Aestheticizing the Boy Toy: Queer Childishness in Oscar Wilde and Andy Warhol
This thesis shifts the paradigm of recent scholarship on the twentieth century figure of the queer child to focus on the childishness of queerness instead. The metaphor of the boy toy, which refers to the childish queer as represented in Oscar Wilde and Andy Warhol’s work, hybridizes queer theory and cultural materialism to provide a framework for understanding how Wilde and Warhol’s aesthetics are relevant to each other and to the twentieth century and contemporary queer. Wilde’s work cultivates an aesthetic that is, apparently, childishly disengaged with such “grown-up” preoccupations as ethics, politics, and the social productivity of heteronormative sexual practices. While Warhol is formally faithful to Wilde’s aestheticism, with respect to content he sacrifices Wilde’s attachment to aesthetic hierarchies and ethical discernment. As a result, his work not only seems childishly disengaged but also creates an anti-social, anti-political aesthetic that undoes the “grown-up” pretensions of ethics and politics.