Category Archives: Project Proposals

Lexi’s Project Proposal: Intersectionality through Black Queer Cinema

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Lexi White

March 17, 2013

Queer and Feminist Film

 

Final Project Proposal

In light of my interest in the genre of Black Queer Cinema and Black Queer Studies as a discipline, I would like for my final project to focus on analyzing how the politics of identity and intersectionality are portrayed through Black Queer Cinema.  I am particularly interested in two Black Queer Cinema films that I have seen in the past, films I hope to revisit so I can further research and analyze.

The first film is Marlon T. Rigg’s Classic Documentary entitled, Tongues Untied, a film produced in 1989 that largely addresses and portrays the culture of silence around black queer identity as well as the politics of exclusion in the white gay movement.  The second film is Looking for Langston, a British film also produced in 1989 by Isaac Julien.  This artsy memoriam to Langston Hughes similarly deals with themes of intersectionality between maleness, blackness, and queerness and the “othering” and violences that accompany this identity.  This film deals also with the theme of silenced identity due to celebrity and is set around the time of the Harlem Renaissance.

Interestingly, both films strongly incorporate an element of poetry as a tool for telling traditionally “unspoken” truths and creating space for candid dialogue and broken silence.  Through my final project, I hope to analyze and tell how the use of poetry in both films breaks silences that surround the intersectionality of blackness and queerness and how this broken silence manifests itself through the techniques of film that we have discussed in class so far.  Why does the filmmaker choose the particular poems? What images accompany the poems in the film and why?  How does film bring poetry to life in ways that the poetry itself might not be able to do with words alone.  Are there times when words and language yield more power than visual representation?

Marlon T. Riggs, a gay African American filmmaker, poet, activist, and educator portrays both fiction and personal narrative in Tongues Untied while highlighting themes of racism, homophobia and the multitude of violence that characterizes identifying with both blackness and queerness.  Riggs also addresses the HIV/AIDS epidemic in his film.  In order to delve further into the themes portrayed in this documentary, I am interested in reading more of Riggs work, including interviews he has participated in that relate to the documentary and other academic and activist work that relates to his central themes.  I would also like to read more of Riggs poetry and textually locate and analyze some of the poems and stanzas that appear in the documentary.  Furthermore, I am interested in reading scholarship about Tongues Untied and incorporating this into my analysis.  I found an article by Northwestern scholar, Chuck Kleinhans entitled “Ethnic Notions: Tongues Untied Mainstreams and Margins” that offers insight into intersectional black, queer identity and how these representations are told through Tongues Untied, in particular.  Another book that will serve as a source to my investigation is a book entitled Slaves to Fashion: Black Dandyism and the Styling of Black Diasporic Identity by Monica L. Miller.  Miller has an entire chapter dedicated to Looking for Langston where she parcels out what black dandyism looks like culturally and how this expression is portrayed amidst other forms of intersectionality in the film.

For the video media component of the project, I’d like to perhaps try my hand at pairing poetry and visual representation myself, and/or offering my analysis verbally while recording myself.  I’ve also considered adding a component of interview and reaching out to friends of mine in the black queer community to gain their perceptions of how poetry and film techniques are used in Tongues Untied and Looking for Langston.

A poet myself, I have always deemed poetry to be a vehicle for breaking silences and creating room for dialogue and told truths that conversational language doesn’t always allow.  Likewise, a new scholar to film after my experience in Queer and Feminist Film this semester, I am beginning to see how film, like poetry, has the capacity to break silences and offer visual representations of identity categories that all to often to underrepresented, misrepresented or not represented at all.  In analyzing the intersectionality of queerness and blackness as portrayed through Tongues Untied and Looking for Langston, I will simultaneously be learning about the intersectionality of two creative art forms: poetry and film, and their potential to work cooperatively in addressing issues of representation and notions of subjectivity.  I am really excited to take on this project and want to make sure I do not completely bind myself with this initial idea, as I think there is room for lots of creativity and changes that might arise with additional research.

