Gay Pride and Prejudices: Contemporary Serbia between Nationalism and Liberalism

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Belgrade Gay Pride and Prejudices: 21st Century Serbia between Nationalism
and Liberalism

Laura Todd and Aleksandar
of Nottingham


The banning of the Belgrade gay pride parade by the police in October 2013
marks a full decade of failures in recognizing the basic rights of the
Serbian LGBT population. At the same time, the movie Parade (Srdjan
Dragojevic, 2011), advertised as the story about the ongoing battle between
the Serbian right-wing homophobic majority and liberal minority, was an
unprecedented success at the box-office and gathered over half a million
viewers in Serbia and in the region. In this paper, we contend that the
movie's success follows more from the carnivalesque flirting with the
residual right-wing forces left over from the 1990s Balkan wars, rather
than from the cathartic effect it brings to the Serbian audience and their
prejudices. After examining several key aspects of the movie in the context
of the seminal feminist works of Laura Mulvey, Gayatri Spivak and Judith
Butler, we indicate that the leading role still belongs to the prejudiced
straight man, whereas gay subject remains a source of stereotypes and is
continuously exploited as a source of comic effect. It is therefore argued
that The Parade marks the entrance of the gay subject in the mainstream
Serbian cultural production, but only via the nationalistic male gaze on
whose recognition it still depends.

Nothing illustrates the dramas of twenty-first century Serbia as aptly as
the question of Belgrade Gay Pride and the organisation's annual Parade. Of
course, there are other burning issues in Serbia, such as the chaotic
economic transition and corruption, the toxic legacy of Slobodan Milosevic
and the Wars of Yugoslav Succession in the 1990s, or the problem of
Kosovo's independence and the delayed accession of Serbia to the European
Union. Yet nothing seems to capture so much public attention and so many
polarized views as the question of Gay Pride. From the first Gay Pride in
2001 to the present day, almost every summer the issue brings new public
debate over the question as to whether Belgrade Gay Pride should be
permitted or not. The topic also attracts a wide array of public figures to
voice their opinions – from the President and his Ministers to the police
and city officials, from political analysts to the Serbian Orthodox Church,
from football fans and pro-clerical right-wing movements to turbo-folk
singers (Karleuša 2010). As a kind of climax to all this attention, a full-
length movie was finally released in 2011 on this lucrative subject. The
film in question, The Parade, was directed by Srdjan Dragojevic, one of the
leading Serbian filmmakers of the recent period.
Firstly, this paper will briefly introduce the history of the Belgrade
Gay Pride, with a summary of the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and
Transgender (LGBT) people in Serbia. Secondly, it will then offer a short
examination of Dragojevic as a director, including his earlier movies,
which provide insight into the motivations of making such a film. Finally,
the paper will discuss whether The Parade actually represents the
emancipation of gay subjectivity, thus symbolically marking the victory of
pro-homosexual liberalism in Serbia or the film is merely flirting with the
residual sentiments of right-wing forces and compounding the domination of
the nationalistic male gaze.

LGBT rights in Serbia

Prior to the outbursts of violence caused by the appearance of the Gay
Pride Parade in 2001, nothing indicated that the question of LGBT rights
would become such a major issue in Serbia. The hostile public reception of
LGBT issues in Serbia suggests that the country is trailing behind Western
European countries with regards to legislation. However, a closer analysis
of the legal situation (Table 1 below) reveals that Serbia has still
clearly followed a European pattern of recognizing LGBT rights:

Table 1:
"Gay Rights "Republic of Serbia "United Kingdom "
"Same-sex sexual "Legal nationwide since "Legal nationwide in "
"activity legal? "1994, age of consent "1982, age of consent "
" "equalised in 2006 "equalised in 2001 "
"Gender "Right to change gender "Right to change gender "
"identity/expression "legal since 2009 "legal since 2004 "
"Military service "Homosexuals allowed to "Homosexuals allowed to "
" "serve openly "serve openly "
"Discrimination "Sexual orientation "Sexual orientation and "
"protections "protection in labour "gender identity "
" "code since 2001 "protections "
"Family Rights " " "
"Recognition of "Same-sex marriages not "Same-sex marriages not "
"relationships "legal "legal "
" "Implicit recognition of"Civil partnership legal"
" "civil partnership "since 2005 "

