculine subjectivity. Just like Kaja Silverman argued, the erotic spectacle is not so much constituted by the body itself (Manlove 85). It shows that male’s gaze is derived from the desire to restore their identity; they are actually anxious and unconfident compared with women who are confident with their body.

Arty, the first-born son of the Binewski family is sensitive, easily angry and ambitious at the same time, and also suffers anxiety. He attempts to make himself a powerful ruler to overcome his anxiety: “Arty in his tank flashing wildly from glass wall to glass wall with the lights flaming on his gleaming body…Arty talking to the people through the microphones set against the glass. Talking until the people talked back, talking until they cried for him, talking until they called out his name, talking until they roared, stamping in the bleachers” (Dunn, 206). After owning his tank, which is the embodiment of his power, Arty stays inside working. He exercises power through the microphones as he gives the word to people and receives their response through it. In this sense, the microphone is the symbol of his power. In addition to that, the glass tank also symbolizes his identity as a leader. Instead of being opaque, Arty’s tank is transparent because of the glass wall. In this way, he can see his followers and supervise them. Gazing through the glass wall, Arty consolidates his power upon the followers as the leader of the quasi-religious cult. Likewise, Arty also keeps his status in the patriarchal family through controlling the gaze. After the twins get pregnant, Arty prohibits them to be on stage again and imprisons them and Lil, the twins’ mother, is not allowed to see them. She states, “And why can’t I see them? They need me” (Dunn 265). Through the question asked by Lil, we can see that Arty blocks others’ gaze on the twins. Furthermore, he has the idea of having someone design a bugging system through which “he can hear every word, every move” (Dunn 273) of the twins. He implements his power through the prohibition on others’ gaze on the twins and later intensifies the power and pinnacles it by shifting the control from the gaze to the voice. In this way, Arty strengthens his identity as the absolute ruler in the patriarchal family as a result of suffering the anxiety of castration.

Gazing with tears is a way for Lil to express her love for children.

However, Arty’s position is threatened as the coming of a new member in the family. After the birth of Mumpo, Arty desperately needed to see him. In his van, Arty saw the baby Mumpo. It happened that “Mumpo’s eyes went sharp and narrow, looking at Arty, and Arty glare at Mumpo and the two male things looked at each other with hate” (Dunn 301). When Mumpo gazes at Arty, he is no longer a newborn. Instead, in the eye of Arty, he is “a male,” a rival. Looking at Mumpo’s sharp and narrow gaze, Arty is under pressure for fear that Mumpo and his position might shatter his absolute reign and be replaced by him. This is why staring at the “flesh,” Arty finally ordered to take the baby away, and “that was the last time Arty ever looked at Mumpo” (Dunn 302). Mumpo’s gaze is the incarnation of the male gaze. Being gazed upon by Mumpo, Arty’s sense of identity is threatened.

The reader can see that men’s image as superior to women’s is collapsed as a result of the lack of body confidence and the anxiety of castration. Unlike Arty’s gaze, which is always related with power and control, Oly’s gaze is tender and full of love, like that of a mother to a son. She always “stared through the one-way” glass into Arty’s big room (Dunn 265) and gazed at him in silence. In the patriarchal society where man’s essence become identified with his property, women are commonly regarded as the “spoils of war” to confirm ownership of them (Christ 220). However, Oly’s love for Arty is a different case. Instead of being the“spoils of war,” Oly takes the initiative by casting her gaze on Arty. According to Oly, looking into Arty’s room is her responsibility. Oly admires Arty and her love for him is obvious to the reader. Arty is popular with the female members in the Binewski family. When the children discuss what will happen when Mama and Papa die, Oly says, “Arty will take care of us. He’ll be the boss” (Dunn 139). Oly’s response is unanimously acknowledged by the rest of the children, as Elly replies, “Right! We can depend on Arty,” and Iphy reassures “I’m going to marry Arty and we’ll take care of everybody” (Dunn 139). Oly also wants to marry Arty and worships him. She admires Arty so much that she turns her worship into love. She serves Arty and takes care of him, gazing at him with full tenderness and admiration. It seems that Oly’s love for Arty gradually transforms into a maternal love. Freud articulated that the experience of maternity is a form of the compensation for Oedipal castration (Gambaudo 785). Oly “develops into a lacking and wanting form of being that she can only hope to compensate through maternity” (Gambaudo 786). Oly compensates for the castration through the experience of maternity. In this way, she redefines herself and keeps her position in the patriarchal order.