Final Project Proposal- AIDS in the Queer Community

 

For my project, I will be exploring the ideologies around films depicting males infected by HIV/AIDS. In Harry Benshoff and Sean Griffins’ Chapter “A Matter of Life and Death: AIDS, Activism, Film and Video,” they point out how the depiction of men contacted with AIDS usually portrayed them as victims. This immediately made me think of Philadelphia, which I had just seen a few weeks ago. Tom Hanks is portrayed as a victim who has to resort to legal action in order to find some sort of equality for himself. I want to explore the ideologies portrayed in relation to Philadelphia (1993). I will also be including movie reviews and opinion pieces printed in The New York Times at the time of the movie’s release to further explore how the queer community reacted to this illustration. I will particularly focus on Jim Schmalz’s “From Visions of Paradise to Hell” because he provides a first hand account of the tension, as a men infected by AIDS himself.

I will also be focusing in on Longtime Companion (1989), which is the first wide-released film to have used AIDS as a centerpiece in its plot. I want to focus in on this because I think it takes a different approach to what I expected the first film on AIDS to take. Firstly, It portrays people with affluent backgrounds as the protagonists of the movie which I found interesting because I thought the first wide-released film would portray people from a low socioeconomic status in order to reflect the negative stigma behind AIDS. The film also shows the fear within the queer community of contracting AIDS, which I also found to be something note-worthy.

After this, I would like to focus in on the ideologies behind Chocolate Babies(1997). Chocolate Babies portrays queer men with AIDS as empowered social revolutionists in the fight against the bureaucracy of AIDS. This film is such a contrast from Longtime Companion and Philadelphia that it would help provide a timeline to show how queer ideologies on film progressed between 1989 and 1997. Although this not a long period of time, the three films I chose show a changing dialogue among the queer community and among the public about AIDS.

Chocolate Babies’ portrayal of characters also influenced me to look at the role that the audiences play in these AIDS-related films. Are these films trying to make audiences pity people who are infected by AIDS or empower them to lead revolutions against it and how does the time period in which these films were made influence these messages? Furthermore, I will also ask the question of why certain audiences are targeted: should the film target queer audiences in order to become more informed about AIDS or should heterosexual audiences be targeted in order to generate compassion for the AIDS infected population?

Lastly, I would like to focus on the ways in which popular culture has become involved in spreading the message of AIDS. I’m particularly thinking about Salt-n-Pepa’s “Let’s Talk about AIDS” and other initiatives that may have taken place at the same time. I think it’s particularly important to think about cast choices of these movies as well. Is it significant to have people like Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, who had just gained some fame for his role in Malcolm X, to star in a movie about AIDS? What is the significance of casting a group of African American queer men as revolutionaries instead of a group of Caucasian queer men? In conjunction with this idea, it would also be good to explore how certain communities were being targeted to learn about AIDS through popular culture. I would like to argue that having Magic Johnson disclose his AIDS status caused a pivotal moment in the history of AIDS. I will use part of his documentary, The Announcement, to show how he went about bringing awareness of AIDS to the African American community and to the youth that looked up to him.

For my video, I would like to have an interactive timeline showing the places and the movies that really ensured the inception of AIDS as a topic of discussion in popular culture. I’m still not exactly sure how I would want to do this, but I think by researching more I’ll be able to come up with a better plan or flow for how it could go. Another direction I was thinking of going is seeing how queer men with AIDS are depicted in contemporary films and compare and contrast the different aspects that relate or contradict the way that these characters were compared in the past.

 

Summary

Questions:

  1. How do films depict the ideology behind people who have contracted AIDS? How does socioeconomic status affect the image of queer men who have AIDS?
  2. How do different AIDS-related movies target their audiences? Why exactly are these the audiences they are trying to reach?
  3. What are the specific ways in which the different communities were targeted in order to raise awareness about AIDS?
      1. African Americans (especially the youth)- Magic Johnson, Salt & Pepa, Using Denzel Washington & Tom Hanks for the general public

Films:

Longtime Companion (1989)

Philadelphia (1993)

Chocolate Babies (1997)

The Announcement (2012)

Texts:

Benshoff, Harry and Sean Griffin. “A Matter of Life and Death.” Queer Images: A

History of Gay and Lesbian Film in America. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006. 201-218.

Corliss, Richard, and Elizabeth L. Bland. “The Gay Gauntlet.” Time 143.6 (1994): 62. Print.

Grimes, William. “AIDS is the Subject, but Who is the Audience?.” The New York Times1993. Print.