In addition to Table 1, an examination of some of the fundamental legal
acts concerning the LGBT population in Serbia is significant. The field of
LGBT rights has made steady progress over the past decade, irrespective of
the overall ideological and political framework in place, and the
controversies around LGBT rights in Serbia. The history of LGBT tolerance
in Serbia has deeper roots than in most former socialist countries. For
example, male homosexual activity was first legalised in the Serbian
autonomous province of Vojvodina in 1978, while both Serbia and Vojvodina
still belonged to the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) and
also whilst President Tito was still alive. In 1991, this rule was expanded
to the rest of Serbia, and during Slobodan Milosevic's rule and in the
midst of the Wars of Yugoslav Succession, male same-sex activity was
legalised nationwide in 1994 in SRY, then a Federal state of Serbia and
Montenegro. Finally, another set of laws, giving further legal rights to
the LGBT community, was adopted by the post-Milosevic democratic
governments between 2002 and 2010.[1]These legal developments suggest that,
in essentials, progress in the rights of the LGBT population is being made
in Serbia, albeit slowly.
However, when it comes to the acceptability of the Gay Pride Parade,
the situation is completely different. The first attempt to organise a
Parade in Serbia was in Belgrade in 2001, and in this respect Serbia was,
or would have been, a leader in the region. In Croatia, the first Gay Pride
was held in 2002 and in Bulgaria, in 2008. However, recent attempts to hold
a Parade in Budva and Podgorica in Montenegro in 2013 met a similarly
violent outcome to that seen in Belgrade and other regional cities.
Meanwhile, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Albania are yet to hold a
Parade in any city in their territories, as at present only some minor
attempts by small groups to celebrate this event have taken place.
The 2001 Belgrade Gay Pride was apparently intended as a symbolic
event – the Milosevic regime was finally overthrown in October 2000, and
this was clearly an appropriate time to celebrate the birth of the new,
democratic Serbia with a Pride Parade as an expression of this
transformation. Unfortunately, the Parade did not transpire to be the
liberalising event imagined as the event was marred by a huge level of
violence on the streets of Belgrade. From the very beginning of the Parade,
in one of the city's main squares, a number of right-wing groups attacked
the participants. The police were reluctant and almost disinterested in
protecting the participants until the rioters started attacking them as
well. In total, eight policemen were injured, as well as a contested number
of gay activists – according to police reports, sixteen activists were
injured, but LGBT sources quote a much larger number of forty (Mikus 2011).
Belgrade Gay Pride activists thus failed to successfully carry out the
first Belgrade Gay Pride Parade, but they did achieve something remarkable,
and terrifying – the Parade managed to unite groups who had previously been
fierce enemies, such as the football fans of Partizan, Red Star and Rad, as
well as other right-wing and pro-clerical organisations.
Since then, almost every summer in Serbia brings a new dilemma for
LGBT rights: LGBT activists announce the Parade, right-wing organisations
begin threats and intimidation against the organisation of such an event
and the government finally succumbs to right-wing pressure and bans the
Parade. The only exception was the 2010 Belgrade Gay Pride, which remains
the only successful Serbian Gay Pride Parade to date. However, this success
was paid with a high price; over 5000 police officers protected several
hundred LGBT activists and their supporters, and it is estimated that
several thousand more police officers were trying to protect the city. The
city of Belgrade indeed needed protection. The Parade caused riots in
Belgrade, as some 6500 hooligans looted the city, attacked official
buildings, political party headquarters, state media outlets, and looted
shops. Over 130 policemen and 25 citizens were injured, and 250 people were
arrested (Mikus 2011: 835).
With this context in mind, the significance of a film release such as
The Parade can be understood. In the following section, the paper will
provide a brief introduction into the director's biography and filmography,
before investigating The Parade in more detail and examining the film's
role in the emancipation of LGBT rights in Serbia and in the region.