Oly’s love is so passionate and ardent that she also wants to be “gazed” at by Arty. That is why when Arty simply asked Oly to come in his room and let him look. Oly’s heart turned to “steaming oatmeal” (Dunn 171) as she “wriggled around to see his dear worried face” (Dunn 171). For Oly, gazing is a way of expressing her love for Arty and being gazed by Arty, the person she loves, is one of the happiest moments for her. In addition to Oly, Lily is another female character whose gaze expresses love. When Chick was born, Lily’s eyes were riveted on the baby. Al abandoned chick and the night before his abandonment, Lil let Chick sleep beside her, gazing at the baby with tears filling her eyes. Lil hugs kids every time she passes them and always blinks away tears at the moment of saying goodbye. Gazing with tears is a way for Lil to express her love for children. In contrast to Lil, Al acts the complete opposite. He is less patient with children and always gives them a walleyed look, which makes them afraid of him. In this sense, through the gaze, the female characters in the book express their love for either men or the kids while male characters fail to realize the love. Therefore, the male image is superior to women and is collapsed in the gradual establishment of women’s image as mothers.

The narrator, Oly, also interacts with others through her gazer, and her gaze covers both women and men. In The Glass House Club, men gaze at women under Oly: “But it was strange and different to me, watching these people watching her. Because they thought she was pretty, because they thought it would be good to grab her ass and pump jizz into her” (Dunn 17). From this description, we can see that Oly, as a female narrator, has a careful observation of men and a sharp insight into men’s emotions. Compared to men’s gaze on women which always rests on the physical body, women’s gaze is able to pierce into the inside world of men. In this way Dunn suggests women’s gaze always goes farther and deeper than men’s. What’s more, through the gaze, Oly consolidates her identity as a real mother. After the birth of Miranda, Arty “never asked to see her” (Dunn 312). Arty doesn’t gaze at Miranda, which indicates he is indifferent towards the baby. Noticing Arty’s hatred towards the baby, Oly has to send Miranda away to protect her from being hurt by Al. In the course of her tailing after Miranda, Oly finds that “Miranda is hard to follow…She is also alert and mine is not an inconspicuous figure. I usually lose her within a few blocks. Either she leaves me choking in the dust or I have to duck and hide from her swiveling face” (Dunn 15). Oly has to be careful enough to keep her gaze unknown so that she can continue to gaze at Miranda. Although Oly sends Miranda away and keeps Miranda’s identity as her daughter a secret, she still keeps a close eye on Miranda and gazes at her furtively, ensuring that Miranda is safe and well. This explains why at the beginning of the story, Oly appears to be a fanatic woman, always following Miranda. In contrast to Arty, whose identity as a father is absent because he is without a gaze, Oly’s identity as a mother is intensified through her constant gaze. As the narrator of the story, Oly’s gaze is omniscient and omnipotent. She knows everything that happens as a result of gazing. The end of the novel enforces Oly’s identity as the narrator through her letter. In her letter, she discloses everything to Miranda, including Miranda’s identity, Miss Lick’s real purpose, and the reason for Oly’s act. Oly’s gaze covers not only male and female characters in the book, but also nature: “…when I noticed the sky. It was a vague milky sheet. Far off at the dull edge of the plain, a blood-red line lay between the earth and the sky. As I watched, the red thickened to a bar and then a band, climbing the sky” (Dunn 131). Oly’s omniscient point of view is enhanced by gazing at nature, which is dominated by the patriarchy: “The system I am defining as patriarchy…is a system developed and controlled by powerful men, in which women, children, other men, and nature itself are dominated” (Christ 216 ). Oly’s image as the narrator replaces men’s position and subverts the patriarchal system. Dunn deliberately chose the female character Oly as the narrator and empowered her to gaze at objects and other characters within the novel. In this way, the binary of male and female is collapsed as women are elevated to a level as omnipotent as God.