Hart, Kylo-Patrick R. “Representing Men with HIV/AIDS in American Movies.”Journal of Men’s Studies 11.1 (2002): 77. Print.

Schmalz, Jeffrey. “From Visions of Paradise to Hell on Earth.” The NewYork Times 1993. Print.

Sendziuk, Paul. “Philadelphia Or Death.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian & Gay Studies 16.3 (2010): 444-7. Print 

Research Proposal

 

Currently, I have a very convoluted and entangled web of ideas that seems to become more complicated the more I do research. Mainly however, through this project proposal, I want to analyze the femme aesthetic and the idea of “passing” among mainstream and queer groups. Films such as Bound and Female to Femme presented the tensions that arise between the different forms of self-presentation between butch and femme women, both internally and externally. The LGBT community may often regard individuals that are able to pass by what is deemed as the mainstream heterosexual aesthetic as not being queer enough. Through their appearance as either more feminine or masculine subjects, the film presented the bodies of lesbian women in order to signify different things. The stocking-clad legs of Violet are framed in a much different way than is the body of Corky or even that of Joao in Madame Sata. These films in particular address the varying portrayals of femininity as well as femme-ness. Duggan and McHugh emphasize the fluidity that exists within the category of femme by emphasizing its fluidity, “a fundamental challenge to the category, the slot, the ideal of the feminine” (Duggan &McHugh 166). And at the same time, Female to Femme portrays the process and of the choices necessary to arrive to the label of femme. This is an identity that appeared to be carefully articulated and analyzed; performativity was present as women were aware of and reveled in being viewed. Yet what I still have questions about is the consideration and thought process that goes behind positioning oneself or identifying as a femme. Female bodies are always presented in terms of comparison to one another and this appears magnified in the positioning of femme and butch women. Huxley, Clarke, and Halliwell address the “negotiation of gender and sexual identity categories at the level of individual butch and femme identity narratives” as these two groups are often placed at different ends of the spectrum of lesbian gender performance.

Ellen Samuels address the subject of the passing femme in an extremely interesting way that also addresses the other topics we have mentioned in class in regards to disability and gender identity. She frames disability and the misidentification of gender identity of queer women as “person whose bodily appearance does not immediately signal one’s own sense of identity” (Samuels 323). According to theorists, the analogy that is created between queer and disability identity arises as a result of the difficulties in access to queer culture. We must not forget that at one point, homosexuality and queerness was considered a mental disorder. Samuels speaks about the privileges that arise from passing as non-disabled and being non-queer but also of the internal dissonance that exists.

Even though Bound uses Corky and Violet as juxtapositions of one another, the film argues that the butch is necessary for society to believe the truth and validity behind the identity of the femme. As an audience, we needed Violet to run off into the sunset with another woman in order to believe that she was truly a lesbian yet this question never arose in terms of Corky’s sexuality. Violet and Corky are presented in the film as complementing one another in terms that reflect heterosexual relationships. The femme(fatale) is not shown as an individual that is able to stand on its own but rather requires the butch/masculine aesthetic and identity in order to convince herself and others of being lesbian/queer. While butch subjects face the challenges of hyper-visibility within mainstream society, the femme body is subject to invisibility not only among heteronormative but also queer society. VanNewkirk however, sees a subversive power within being invisible, since they refute the myth that “sexuality is always concrete and permanent… femme sexuality, because of its occasional invisible state, has the potential to move between ideological positions in order to destabilize them.” Being femme thus goes beyond aesthetics as an identity that defies the structures put in place by homonormative and heteronomative societies.

My plan of action for this project will be to organize my thoughts so that a topic as broad as the femme aesthetic becomes more manageable. I will read more articles that expand on the experience of being femme as well as the notion of being able to pass. Additionally, I want to refine my research in order to decide whether I will limit my research to only apply to women that identify as femme or whether this will also be extended onto men, such as Joao from Madame Sata.

Research questions:

–       What are the considerations and thought process that go behind becoming femme?

–       Is there a specific criterion that must be met for a woman to be considered femme as opposed to butch?

–       What are the privileges and downfalls of individuals being able to “pass” within mainstream society?

–       Can the femme identity stand on its own without the butch.