Srdjan Dragojevic

The director Srdjan Dragojevic is a controversial and rather cryptic
character, whose films have elicited both controversy and success. Having
initially graduated with a degree in clinical psychology from the
University of Belgrade, Dragojevic followed this with further study at the
Faculty of Dramatic Arts (FDU) in Belgrade. His graduating film, Mi nismo
andjeli/We are not Angels was a hit in 1992 and catapulted the director to
fame. The film itself is a story about a group of teenagers living in
Belgrade and ensured that, from an early stage, Dragojevic was established
and popular amongst the younger generation of cinemagoers. Even though the
film was shot in 1991, there is only one very brief mention of the war in
Croatia, which perhaps gave it a sense of escapism for the youth audience.
The film's release in 1992 coincided with the start of UN sanctions against
Yugoslavia, which had a huge impact on the population of Serbia and
especially of Belgrade.
Following the release of We Are Not Angels, Dragojevic pursued a
number of television projects and various low-quality films. However, in
1996, he directed what would arguably become his most famous film, Lepa
sela lepo gore/ Pretty Village, Pretty Flame (literally beautiful villages
burn beautifully). Pretty Village, Pretty Flame is the story of two friends
torn apart by the Wars of Yugoslav Succession in Bosnia, as they find
themselves caught on opposite sides due to their ethnicities. The film is a
tragicomic combat film which explores the atrocities committed by the Serb
and Bosniak militias during the conflict through the memories and
flashbacks of Milan, a Bosnian Serb.
The film received praise and criticism from all sides; some Serbs
accused Dragojevic of producing an anti-Serb film, by showing atrocities
committed by Bosnian Serb militias; whilst on the other hand, Dragojevic
was accused of producing semi-fascist cinema, which trivialised the actions
of the Serbs in Bosnia. Further controversy surrounded the funding of the
film, which was provided (somewhat unwittingly) by the Yugoslav government
of Slobodan Milosevic, and Dragojevic's choice of location for the shoots,
which took place in Republika Srpska, the Serb-controlled entity in Bosnia.
Dragojevic dismissed these arguments citing that it was necessary for a
director to seek funding for projects wherever he can and the knowledge
that the film was shot in Bosnia itself does lend more gravity to the
scenes. In spite of the criticism, the film was a huge success in cinemas
in Serbia and internationally, and opened the floor for the discussion of
the conflict in Serbia and elsewhere. The release of the film coincided
with the steady decline of support for the Milosevic regime in Serbia. More
importantly, Dragojevic came to be perceived as a liberal voice in a
society dominated by nationalism and controlled by censorship. The director
himself was praised by liberal intellectuals in the country for his courage
to approach Serb atrocities committed during the war.
Dragojevic built on his reputation as a liberal director when he
released the film, Rane/The Wounds, in 1998. The film examined the
involvement of two teenage boys in the world of Belgrade organised crime
during the 1990s. While the film did not focus on the war in Bosnia per se,
the war was still firmly in the background of the film's action and it
intensifies the representation of generational conflict. While the older
generation are highly affected by the war, the younger generation,
represented by the teenage gangster-protagonists, live in a closed-off,
selfish world where the despair of ordinary people boosts their ability to
earn money and respect through drug-dealing. Again the film was hugely
popular, this time for its controversial exploration of the criminal
culture of Belgrade during the 1990s and also for its highlighting of the
hysterical nationalism in Serbia during the breakup of Yugoslavia. In the
film, Dragojevic's narrative, recanted by the teenage gangster Pinki, takes
the audience through the fate of Belgrade from 1991 to 1997. The narrative
does not only refer to the wars in Croatia and Bosnia; the film also
portrays the results of the UN trade embargo of 1992-93 on the Belgrade
population, which resulted in massive shortages of food and fuel, as well
