Irish drama has few representations of police officers as anything but a trope for authority, tending to avoid any substantive character development. Likewise, it has few representations of homosexual characters, and when such representations do exist they are often caricatures. Reductive portrayals of police often arise from the complex relationship the Irish have with authority and with the legal system. But one of the few exceptions to this trend, and the only play to tackle the representation of a police officer and a homosexual at once, is Gerard Stembridge’s play The Gay Detective (1996). The play offers up the character of Pat, a ‘gay detective’, a fascinating dramatic portrayal of the collision of two identities which, on the surface, contest each other. Alternately comic and tragic, poignant and gruesome, with an ambiguous ending, Stembridge’s work defies attempts at easy categorization. He explores the comic possibilities in the tension between the codified identifiers of Irish police officers and of gay men, two codes which don’t often ‘speak’ to each other, but he also demonstrates the tragedy in the misunderstanding between these two cultures. The collision provides a fascinating study of codified behaviour and the way different codes of identity recognition can clash in one individual. This paper will explore the implications of Pat’s seemingly incompatible persona, implications that force a consideration of his adoption of these codes in terms of Judith Butler’s concept of ‘masquerade’ allowing for a kind of interpellation.
Heininge, Kathleen A., "Living by the Code: Authority in Gerard Stembridge's The Gay Detective" (2015). Faculty Publications - Department of English. 65.