The camera is another type of gaze appearing in Geek Love. Originally different from the male gaze and the female gaze, which are initiated by human beings and inevitably subjective, the camera gaze seems to be objective: “The screen fills with the image of a woman bent over a computer panel. She seems unaware of the camera. Her hands move rapidly over the control board. She picks up a pedestal microphone and speaks into it” (Dunn 156). The camera gaze seems to focus on recording woman’s daily life and triviality without any bias. However, the camera’s gaze, as the representative of mass media, never justifies its use in this way: “Her face turns toward the camera eye for the first time. She stares past me” (Dunn 156-157). From this description, we can feel that the camera’s eye plays a role of enticement, alluring the gaze of both the camera and the spectator. Once the camera eye attracts the spectators’ eyes successfully, it continues to exert further influence on them by stimulating their curiosity about the actor and leading them to ask such questions as “Who is she/he?” “Where is she/he from?” “Did she/he get married?” Unconsciously, the spectator is on the road to finding out the identity of the actor appearing on the camera screen. As for the actor, once he is aware of the camera eye, he will somewhat adjust his image so as to meet the “gaze” from the spectator. In this way, the actor renews his identity and redefines himself. After showing Oly the video through the camera, Miss Lick introduces the girl to Oly before Oly has a chance to ask who she is. Miss Lick, as a typical businesswoman who knows how to use mass media to stir others, knows the spectators’ psychology. Furthermore, Miss Lick narrates Linda’s experience and story in a natural way after she introduces herself. According to Miss Lick, Linda, who used to be a nice girl, is now “scarred from stem to stern” (Dunn 157), a consequence of the fire which caught her in the process of saving others. Linda plunges into hell by fate. Her friends keep her at arm’s length and others keep away from her. She then decides to stop relying on physical appearance and trying to attract men. She changes her situation by studying, turning to books and “made another life–all brain stuff” (Dunn 158). Miss Lick delivers the idea of the American dream through Linda’s image, trying to use it to persuade Oly into joining her. Although the reader has no idea whether the story about Linda narrated by Miss Lick is true or not, Miss Lick is on the road of the camera business through employing the effect of the spectators’ gaze on the camera eye. In this way, Miss Lick not only utilizes the spectators’ gaze at the camera eye, but she also creates the image and redefines the actor.

Dunn deliberately chose the female character Oly as the narrator and empowered her to gaze at objects and other characters within the novel. In this way, the binary of male and female is collapsed as women are elevated to a level as omnipotent as God.

In this fanaticizing consumption era where women are materialized and become the commodity consumed by the masses, Miss Lick is obsessed with material objects (Talu and Taskin 426). In the eye of Miss Lick, men always exploit women, especially the pretty ones. Inspired by Linda’s transformation, Miss Lick wants to liberate more women from men’s exploitation by destroying their beauty, which leads to Carina’s willing disfigurement. Miss Lick shows Carina to Oly through the screen. According to Miss Lick, Carina was completely anesthetized and disfigured by the acid. While Oly immerses herself in gazing at the screen, Miss Lick begins to reshape Carina’s image by saying that Carina, fluent in five languages, is a translator and second in command in her office. In this way, Miss Lick imbues Oly with the idea that Carina has become an independent woman through shedding the exploitability and relying on her own talents and intelligence. Although Miss Lick tries to instill in Oly another female image of the American dream by using consumer psychology, she doesn’t succeed this time because consumer psychology is not applicable in the case of Oly. Unlike the masses that are lost in front of the mass media and completely entranced by it, Oly is still lucid and sober while gazing at the screen. She keeps her mind clear that what Miss Lick does has something to do with the camera. She sees through the fact that Miss Lick doesn’t trust her completely because Miss Lick skipped the operation scene. From a businessperson’s point of view, gazing at the operation scene might be too cruel for consumers to accept, which is not a good thing for the development of business. However, from a consumer’s point of view, to skip the scene means to conceal the truth, which weakens the consumers’ trust. As a result, Oly wants to go home and think, reassured that Miss Lick reveals her true self. From this perspective, we can see Oly’s lucid mind and sharp insight, which overshadows the “norms”. In this way, Oly contributes to establishment of the norm image of the Binewski family.


