There appears to be two types of failure for Halberstam: one is incompleteness, and the other is negation. During the less serious portions of the essay Halberstam focuses on the incompleteness. These include the sections on the early Disney cartoons (22), the CGI films of DreamWorks and Pixar (20-21), and also Little Miss Sunshine (5). I appreciate the silly sections of the writing for its attempt to disrupt the pedagogy of essay writing itself in an attempt to display Low Theory in a Low Theory way. Even though the name Low Theory might not be the best, and the admission that it puts itself into opposition with High Theory in a way that’s a little too close to the kind of hierarchical opposition that High Theory would itself espouse (15).
The negation version of failure appears in the section concerning colonialization and subjugation of knowledge, in the way that Foucault urges the resistance of discipline, legitimization and hegemony (10-11). There is something distinctly heavier about this version of failure, something more frightening. Halberstam touches on this again on 23, writing, “I begin by addressing the dark heart of the negativity that failure conjures, and I turn from the happy and productive failures explored in animation to darker territories of failure associated with futility, sterility, emptiness, loss, negative effect in general and modes of unbecoming.” This other form of failure, I guess be called negation, but it also failure as a location, which delineates it from the failure of incompleteness, which finds itself aligned with creativity and possibility. This failure as a location is more permanent, and kind of failure-for-itself.
The section where these two types of failure overlap is in Pirate Cultures (18). The Pirate Culture, an early resistance to the capitalist state, is similar to queer-ness in that it combines the incompleteness of the failure as a journey, with the failure as location-ness of negation. The Pirate is incomplete in that they are falling short of the capitalist idea wealth, but also, they are a negation, in that they represent a parallel form of economy: a criminal economy, from which the pirate can never hope to return. Similarly: queerness represents both a falling sort of sexual and gender demands, which can also be described as Capitalist, and a parallel sexual and gender structure from which one cannot return.
Halberstam’s writing also reminded why I love Daffy Duck. As a child, I disliked Disney cartoons, because of how moralizing they seemed to me, as Halberstam mentions on 22. So as a kid I made a point to watch Loony Tunes over Disney, which in its own way was following the oppositional tendencies of Capitalism, but I felt Looney Tunes represented something drastically different, an embrace of the manic, of illogic, and metaphor over science. Even Bugs Bunny, for all his coolness, represented a kind of laid back violence. But it was Daffy Duck that I liked most of all, and I think it was because of his static state of constant failure. It was his put-upon-ness that appealed to me. And in some ways, you can read a moralistic bent in Daffy, that his greed and avarice would bring about his undoing: it was in that state of being undone that he would reach his most essential state, babbling, bent-billed, mad. And Bugs, who was the author of Daffy’s undoing as often as not, was an anti-hero at best. There were no simple moral plays in Looney Tunes, just un-hinged sub-consciousness, playing out archetypes.