 

Texts:
Samuels, Ellen Jean.GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, Volume 9, Number 1-2, 2003, pp. 233-255

VanNewkirk, Robbin. “‘Gee, I Didn’t Get That Vibe from You’: Articulating My Own

Version of a Femme Lesbian Existence.” Journal of Lesbian Studies

Caroline J. Huxley, Victoria Clarke and Emma Halliwell ”It’s a Comparison Thing, Isn’t It?” : Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s Accounts of How Partner Relationships Shape Their Feelings About Their Body and Appearance, Psychology of Women Quarterly 2011 35: 415

Films:

Bound

Female to Femme

Madame Sata

 

Sam’s Project Proposal

Overview

In this class so far we’ve sampled from a number of different counter-cultural movements in film, including Third Cinema and New Queer Cinema, and while feminist themes have arisen in some of these films, we haven’t sampled from any movements in film that seem to be solely feminist, or part of a feminist agenda.  For a while now, one of the questions I’ve been trying to answer for myself is what a feminist film would even look like.  Clearly, there is not one view of what women are or how they ought to be; however, I think that what a feminist film ought to do first and foremost is reject the male gaze and perspective.  What I would like to for my project is look at films that are self-consciously feminist and analyze how they indicate a non-male perspective, and how these films differ from the mainstream in depictions of gender.  I would also specifically like to look at films that were directed by women; while I admit that a feminist film can be directed by a man, I think it is less likely, and I also think that female film directors are too few in number and suffer from lack of attention.  (Quick, list five female directors.) So, I’m interested specifically in women making films about women, and what difference that makes. 

Films

In searching for evidence of a feminist film movement, I encountered the (sort of meager) feminist branch of counter cinema, which grew out of second-wave feminism and had a decidedly avant-garde feel.  The films that are cited the most out of this movement are Thriller (Potter, 1979), Daughter Rite (Citron, 1978), Lives of Performers (Rainer, 1972), and Jeanne Dielman (Ackerman, 1975).  I am unsure if all of these films will be useful or only some of them.  I would like to use Jane Campion’s The Piano (1993), which is sometimes cited as coming out of counter-cinema despite being more mainstream.  It is frequently cited as a good example of the use of the feminine gaze in film (as well as being a really good film).  Campion wrote and directed the film, which was nominated for eight Academy Awards and stands as a rare example of a mainstream film with a clearly feminine perspective.  While I would really like to analyze this film, however, I worry that it is too separate from my topic, and too hard to include. 

Questions

  • How is a feminine gaze signified in film?  How, in other words, is the way that women are looked at in feminist films different than how they are looked at in most mainstream films?  I am especially interested in what different kinds of shots are used, the type of focus, etc. 
  • Is a feminine perspective necessarily a feminist perspective?  If not, does a feminine perspective at the very least make a film more feminist than a film from a male perspective? 
  • To what extent does perspective radicalize content?  In other words, does the plot and content of a film have to be extraordinary in order to have radical politics, or is changing perspective alone enough to do that, in what might otherwise be a mainstream kind of plot? 

Source List

  • Johnston, Claire, ‘Women’s Cinema as Counter-Cinema’, Notes on Women’s Cinema, (1973) SEFT, Glasgow: Screen Reprint, 1991: 24-31.
  • Bihlmeyer, Jaime. “The (Un)Speakable FEMININITY in Mainstream Movies: Jane Campion’s The Piano.” Cinema Journal 44.2 (2005): 68-88. JSTOR. Web.
  • Mayne, Judith, The Woman at the Keyhole. Feminism and Women’s Cinema. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990.
  • Mulvey, Laura, ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’ (1975), Visual And Other Pleasures. London: Macmillan, 1989: 14-26.

Plan

Clearly, any plan I make at this point is flexible, but first and foremost, as soon as possible, I intend to watch the films I have identified and take extensive notes.  Having watched these, I will then read the scholarly sources, and identify points therein which seem to have direct relation to aspects of the films.  I will then go back to the films and re-watch relevant scenes.  Also, if there are points that I feel the films bring up which are not addressed in the literature, I will try to expend my sources.  (I am loath to commit to too many sources at this point before I am completely certain about what I will be focusing on.)  Then, I should be able to determine relevant places which could be included on my Google Map.  I anticipate being able to complete that aspect of the project pretty quickly, so I might as well accomplish it first, prior to beginning the video project.  I will then mock up an outline of the paper, and start gathering appropriate footage for the digital video.  I should have this footage and have started sorting and editing it by April 9th, for the in-class lab.  Editing, I think, should be done as soon as possible, so I can have the finished product complete before the end of classes, so that I can dedicate the reading days to the paper. 