as depicting the protests against Milosevic in 1996. The film gained cult
status, especially amongst the younger generation, and was widely-acclaimed
internationally for its unapologetic negation of the culture of Milosevic's
These films established Dragojevic as a liberal director, who was
willing to approach controversial subjects and offer an alternative source
of information. The popularity of Dragojevic's films was also based on the
ways in which he directed, intertwining documentary-style footage, stories
loosely based on factual events, and a mixture of both comic and tragic
elements. His carnivalesque style of directing also had its appeal to the
Serbian population; Dragojevic creates a comedic world using clown-like
characters on the one hand, but on the other, he uses recognisable events
that were actually taking place, bringing a sense of personal tragedy to
his film narratives. His particular speciality lies in his
characterisations of Serb war criminals and gangsters, which contributed to
the formation of a war criminal character-stereotype in Serbian film, a
tradition which has continued to this day. . Furthermore, Dragojevic is
renowned for being highly-opinionated and frank in interviews, of which he
takes part in many. He also offers judgement and interpretations of his own
films, by creating documentaries on the making of his films providing
audiences with a summary of his films from his perspective.[2]
Dragojevic, or rather his filmography, has remained popular following
the 1990s, although many of his later projects did not reach the level of
success that his early films from the 1990s achieved. Frustrated by his
inability to find funding in Yugoslavia, on the same day that NATO began
bombing Serbia in 1999, Dragojevic left the country for the US. The trip
was short and fruitless, with Dragojevic turning down all of the scripts
offered to him in Hollywood. He returned to Serbia in 2001 to pursue his
career at home instead.
However, following the downfall of Milosevic in 2000 and Serbia's
ensuing slow path to democratisation, the director has effectively been
robbed of much of the subject matter that characterised his liberal agenda
in the 1990s. The films that Dragojevic has directed since 2001 – Mi nismo
andjeli 2 (We Are Not Angels 2, 2005) and the historical blockbuster Sveti
Georgije ubiva azdahu (St. George Shoots the Dragon, 2009) have not been
very successful and many fans expressed their disappointment with the
director. The Serbian film industry in the last decade has been somewhat
stagnant, in large part due to the lack of funding available and the choke-
hold that a small number of directors and actors have over the film
industry. There is very little scope for newer directors to fully break
through without the presence of the famous actors, which many people have
come to expect in domestic Serbian films.
While the film industry itself is very small, it has seen considerable
success over the years and has produced internationally recognised
directors, such as Emir Kusturica and Dragojevic himself. However, the
success of Serbian filmmakers is often dependent on the liberality of their
filmmaking and their orientalisation, or to use Maria Todorova's term,
balkanisation, of Serbians themselves. There is widespread dissatisfaction
amongst the public that most Serbian films are produced with funding from
European institutions, which often influences the types of films being
made; there is increasing discussion of Europe imposing its ideals on
Serbian film.
Therefore, within this context, it is possible to see why a director
such as Dragojevic would create a film such as The Parade. The film can be
seen as illustrating some of the liberal agenda behind Dragojevic's work.
The characters (war criminals and their associates), which have appeared in
previous Dragojevic films, have been deliberately revitalised in The
Parade. The characters of The Parade, and the actors who portray them, were
cult figures during the 1990s, therefore creating both comedic value and a
comfortable sense of recognition amongst the Serbian viewing audience.
Furthermore, Dragojevic has established himself as a director based on the
success of his cult films of the 1990s and on their liberal orientation,
which still influences the way his later films are received and perceived.