All the family members in the Binewski family are gifted with sharp business intellect. They know they are born in a fanaticizing consumption era, and they are adept at catering to the masses’ need for consumer psychology. Lily has applied herself to renewing public interest in the show. To bring a new visual shock to meeting the public’s gaze, Lil “began experimenting with illicit and prescription drugs, insecticides, and eventually radioisotopes” (Dunn 7). As a result, Arturo, the firstborn son, is an Aquaboy who has flippers and a megalomaniacal ambition; Iphy and Elly, the Siamese twins who share a body; Oly, the bald albino hunchback; and Chick who, normal outwardly, is endowed with a telekinetic gift. Indeed, it works as Lil expects. They are successful in catching the public’s eye and flourishing the carnival. Sometimes they also engage in such illegal business as pickpocketing, which also involves their sharp wit in analyzing the public’s psychology. Al set out his pickpocket trips with Chick, because “A guy with a little kid is more innocent than a man with his wife on his arm…but the world sees a man with a kid and they figure he’s a good guy and has more important things to tend to than robbery” (Dunn 86). Al hoodwinks the public and achieves his aim of establishing the illusion for the public to gaze. In this way, Al successfully runs his pickpocket business, contributing to the family finances. It is very smart of Al to analyze the public’s gazing psychology and create the false scene for the public to gaze at. In fact, not only Al, but also each of the family members is adept at analyzing consumers’ psychology. They all know the relationship between the gaze and consumer psychology. Arty states that the public wants to be scared and amazed, which is the reason why they come to see the show. Oly says that the crowds are unwilling to pay if they can see them free. So more “gifted siblings” will hide as the gate open and the crowds enter. Each family member does successfully uses their specialties in making a contribution to support the family. The Binewski family also has “the Chute,” “A Museum of Nature’s Innovative Art” (Dunn 52), which is Lil’s idea. There are six clear-glass jars in “the Chute” in which soak the other six children of Al and Lil, four of them born dead, and two who died later. The scene in the Chute brings an intensified visual shock to carnival-goers, heightening the sense of excitement and fear. There is a sign in the room of the exhibit, which reads: “HUMAN…BORN OF NORMAL PARENTS” (Dunn 54). This suggests how the Fabulous Binewskis, represented by Lil, define themselves.

The public, with a sense of discrimination, always stares at the Binewski family. Whenever they appear in public, they successfully make passer-by stop and stare at them. Once trapped in an accident, the family calls an ambulance. In consequence, they suffer a series of discriminations from the medical staff. A female staff member asks one of the male workers to accompany her simply because she doesn’t want to stay with the Binewski family alone. The staff hates to touch any of them. There is a period of time when Oly is haunted by a sense of fear; she is afraid of being killed whenever she thinks of the eyes crawling on her from all sides because the eyes of crowds are full of hatred. Being gazed with discrimination, the Binewski family lives under great pressure. They want to change the situation by changing the public’s conception of them. The first step is to proclaim their identity. The exhibition of the jars is, actually, to pave the way for the final sign. Lil deliberately exposes her dead children to the public, leading the public’s gaze step-by-step to the final sign–their self-definition as humans and normal parents.

