The film Private Romeo shows two male cadets falling in love as they speak the lines of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. While intended as an affirmative depiction of gay love without any homophobia, the film for three reasons has the opposite efffect. First, whereas the film’s main intertext (Shakespeare’s play) and key historical context (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, here read through Butler’s Excitable Speech) foreground the significance of naming desire, no character in Private Romeo actually speaks the word “homosexuality.” Second, the image of two young men kissing is superseded by the primacy of the Shakespearean characters and their heterosexual romance. Third, even if the spectator chooses to ignore these first two reasons and takes Private Romeo as a representation of homosexuality, this can only be achieved by assuming a homophobic context for the portrayed romance.
Oever, Roel van den. “What’s in a Name? Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and Private Romeo.” Bodies That Still Matter: Resonances of the Work of Judith Butler, edited by Annemie Halsema, Katja Kwastek, and Van den Oever, Amsterdam UP, 2021, pp. 77-88.