With this background context in mind, this paper will now proceed to an
examination of the film The Parade and its depiction of homosexual subject.
The summary of the movie is written by the director himself:

The Parade: A Story of Two Serbias

A homophobic, middle-aged, Serbian gangster ends up sacrificing
himself to protect Gay freedom in his country. Radmilo (35) and Mirko
(30) are [a] young and successful gay couple, and they would be a
happy couple anywhere else except in - Serbia. They try to live
discreetly but still, every day they are abused by the homophobic
majority. Plus, Mirko is a gay rights activist, and his dream is to
organize the first successful Pride event in Belgrade. This is almost
a "mission impossible"; in 2001, an attempt to hold Pride in Belgrade
ended up in bloodshed. One decade later, the situation is not much
better - nationalist and neo-Nazi organizations prepare another
massacre in case of holding [sic] the gay parade, while the police
refuse to provide protection for the participants... THE PARADE, in a
tragicomic way, tells the story about ongoing battle between two
worlds in contemporary post-war Serbian society - the traditional,
oppressive, homophobic majority and a liberal, modern and open-minded
minority. (Dragojevic 2011).

This article posits that The Parade is the perfect example of where these
two sides of Serbia stand at the present moment and Dragojevic's above
quotation illustrates that the film was created with this intention in
mind. It is significant that in his above summary of the film, Dragojevic
highlights the relationship between the film and the real-life context of
LGBT rights in Serbia, including the controversy surrounding the holding of
the Pride Parade.
As Dragojevic states, the film is the story of Radmilo and Mirko, who are
trying to live a normal life in the entrenched homophobia of Belgrade.
Radmilo and Mirko are introduced to Limun by chance – Radmilo is a
veterinarian who saves the life of Limun's beloved bulldog and Mirko is a
wedding planner, who is helping Limun's fiancée to organise their wedding.
Limun's fiancée has sympathy for Mirko and demands that Limun uses his
security company to protect Mirko's planned Pride Parade. After all of
Limun's colleagues refuse to help to protect the LGBT community, Limun is
forced to go on a road trip with Radmilo to recruit people amongst his
fellow war criminals across the region. While the recruitment is a success
and the Pride Parade can thus take place, the small group of LGBT activists
are naturally met with violent opposition from right-wing youths, one of
whom is Limun's wayward son.
The Parade deserves particular attention because the film was an
unprecedented success at the box-office, gathering over half a million
viewers in Serbia and the region, which is not often achieved by domestic
Serbian films.[3] Dragojevic managed to attract an astonishing number of
production companies to the project – including those from Serbia,
Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Italy and the EU (van den Berg 2012;
Hoad 2012). Thus the film mobilized enormous productive forces from the
region and attracted a considerable amount of funding.
The Parade also received mostly positive reviews in the Serbian and
international press, with some of these reviews being given by reputed
Serbian and Croatian contemporary writers, such as Svetislav Basara, Marko
Vidojković and Ante Tomić (Basara 2011; Vidojković 2011; Tomić 2011). The
film also won acclaim at respected international film festivals, such as
the Berlin and Rome Film Festivals.[4] This combination of industry and
audience interest was no small feat for a Serbian film concerning an issue
seen as being hugely controversial in Serbia and neighbouring countries.
The scale of co-production and the success the film achieved is indicative
of a widespread acknowledgement of Dragojevic's status as a director and
audience interest in viewing cinema on taboo subjects.
The film was not universally received in a positive way, though. The
negative reviews of The Parade focused primarily on the film's commercial
aspect and did not focus on the portrayal of the LGBT community in the
film; Ajla Terzić thus compares the movie to a cheap Balkan dish (kavurma)
that is consumed by the masses because it is affordable, while Vladan
Petković describes it as 'nothing more than a marketing trick' (Terzić
2011; Petković 2011). In the most comprehensive analysis of the film to
date, Jasna Koteska persuasively argues that The Parade is most significant
for its codification of traditional Balkan masculinity. According to
Koteska's interpretation:

'Even though the movie wishes to send the message of tolerance, it
[the film], paradoxically, perverts its own message in that it
actually presents the criminal code as the main substance of the
Balkan masculinity.'

'Problem ovog filma je u tome što, iako... film želi da pošalje poruku
koja bi trebalo da afirmiše toleranciju, ovo ostvarenje, paradoksalno,
pervertira upravo svoju vlastitu poruku – i to tako što kriminalni kod
uspijeva da predstavi kao glavnu supstancu balkanske muškosti.' (2012:
In this condemnation, Koteska remains confined to an analysis of the
leading male hero, Limun, in the context of Balkan masculinity, and is less
concerned with how gay subjectivity and its relation with the heterosexual
matrix is presented in this movie. In this paper, the representations of
the supremacy of Balkan masculinity are extended to an analysis of the
corresponding impact on the representation of the LGBT community.
The central question of our analysis of the movie would thus be the
following: can The Parade be read as the ultimate emancipation of gay
subjectivity and a victory for gay rights in Serbia, or the film still
operates within a predominantly right-wing and nationalistic framework? In
order to approach this question of subjectivity and representation, this
paper will make three propositions. The first proposition employs Laura
Mulvey's framework on positioning the homosexual within the dominant male
gaze of cinema (Mulvey 1975). The second proposition reads the film through
Judith Butler's theory of 'embedded images' (Butler 2009). The final, third
proposition will examine the film's success in the audience from the region
by referring to Gayatri Spivak's notion of the 'subject that presides by
disavowal' (Spivak 1988).

