Ideas of the norm continue to permeate through all areas of society, from advertisements right through to social peer pressures. It only takes a 30 seconds to watch the most recent Kellogs Cornflakes commercial to see what a “family”, “should” consist of. Or to listen to the mid-20’s generation chat about their panic to be married and settled down before they reach 30.

Pressure to act a particular way has always been a part of western civilized society, however it is only in recent years (last 20-30) that we have seen this normalizing occur within the gay and lesbian community. One artist confronting this normalization is Catherine Opie. In her piece Self-Portrait/Pervert (1994) Opie suggests unease towards the normalization of the gay and lesbian community. By this stage there were sub categories evolving within this overall category, the S&M subculture, for example, was not welcome within the mainstream gay and lesbian community. Therefore we see the same ideologies of normality introduced into a subculture that was previously unaccepted as “normal”.

Self-Porttrait/Pervert (1994)

Opie was intent on focusing on the idea of lesbian identity and by approaching it in this manner expanded the current preconceptions of what it was to be a lesbian. However due to the negative reactions received from the mainstream gay and lesbian community about this piece, there is evidence of the same processes which were involved to create a negative connotation towards gay and lesbians in the early years, happening to the deeper subcultures of the community. Was this negativity due to the fear of these new found accepted (normal) gay and lesbian’s losing their place within society? Was this the fear of being associated with something that was still not considered normal? I would suggest that it was this very fear that Opie was addressing, “normal” is a constructed term, which offers no insight to the individual.

We hear common themes such as “There is no such thing as normal”, which is true, however society still has an acute sense to separate itself from anything they feel is unacceptable to the majority. It is the simple “them and us” scenario.