The next step is to justify the proclamation of self-identity through showing their abilities. Though deformed in body, the Binewski family members are endowed with abilities, which, if not more marvelous like Chick’s telekinetic ability, are as excellent as the ones that others enjoy. Their abilities can be found in the car accident. When trapped in the wrecked car, it is Lil who drags Oly out, she “reached far under the car for Arty… tugged Arty into the light…hiked him up onto her belly” ( Dunn 59). It is also Lil who successfully gathers “more grey uniforms” (Dunn 59) and saves Arty and Oly by saying, “These too, please” (Dunn 59). Lil’s capability at saving people overcomes the doctor and the nurse who “kept handing over the wrong shiny metal thing” (Dunn 62). As the narration goes on, more and more abilities of the Binewski family are revealed. They do well not only in the emergency but also in the daily life. Their life, like the one that the common people have, is infused with trivialities and annoyances. However, they are equipped with the abilities to solve the problems coming out in their daily life. Mariposa, the jaw dancer, once falls in the performance. In the next few days, Chick is in a sour mood and cries easily. None of the family members have the idea of what is going wrong with Chick. Finally, Chick tells Mama in private that Mariposa’s fall could have been avoided if he moved one person, but he didn’t do that because he was afraid that the act of moving without a permit would make Mama angry. Chick’s honest communication with Mama wins Mama’s understanding.

In fact, not only Al, but also each of the family members is adept at analyzing consumers’ psychology. They all know the relationship between the gaze and consumer psychology.

After the conversation, Chick’s unhappiness is resolved and his life is back to normal. This episode of the Binewski family’s life shows that the family has the ability of communication. Through their communication, they solve the problem of each other’s misunderstanding. If there is something wrong with the van they live in, the family members need to fix it on their own. When the wall of the toilets popped and the liquid dripped down through the cracks, they worked together to repair it: “She hauled me up by my hands, balancing me as I climbed to her knee, her hip, her back. ‘I am gonna stand up now,’ she warned. I stepped onto her shoulders, propping myself against the wall, and tore at the loose flap” (Dunn 134). From this example, we can see how the family works together to fix the problem, which shows their teamwork spirit and their problem-solving ability. In addition to the common skills grasped by the outside world, the Binewski family is enthusiastic about trying something new and innovative. Chick once “discovered a new way to clean Arty’s tank” (Dunn 93). Iphy once thinks out a synchronized-swim dance in which they “fly out over the audience and back while the piano goes on playing the ‘Corporal Bogwartz Overture’!” (Dunn 112) Another remarkable ability they have is learning and absorbing new knowledge. Chick learns English fast, and he also learns music as he plays the piano in two sessions. Arty loves reading magazines about technology and immerses himself in the technological world. The Binewski family successfully establishes a normal image by exposing the abilities they own.

The Binewski family expresses the same emotion as the outside world does. When Al suggests that Chick should be abandoned, Lily becomes very sad: “She saw me looking at her. She smiled a weak smile” (Dunn 66). Recognizing that the child gazing at her, Lil tries to conceal the pain in her heart. Bickering and fighting always happen between the Siamese twins because of disagreement and hatred. Arty is always jealous if others’ talent is more valuable. Chick becomes sad when the horse dies. When his idea of “a new way to clean” the van is misunderstood by Arty as “show-off” (Dunn 94), Chick feels hurt. Oly knows what Chick feels sad and wants to comfort him, but Chick “didn’t dare look at Oly for sympathy” (Dunn 94). Chick’s act of avoiding eye contact with Oly illustrates he is hurt by Arty’s words. Like the outside world, the Binewski family suffers many negative feelings such as sadness, pain, and hatred. However, most of the time, the Binewski family appears as a whole and warm group: “Lil and Pap were asleep. The twins were snugged in their bunk snoring. Fortunato, the Chick, lay silent in his crib with the blanket twitching around him in his dreams” (Dunn 75). Such peaceful scenarios frequently show up throughout the book. The whole family makes a big surprise for the twins’ birthday and celebrates it on Mama’s big bed. They are a close family, which can be seen from their teamwork spirit and problem-solving process. Therefore, when offered a bigger and more luxurious house by Miss Lick, Oly is not happy because “the other is home and I miss it” (Dunn 164).

The family is similar to the outside world not only at the emotional level, but they also catch up with the pace of the others in terms of the material life. The van they live in is one of the symbols of their material life.

