The Compromised Voice: A Consideration of Typography as A Linguistic Expression of Gay Identity in the Silent Film Boy

Welby Ings


This paper begins with a brief discussion of interdisciplinary connections between linguistics and typography. It then offers a consideration of how typography used in queer film has been employed to marginalise gay men. In doing so, the article examines recurring typographical profiles in promotional material that reinforce notions of gay men as the other. Within this consideration it locates typographical depictions of the internally discordant, the damaged threat, and the passive-aggressive. In discussing these specific approaches to the typographical depiction of gay men in cinema, the paper traces a development from marginalisation to self-assertion.
Set against this discussion, the paper examines how typography designed for the short film boy (Note 1) looked beyond these precedents for inspiration. In doing this, the designer considered themes embedded in the argot of the New Zealand male prostitute. (Note 2) This language form is permeated by themes of detachment and ecclesiasticism. By applying these metaphors to the short film’s visual and typographical design, the director discusses how an alternative, distinctive, and arguably more authentic gay voice was created.
The short film boy can be viewed at

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International Journal of Linguistics  ISSN 1948-5425  Email:

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