Who controls the gaze?: Homosexual as Image, Man as Bearer of the Look

In her seminal article, 'Visual pleasure and Narrative Cinema', Laura
Mulvey argues that mainstream Hollywood cinema is marked by a determining
male gaze, that the man is the bearer of the look, whereas the woman is to
be looked-at, usually as an erotic object; or, as Mulvey posits, the woman
is an icon, 'displayed for the gaze and enjoyment of men, the active
controllers of the look' (1975: 13). The result, as Mulvey describes, is
the split into an active/male and passive/female role. It is the man's role
that is the active one of forwarding the story and thus the spectator
identifies with the main male protagonist (1975: 11). This last statement
by Mulvey is fully-applicable to the context of The Parade, where male
domination is asserted through the criminal-hero, whilst the homosexual is
reduced to the feminine-passive position.
In one scene from The Parade, the lead character, Limun, decides that
Radmilo needs to accompany him on this trip to former Yugoslav Republics,
in search of allies among his former war enemies. Limun instructs Radmilo
how to behave whilst they are there and, in essence, how to be a man. This
scene is representative for the plot and for the narrative approach in
general – the homophobic Limun, an ex-war-criminal (now just a criminal),
has the dominant role in every respect. Limun is the protagonist in the
movie that the audience identifies with; or, to employ the language of
traditional narrative theory, it is Limun's point of view that orients the
narrative perspective. Radmilo is depicted as being unmanly, feminine,
passive and weak, constantly exposed to humiliation by heterosexual male
characters, and embodies several traditional and stereotypical prejudices
about homosexuals. Radmilo is excluded from the male position of power
through his weak female behavior.
A benevolent spectator could perhaps try to identify here a subtle
artistic appropriation of the master-slave dialectic: even though the slave
is the object dependent on his master, he emancipates himself and gains his
subjectivity through their relation at the expense of his master (Hegel
1977: 178-96). In this sense, after all his sexism, machismo and
chauvinism, it is actually Limun, not gay Radmilo, who undergoes a
transformation towards the end of the movie and is presumed to have altered
his world-view. However, in the classical master-slave allegory, it is the
slave that is active in the first place and the slave that eventually
becomes the dominant one. In The Parade, there are no such profound
transformations or inversions of the dominant roles. In one of the last,
and purposefully more emotional, scenes in the movie, this transformation
of Limun is most explicit. On the eve of the Pride Parade, Limun is
reflecting in private and Radmilo joins his vigil. Limun is experiencing an
inner turmoil at having to face his son, a skinhead neo-Nazi, at the Parade
the next day. This event triggers an inner philosophical change in Limun,
leading him to reflect on his former prejudices. While it is clear that
Limun himself has experienced a form of catharsis, his attitude has still
not undergone any massive transformation. After Limun informs Radmilo,
'Okej ste bre/ you lot are OK mate', they have sealed their masculine
friendship through the acceptance by the dominant male. Limun accepts
Radmilo and his gay friends, but the recognition still depends solely on
Limun and remains limited to his world-view. Hence, this recognition is
given in the form – you are actually OK, you are normal like us – us being
violent, right-wing patriarchal males. At the end of their conversation,
Limun shares his whiskey with Radmilo in a sign of fraternal bonding. Limun
is stunned and pleased when not only can Radmilo now hold his drink like a
man; Radmilo also now refrains from sticking out his little finger when he
holds the glass. All this testifies to the concept that Radmilo must become
more male, to become more assertive and able to face down the opponents of
the Parade.
It must be noted that in spite of this assertion of heterosexual male
dominance, Dragojevic does not portray all elements of the homosexual man
as being abhorrent. The film positively views several of the perceived
stereotypical past-times of the homosexual male. Mirko, the unformal leader
of the Pride group, brilliantly re-decorates Limun's house, much to the
delight of Limun's future bride, while his partner Radmilo, a veterinarian,
saves the day when he safely delivers a goat, a mascot of Limun's Croatian
alter-ego named Niko, who is a war weteran and football fan. By these
acts, homosexuals certainly affirm themselves in the eyes of their
masculine counterparts. However, these instances illustrate that, while the
homosexual male might be able to fulfill a role in society, these roles are
the jobs they perform are still depicted as being unmanly, an instance
which does not go un-noticed by their (normal) masculine counterparts.

