Eszter Timar

Where Men are Empty Overcoats

The paper I would like to propose will look at a scene from Monkey Business, a Marx Brothers movie. Groucho is a stowaway along with his brothers on a ship, spending most of his time on board being chased by the crew. In the scene, Groucho enters the room of an arguing married couple. Trying to pass as a tailor, he carries a dress, and enters the closet. Later, he poses as a lawyer while trying to seduce the wife. When she says something he interprets as disappointing, he cries out: “I’m going back in the closet where men are empty overcoats.”

With the help of this scene (that plays with gender and sexual orientation throughout), that I’d like to show before my presentation, I will try to ask questions about the role the closet and the way it is constructed (to construct our identities) plays in the discourse of citizenship and rights. Through an analysis of Groucho’s insightful nonsense (guided by the kind of queer theory marked by the work of Judith Butler and Michael Warner as well as Hannah Arendt’s notion on the right to have rights), I hope to at least point to the multi-faceted connections among concepts of legitimacy and rightlessness (the stowaways), public visibility and techniques of resistance.