Final Project Proposal

Andrea Treus

Final Project Proposal 

Questions:

-Is being a femme fatale a crime? Do the physical characteristics of the femme fatale further criminalize her character?

-How do the queer undertones imply to be a crime in films? How obvious does their queerness have to be to the audience? For example, in Rope their relationship was never explicitly stated. On the other hand, in Bound there were scenes of their sexual encounters.

-How critical is the role of a femme fatale in a film? How is she significant to the social construction of women today?  For example, the fact that she is almost always in a relationship, financially dependent and a supporting character.

 

            In my final paper, I would like to discuss the role of the femme fatale in neo-noir films and analyze the perceptions audiences make about her. In order to analyze these perceptions, it is important to consider her physical appearance and the role that she plays in relation to other characters. They are often in some type of relationship with a male, but not necessarily married. A significant aspect to examine is the nature of their relationship.

            I also intend to incorporate the fact that a femme fatale’s sexuality can be considered a crime in neo-noir films. It is not explicitly presented as a crime but the implications around the sexuality can make it seem as though it is. Her sexuality can be interpreted in two ways. One way would be her physical features such as the way she dresses and her demeanor. Her clothing is always associated with darkness and is tight and revealing. According to societal constructs, proper women do not wear colors like black and red. These colors are worn by women who are meant to seduce men and cause damage. Everything about a femme fatale is supposed to portray sex appeal. Another way her sexuality is interpreted is through her physical and explicit attractions to a certain gender.  In ‘Stay Still So We Can See Who You Are’: Anxiety and Bisexual Activity in the Contemporary Femme Fatale Film, Farrimond explores how femme fatale characters, who seduce women as well as men, are characters who are sexy and deadly. She also examines the identity of the character who seduces both males and females. As seen in Bound, Violet’s sexual orientation and intentions are questioned by Corky because of the fact that she is a femme fatale. Why is a femme fatale’s sexuality always in question and why does she have to be constrained to a specific identity?

            I will be concentrating on three main films, Bound, Rope and Psycho. I chose to analyze Rope because of the fact that the two main characters are in a relationship yet the audience never witnesses it. The visible crime to the audience is the murder of their former classmate but the implicit crime can be interpreted as their queerness. Why isn’t their relationship ever physically presented in the film, even though there are implications? I chose Psycho, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, because it tells a story of a secretary who embezzled money from her employer for her divorced boyfriend. This film demonstrates how the femme fatale is always financially dependent of a male and in order to become independent, she needs to commit a crime. Alfred Hitchcock is a director who is well known for neo-noir films and I believe that this film is a useful example of the use of a femme fatale. Finally, I will be using Bound to analyze the Intersectionality of both themes, femme fatale and the non-explicit crime. Corky and Violet’s intentions of theft and their relationship demonstrate how the main point of the film is not the violence but rather their sexuality. I am not sure if I would like to include a modern film that uses the femme fatale as one of the main characters but I will keep looking for one that might be useful for this specific topic.

            For my video, I would like to put together clips from each movie that demonstrate the implicit crime whether it is interactions between the characters or statements said by other characters. I would also like to include images of femme fatales and how they have developed over time, from the 1940s to the present.

 

Texts:

Forouzan, E. and Cooke, D. J. (2005), Figuring out la femme fatale: conceptual and

assessment issues concerning psychopathy in females, Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 23: 765–778

Katherine Farrimond (2012) ‘Stay Still So We Can See Who You Are’: Anxiety and

Bisexual Activity in the Contemporary Femme Fatale Film, Journal of Bisexuality, 12:1, 138-154

Hales, Barbara (1996), Women as Sexual Criminal: Weimar Constructions of the

Criminal Femme Fatale, Women in the German Yearbook, 12: 101-121

Straayer, Chris (1998), Femme Fatale or Lesbian Femme: Bound in Sexual Difference

            Women in Film Noir, London British Film Institute, 2: 153-161

Wallace, Lee (2000), Continuous sex: the editing of homosexuality in Bound and

            Rope, Screen 414, 369-387

Topic

  • For my final project I am interested in analyzing foreign queer cinema and its political implications. I recently returned from Turkey, where the LGBTQ movement is very underground and the laws archaic. After being immersed within the political climate, hearing stories of homophobia, and how LGBTQ individuals fit (or don’t) into the culture, made me wonder how media and cinema can change the way we think about these communities and populations. I am going to look at movies from six different regions of the world and see if these movies made a lasting impact, whether negative or positive.

