This third post marking the publication of the latest issue of the La Trobe Journal, Queen City of the South: Gay and Lesbian Melbourne, centres on gay studies in film and television; I hardly know where to begin!
This Queer Encyclopedia series is incredibly entertaining, even if you’re not looking for anything in particular. In this volume you can find out what happened to young actor Tommy Kirk when his chief employer, the Disney Corporation, found out that he was gay in 1962, or discover some of cinema’s most notable “sissies”, or read about Tallulah Bankead’s wild life, or…….perhaps you should just read it yourself!
Vito Russo’s iconic book was not the first to cover the topic of homosexuality in the cinema, that honour probably goes to Parker Tyler and his Screening the Sexes: Homosexuality in the Movies published in 1972, but it is certainly one of the most popular and oft-quoted tomes on the subject. It is also the basis of a very entertaining, and at times moving, documentary narrated by Lily Tomlin. There’s another more recent documentary which updates the story of gay cinema, Fabulous!: the story of queer cinema, featuring interviews with major figures such as Gus Van Sant, John Waters and Todd Haynes.
Film genre studies can provide particularly fertile ground for subtextual readings, none more so than the classic horror film as this splendid examination demonstrates. With chapter headings such as “Pods, pederasts, and perverts: (Re)criminalizing the monster queer in Cold War culture”, and “Satan spawn and out and proud: Monster queers in the postmodern era”, you’ll never look at a Frankenstein flick in quite the same way again!
Television studies, once the very poor cousin to film studies, has been in the ascendant in recent years with books such as this casting a very scholarly eye over this once neglected terrain. Not so much an examination of specific shows, this study casts a “queer eye” over the entire television landscape, from production to broadcast to audience and beyond. Favourite chapter heading: “Cruising the channels: the queerness of zapping”.
Studies of national cinemas are all the rage lately, so it’s good to see a national approach taken to gay cinema as well. From British coming-out dramas of the seventies to the work of great German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, this volume travels across Europe in search of suitable grist for its mill.
Few people have had as much influence on popular culture in recent years as Renaissance man Joss Whedon, writer, producer, director, songwriter, etc., etc., best known as the creator of cult shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Serenity (to name just three). Needless to say his shows are full of covert and overt representations of sexuality in all of its myriad guises, and this volume goes rambling through most of them. Great fun!
Gender and sexuality in Star Trek : allegories of desire in the television series and films by David Greven
Here’s an unlikely one! The makers of Star Trek, from Gene Roddenberry down, have been lambasted for years for boldly not going anywhere near the issue of homosexuality in its ever expanding universe, so a book that takes the opposite position and attempts to find a range of gay subtexts has to be (at least) interesting. Mind you, with chapter headings such as “Lonely planets : original Star Trek, the male gaze, and the allegorization of desire”, they may just be pushing it uphill!