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Besties, villains, and sidekicks: Representations of queer people from Agatha Christie’s 1950 novel A Murder Is Announced to its 2005 film adaptation

Westcott-King, Arianne (2022) Besties, villains, and sidekicks: Representations of queer people from Agatha Christie’s 1950 novel A Murder Is Announced to its 2005 film adaptation. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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In the many adaptations of Agatha Christie novels, it could be assumed that the representation of queer people would change as societal norms and values also change over time. However, this study calls this assumption into question.

I investigate how the representations of queer people in Agatha Christie’s A Murder Is Announced changed from the original 1950 novel to its 2005 film adaptation, exploring the extent to which Christie’s novel and its filmic adaptation work to reflect queer representations over an extended period. I examine the differences in queer representation between the novel and the film, and how these differences reflect or challenge societal changes. This process of analysis further uncovers a strong connection between crime fiction and queer theory. I found that the queer theory principles of performativity and deconstruction of identity aligns with the performance of identity and innocence in crime fiction, as well as the deconstruction of identity as the detective searches for the criminal. I argue that these intersections between queer theory and crime fiction are central to Christie’s crime fiction narratives.

Representations of queer people from 1950 to 2005 in Christie’s crime fiction underwent minimal change. The exploration of the setting of the narrative, in terms of both era and location, uncovers layers of identity performance and social permeability which reinforce identity as an important element of the narrative. Through the analysis of butch/femme lesbian representation, I find a reliance on the performance of heteronormative stereotypes used by both texts to demonstrate loving relationships. The representations of queer people in the 2005 film adaptation of A Murder Is Announced suggests an insistence that queer people be represented through dated stereotypes originating from the 1950s; a stylistic choice that may be reflective of the target audience for Christie’s work, instead of an attempt to update queer representations to appeal to a new contemporary audience.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Social Sciences and Arts
Supervisor(s): Grehan, Helena and Sinclair, Lian
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