The family is similar to the outside world not only at the emotional level, but they also catch up with the pace of the others in terms of the material life. The van they live in is one of the symbols of their material life. After Papa gets the profit from his pickpocket trips, the family buys a big new van to live in: “For the first time the twins and Arty each had a small room. Chick slept on a built-in sofa-bunk. The cupboard beneath the sink was bigger than in the old van…The new van came equipped with a maroon leather rubbing table in Arty’s room” (Dunn 88-89). Later, the elevator is installed. As Arty becomes more successful, he gets himself a van equipped with air-conditioning.

The scene with Vern Bonger also obliquely illustrates the normality of theBinewski family. Vern Bonger shoots at the Binewski family in a shopping center. According to a shopper, he shoots the family because Lil is pregnant again and will give birth to more “freaks.” If one reads closely and carefully, the reader will find the deeper motivation behind Vern Bonger’s act. As Vern Bonger retells his story, “His wife, Emily, didn’t like him much lately. And when he came home from work and said ‘Hi’ to his own kids, they just snorted and went on staring at the TV” (Dunn 57). Vern Bonger is getting divorced from his wife. He misses his children and is afraid of losing them even in his dreams. When the Binewski family gets out of the van, the scene appears to be such a great harmony that the integral family sharply contrasts with Vern Bonger’s broken one. In the eye of Vern Bonger, the Binewski family represents the ideal family: “What bothers Vern most is that this family interacts as a family. His ‘norm’ family is dysfunctional whereas the ‘freak’ family functions ‘normally’” (Hardin 339). From this perspective, the normal image of the Binewski family is successfully established and their self-identity as being normal is potentially accepted.


Through the perspective of the gaze, this paper analyzes the different types of gaze in Geek Love, including the male gaze, female gaze, the gaze of mass media represented by the camera’s gaze and the crowd’s gaze. Through a psychoanalytic analysis, this paper collapses the binary of male and female and justifies the self-definition of the Binewski family, hopefully to give support to marginalized groups in society and provide a new understanding about them.

Works Cited

Christ, Carol P. “A New Definition of Patriarchy: Control of Women’s Sexuality, Private Property, and War.” Feminist Theology: The Journal of the Britain & Ireland School of Feminist Theology, vol. 24, no. 3, May 2016, pp. 214-225. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1177/0966735015627949.

Gambaudo, Sylvie. “From Scopophilic Pleasure to the Jouissance of the Madonna: The Mother’s Maternal Gaze in Three Photographic Examples.” Women’s Studies, vol. 41, no.7, Oct/Nov2012, pp.781-804. EBSCOhost, proxy-millersville.klnpa.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lfh&AN=80139908&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Katherine Dunn. Geek Love. Random House, Inc., New York, 1989.

Kaplan, Ann E. “‘Is the Gaze Male?’ Powers of Desire: The Politics of Sexuality.” Ed. Ann Snitow, Christine Stansell, and Sharon Thompson. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1983, 309-27.

Manlove, Clifford T. “Visual ‘Drive’ and Cinematic Narrative: Reading Gaze Theory in Lacan, Hitchcock, and Mulvey.” Cinema Journal, no. 3, 2007, p. 83. EBSCOhost, proxy-millersville.klnpa.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edspmu&AN=edspmu.S1527208707300837&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Schultz, Robert. “When Men Look at Women: Sex in an Age of Theory.” The Hudson Review, no.3, 1995, p.365. EBSCOhost, proxy-millersville.klnpa.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsgao&AN=edsgcl.17595374&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Trier-Bieniek, Adrienne M. Feminist Theory and Pop Culture. Sense Publishers, 2015.

Talu, Nilüfer and Burcu Taskin. “The Demand for More/Previleged (Things): Leisured Women, Consumption Practices, and Gated Community.” Sosyal Bilimler Arastirmalari Dergisi, no. 15, July 2016, pp. 425-442. EBSCOhost, proxy-millersville.klnpa.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=sih&AN=117581773&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Sha Chen is a graduate student in the Master of Arts in the English program.