Films

  • America:  Angels in America
  1. This HBO miniseries was based off of Tony Kushner’s critically acclaimed play of the same title. The plot follows two couples, a man’s inner struggle of self-confliction between his religion and sexuality, and a Reaganite nation in the middle of the 1980s AIDS crisis.
  2. I’m specifically interested in finding out if the issues in this classic still resonate with college youth, especially because we live in a climate that is increasingly partisan. How did this film set the stage for how we handle the AIDS crisis as a nation today?
  • South America: Contracorriente
  1. This Oscar-nominated Peruvian film follows the story of a married man who has an affair with a male painter. The film’s protagonist, Miguel, struggles to accept the consequences of his affair, especially after his lover drowns.
  2. I chose this film from South America because I am curious if queer film has made an impact in other Catholic countries of South America, seeing that Argentina is the only country on the continent with the most progressive laws for LGBTQ individuals.
  • Europe: Weekend
  1. The story of Weekend originally starts off with a one-night stand, but grows into something more between two men.
  2. I am choosing Weekend because, as an English film, I believe that it could have an interesting impact on other English speaking countries. Also, the English government has had recent developments in favor of LGBTQ equality.
  • Africa: Call Me Kuchu
  1. This recent documentary explores the Ugandan LGBTQ struggle, the nation’s potential law that would make homosexuality punishable by death, and the 2011 murder of Ugandan activist David Kato.
  2. I chose this film because the LGBTQ struggle in Africa, specifically Uganda, dominates the American news. In fact, many American conservative groups fund the country’s movement to pass the “kill the gays” bill. I would like to see if this film has had any impact on the staunchly homophobic culture of Uganda, and more broadly Africa.
  • Asia: Soundless Wind Chime
  1. This Chinese film explores the relationship between a Chinese man and a Swiss man. When the Swiss man dies, the other travels to Switzerland to discover the nature of their relationship.
  2. I would like to explore the issues of binational LGBTQ couples, and see if these types of films have had impacts on immigration laws in foreign countries.

*If possible, I may instead analyze a new Turkish documentary called My Child. The film follows the stories of different parents whose children identify as LGBT. It recently premiered in Turkey to a standing room-only crowd and has been hailed as necessary and progressive for the country. There is a chance I can get my hands on a copy of the film, and if so, I would rather analyze this, seeing that I just returned from Istanbul.

  • Australia: The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
  1. Priscilla’ tops many lists of controversial queer cinema. It follows a transsexual in Australia who explores the countryside with her close friends.
  2. I’m interested in looking at the instances of homophobia that occur in the movie and comparing them to present-day instances in Australia. The LGBTQ movement in Australia is vibrant, but the laws have yet to make progress, like many other countries analyzed in this project.

 Research Questions

  • How does the film reflect the political climate of its country of origin, specifically in reference to LGBTQ legal rights?
  • What were the popular and political responses to the film?

Scholarly Peer Reviewed Journals

Epprecht, Marc. “Bisexuality” and the Politics of Normal in African Ethnography. Anthropologica. Vol. 48, No. 2 (2006), pp. 187-201. Canadian Anthropology Society. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25605310.

Erni J. Towards queer cultural rights. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies [serial online]. March 2005;6(1):141-146. Available from: EBSCO MegaFILE, Ipswich, MA. Accessed March 17, 2013. 

New Queer Cinema: A Critical Reader. Ed. Michele Aaron. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2004. 3-14.

Schroeder W. ON COWBOYS AND ALIENS. GLQ: A Journal Of Lesbian & Gay Studies [serial online]. October 2012;18(4):425-452. Available from: EBSCO MegaFILE, Ipswich, MA. Accessed March 17, 2013.