"Embedded frames"

The second proposition is that this film introduced new content into
mainstream Serbian filmmaking, but positioned this content within an
existing framework. To illustrate, this paper employs Judith Butler's
recent theoreticization of 'embedded reporting', which a phrase Butler uses
to describe the American media's coverage of the wars in Afghanistan and
Iraq. In her words:

'Embedded' journalists traveled only on certain transports, looked
only at certain scenes, and relayed home images and narratives of only
certain kinds of action. Embedded reporting implies that reporters
working under such conditions agree not to make the mandating of
perspective itself into a topic to be reported and discussed; hence
these reporters were offered access to the war only on the condition
that their gaze remain restricted to the established parameters […]'
(2009: 64)

The result is that the production of new images and content remains framed
within a pre-existing framework, and therefore does not challenge this
framework in spite of the content. There is a clear parallel between the
type of concealment used in 'embedded reporting' and the narrative content
of The Parade. It is impossible to deny that the film introduces a new
topic to Serbian and regional cinema – there are a number of LGBT
characters in the movie, and the entire plot seemingly revolves around the
question of the right to hold Gay Pride. However, the broader and pre-
existing framework in which this new content is set remains unquestioned,
unchallenged and, thus, ultimately unaltered.
Nowhere is the persistence of the existing framework as evident as in
the scene when Limun and Radmilo return home from their trip accompanied by
a group of Limun's wartime friend-enemies. The scene depicts both men's
first encounter with their loved ones, and it is precisely in this
simultaneous reunification that the complete superiority of the normative
heterosexual matrix (the existing framework) becomes most apparent. Limun
and his fiancée, Pearl, enjoy a passionate embrace; yet, when Radmilo and
Mirko approach each other with equal passion, they realize that the
heterosexuals are watching them with dismay, and reduce their reunion so as
to make their love acceptable to the others. There is a stark contrast
between the likable, persuasive, normative heterosexual rencontre, and the
suspended, shameful encounter between the gay couple. This scene is the
closest that the film approaches the representation of gay sexuality or
love in this movie; Mirko is just about to kiss his lover, but then he is
reminded of the heterosexual gaze that is fixed upon them and auto-censures
his kiss.
There are several other opportunities for the film to assert the
inferiority of homosexuals. Another homosexual character, again with a
suitably feminine body and bodily movements, shows his attraction to the
newly-arrived masculine criminal-warriors in a most banal and vulgar way,
by asking them for the permission to touch their muscles. Finally, the
scene continues into yet another example of the inferiority of the
homosexual relationship. Mirko sees that one of the masculine warriors is
wearing a scarf he has given to Radmilo; Mirko makes a jealous scene and
then locks himself in the bathroom where he sobs like a girl.
In spite of his feminised inferiority, in one of the last and crucial
scenes, Mirko finally experiences a transformation in the face of the right-
wing enemy at the Parade. When faced with a group of feral right-wing
hooligans, the Parade begins to lose heart and Mirko rises to give an
impassioned speech about two Serbias (much like Dragojevic does in the
above quotation), to inspire his frightened fellow homosexuals into holding
their ground.
Please people, before you decide to go look at these people! This is
not anymore about being straight or gay, this is two Serbias, that
Serbia over there, force you every day to be something you are not; it
forces you to adopt six different acts, one for parents, one for
friends, for colleagues, for the street and for work! It forces you to
be something you are not! It's draining! I know we will be beat up
today, probably like we never have been before, but even that is
better than a humiliation which we suffer all our f..king life!

Molim vas ljudi pre nego što bilo ko od vas ode, pogledajte ove ljude!
Nije ovo više pitanje strejt ili gej, ovo su dve Srbije, samo što vas
ova Srbija svaki dan tera da budete ono što niste; ona vas tera da
imate šest različitih uloga, jednu za roditelje, za prijatelje, za
ulicu, za posao! Tera vas da budete ono što niste! Crpi vam snagu!
Znam ja da ćemo danas da dobijemo najveće batine u svom životu, al'
čak i te batine su bolje od od ovog poniženja koje trpimo ceo jebeni

Following this rousing speech, Mirko dies heroically in this clash; yet his
subsequent funeral and the next successful Belgrade Pride mark the symbolic
victory of that second, liberal and homophile Serbia that he stood for. Yet
this analysis of the film's use of 'embedded images' has shown that the
price of final victory cost much more than just Mirko's life. In the
structure of the movie, the victory came only through the dependence of
homosexuals on the heterosexual, wartime right-wing forces from the region,
now completely redeemed of their previous sins. Furthermore, this victory
comes only after a series of humiliations and exploitations of homosexuals
for comic effects through common prejudices and stereotypes of the LGBT
community. The Parade, in short, certainly marks the entrance of the gay
subject into mainstream Serbian cultural production, but only via the
nationalistic male gaze on whose recognition and protection the gay subject
still depends.

The Subject That Presides by Disavowal

In conclusion, the third proposition will offer thoughts about the success
of this film, in spite of the film's controversial subject matter. In
interviews, Dragojevic often mentions strong emotions that film evokes in
the audience (Hrgović 2011). In this sense, his explanations of the film's
appeal to the emotions of the audience come close to a traditional
understanding of catharsis – the audience becomes exposed to strong
emotions and ultimately becomes purified of their previously-experienced,
and inherently wrong, homophobic sentiments.
However, as the previous propositions have posited, and the enduring
negative attitude towards the LGBT community in Serbia illustrates, there
is essentially no real catharsis in the film. Why then did the film prove
to be so popular with audiences? One is tempted to draw parallels between
Gaytri Spivak's suspicion in the Western critique of the sovereign Subject
and this Balkan critique of the sovereign patriarchal male. Spivak, namely,
observed that the Western critique of the Cartesian subject actually
follows from the desire to keep this as a privileged object of Western

Some of the most radical criticism coming out of the West today is the
result of an interested desire to conserve the subject of the West, or
the West as Subject… The much-publicized critique of the sovereign
subject thus actually inaugurates the subject. (Subaltern, 1988, p. 66)

In other words, The Parade, by having an exemplary patriarchal, sexist,
right-wing Limun as its hero, does exactly what Spivak says – this
construct re-inaugurates the traditional patriarchal male subject. This
maintaining of the privileged hierarchy can be interpreted as the source of
popularity of the film. The traditional subject continues to preside, in
spite of all the challenges and transformations brought about during the
transition of Serbia; the film thus, while doubtlessly advocating the
values (and the eventual victory) of liberalism, nevertheless upholds a
patriarchal and heterosexual framework.


The present analysis of The Parade has illustrated that the representation
of homosexuality in the film is hugely problematic and displays the
limitations of contemporary Serbian liberalism. On the one hand, there is a
clear message in the film of the necessity to transform opinions on LGBT
people in Serbia; however, there is also intrinsic support for the
maintenance of heterosexual norms. This paper has posited that the
representation of the LGBT community and LGBT rights is filtered through a
pre-existing framework, and is therefore limited by traditional,
heterosexual representations of homosexuality. More significantly, the film
presides over an unfortunate normalization of masculine, war criminals,
through the transformation of these former hyper-conservatives into the
defenders and saviors of homosexuality, thus positioning them as inherently
liberal characters.
In spite of the limitations of the film, Dragojevic's tale of 'two
Serbias' is important for the discussion of the two sides of contemporary
Serbia; both as a point of destination and as a point of departure. The
Parade captures the dysfunctional coexistence of, apparently, not-so narrow-
minded nationalists and not so open-minded liberals, which illustrates the
real-life context of contemporary Serbian society. While The Parade also
panders to this dysfunctional coexistence by tempering the message which
the film wishes to communicate, the film and its director does express the
potential for the eventual transformation of Serbian attitudes towards the
LGBT community. However, the film also illustrates valuable explorations of
the wider framework for the stereotypical depiction of homosexuality, which
of course is not limited to Serbia and the country's regional neighbours.
The film's popularity and international acclaim hints that radically
emancipatory approach to the topic of LGBT rights in the Balkan
cinematography (and beyond) is still an area of filmmaking that is awaiting
to be fully explored.


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[1] See, for instance, Serbian 2009 Anti-Discrimination Law and Gender
Equality Act, and (page
accessed 12 April 2013)
[2] Film o filmu: Lepa sela lepo gore/Film about the film: Pretty Village,
Pretty Flame, (Cobra Film Department, 1996); Rane: Film o filmu/ Rane: A
film about the film, (Cobra Film Department, 1998).
[3] According to The Film Centre of Serbia, approximately 300,000 of these
viewers watched the film in Serbia: [last accessed
audience-votes [last accessed 02/05/2013]
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