Digital Video

  • My digital video will be a montage of comparisons, juxtaposing these six difference continents against one another. I plan on using a combination of key scenes from each movie that answer both of my research questions. In addition to this, I also would like to research news articles and be able to overlay footage of these with audio of people from each film’s country of origin, in their respective language. After this, I also plan to interview each of these individuals on their opinions of LGBTQ rights their native country, being sure to ask them my research questions as they pertain to each film.

Google Map

  • The Google Map will trace the locations of each film’s country of origin—six different continents. This is crucial to explore the politics of each nation, its people, and culture in reference to LGBTQ rights. The answers to my two research questions are dependent upon looking at the countries and their governments as well as how queer cinema impacts existing beliefs and opinions of its respective LGBTQ community. When exploring these countries, locations within them will be included on the map.
  • In addition to the films’ countries of origin, the map will also explore any key locations that are outside of its country. I will analyze each film keen to detail so that I am able to draw connections between any “foreign” locations to these foreign films and the film’s political implications at home.

Project Proposal

Overview:

I know that I definitely want to engage with the revisionist melodramas of Todd Haynes; however, I am still floating several ideas around. The films that I will possibly work with are: Mildred Pierce (1945), All That Heaven Allows (1955), Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974), Far From Heaven (2002), and Mildred Pierce (2011, TV miniseries). I’m interested in what these works say about popular forms and social order, and inspired by our class discussions about the ways in which ideology is embedded in genre. I’d like to investigate what Fassbinder’s and Haynes’ adaptations carry, transform, and discard the elements of classic melodramas, and also how their queer perspective is expressed in the films. The overarching theme that I’m pulling out of these contemporary versions is that the directors have more heart for their female leads than the filmmakers of the originals. They seem to have greater understanding of their emotionally layered protagonists. I am also interested in digging deeper into the original melodramas to determine exactly how radical they can be.

Some common motifs that I might explore further in these films are: tracking overhead shots, shadowy living rooms/ homes in the evening, staircases, advertising, characters looking through windows and screens, paintings, curtains, swelling music versus silence, small businesses/entrepreneurship, and conditional acceptance.

Some questions for further investigation:

Firstly, what is a classic Hollywood melodrama and what is the historical context in which it thrived? What are its messages, its purposes, its politics, its treatment of its female characters, and why would Fassbinder and Haynes take up this particular “lowly” genre aimed at female audiences for social critique?

Haynes was part of the New Queer Cinema movement, which was anti-assimilation and rejected homonormative narratives. In light of his past participation in this movement, what does it mean for him to resurrect classic Hollywood film style and genre in Far From Heaven and Mildred Pierce?

The merging of abundantly emotional content (meant to make viewers cry, to identify with suffering characters, to feel sentimental) and political commentary seems like a paradox, as we tend to separate the private from the public. Do the linkages in the films imply that there is no such thing as private experience or feeling that is isolated from larger political movements?

In the Fassbinder and Haynes films, the male body instead of the female body is positioned as the object of desire. What does this suggest about the limits and possibilities of the melodrama?

Mildred Pierce (2011) and Ali: Fear Eats the Soul do not address queer issues directly, yet they seem to be just below the surface. How exactly is that conveyed or implied in these films?

What is the role of non-sexual or non-romantic love in all of these films? There seems to be an emphasis on more platonic types of love in these films between married people, women friends, and friends of opposite sex. Do melodramas privilege this kind of love?

Sources:

Doane, Ann Mary. “Pathos and Pathology: The Cinema of Todd Haynes.” Camera Obscura 19.3 (2004): vi, 1-21.

Gill, John. Far From Heaven. London: BFI, 2011.

Haynes, Todd. Far From Heaven, Safe, and Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story: Three Screenplays. New York: Grove Press, 2003.

Peucker, Brigitte, ed. A Companion to Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.

The director’s commentary on Far from Heaven and Mildred Pierce.

Sources from class:

Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema,  Lisa Ades and Lesli Klainberg, 2006

Aaron, Michele, ed. New Queer Cinema: A Critical Reader. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2004.

Project Timeline:

March 24:

  • Finish reading scholarly sources
  • Have thesis and outline for analytic paper

March 31:

  • Transfer thesis and outline to suit video
  • Gather all elements for video in preparation of editing
  • Finish Google Maps

April 13:

  • Finish video draft
  • Finish analytic paper draft

May 1:

  • Turn in every component: map, video, paper