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April 2001, Week 1


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Gary Harmon <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 4 Apr 2001 22:13:32 EDT
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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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For Mike, an annotated bibliography for a student doing research on gay
and/or lesbian subjects in film:

Woops. I misremembered Dyer's title.  To get it right, I'm sending you some
entries from a bibliographical chapter for my book in progress, Film and
Gender: Myth, Power, and Change.  Most of these are accessible for
undergraduates new to
this subject. Dyer's earlier (1977) book is called Gays and Film.  Here are
the descriptions.  I hope they "travel" through the email ok.

Dyer, Richard, ed. Gays and Film.  London:  British Film Institute, 1977.

Dyer  joins fellow Brits feminist film maker Caroline Sheldon and
critic/professor Jack Babuscio to explore the importance of film to gay and
lesbian "outsiders."  As a premise, Dyer writes, "The cinema . . . offered us
[gays and lesbians], unconsciously no doubt [for it as well as for us], an
endless examination of . . ."  ways to study how to "pass for straight, to
perform, to make illusions."

____--__.  Now You See It:  Studies on Lesbian and Gay Film.  New York:

Now You See It focuses on the political and artistic struggle of gays and
lesbians to produce films that explore the problems, pressures, and
perceptions of homosexual life with genuine sensitivity and understanding.
Dyer's exceptional work of film criticism and gay and lesbian history up to
1980 uncovers this struggle in a variety of familiar and forgotten films.

And here are some other entries:

Doty, Alexander.  Making Things Perfectly Queer:  Interpreting Mass Culture.

        Minneapolis, MN:  The U of Minnesota Press, 1993.

This gay media study illustrates the value of queerness for culture
criticism.   Highly original, even ground-breaking, he argues that queer
positions, readers, readings, and discourses are culturally available to
everyone, not just those who happen to be gay or lesbian.  He suggests how
queerness, not straightness, may be "the most pervasive sexual dynamic at
work in mass culture production and reception."  From this perspective, he
explains star images such as Jack Benny and Pee-Wee Herman, women-centered
sit-coms such as Laverne and Shirley and Designing Women, film directors such
as George Cukor and Dorothy Arzner, and genres such as the musical.

Hart, Lynda.  Fatal Women:  Lesbian Sexuality and the Mark of Aggression.
        NJ:  Princeton UP, 1994.

This cross-disciplinary book contributes to lesbian theory and cultural
studies and is broadly concerned with the politics of representation.   She
focuses on the ways violent women have been represented in literature, plays,
film, and performance.  "Starting from the historical link between
criminality and sexual deviance, Hart builds a complex and original theory in
which the shadow of the lesbian animates representations of violent women
from the Victorian novel to the recent proliferation of films depicting women
who kill."  Film examples range from Thelma and Louise  to Mortal Thoughts,
Basic Instinct, and Single White Female.

Russo, Vito.  The Celluloid Closet:  Homosexuality in the Movies.  New York:
Harper                          & Row Publishers, 1981;  Revised Edition,

What this book is not:  It's not an exploration of gay characters in American
film.  And it's not a book about who is gay or lesbian in Hollywood or about
how gays have expressed themselves in Hollywood.  Nor is it a gossip
collection, though that seems to be the prevailing attitude toward the
subject.  Russo discusses over 300 movies from 80 years of filmmaking.
Hollywood, when it did portray gays or lesbians in film, portrayed them as
one-dimensional, which is consistent with the enormous national effort to
define gay people only by their sexuality.  As Mollie Haskell points out in
her book (see above), the big lie about women is they are inferior.  Russo
asserts the big lie about gays and lesbians is that they do not exist.

As he puts it, "the story of the ways in which gayness has been defined in
American film is the story of the ways in which we have been defined in
America.  .  .  .  As expressed on screen, America was a dream that had no
room for the existence of homosexuals.  Laws were made against depicting such
things on screen.  And when the fact of our existence became unavoidable, we
were reflected, onscreen and off, as dirty secrets."  He has an attitude,
best expressed in this closing line:  "We have cooperated for a very long
time in the maintenance of our own invisibility.  And now the party is over."

Weiss, Andrea.  Vampires and Violets:  Lesbians in Film.  New York:  Penguin
Books                               USA, Inc., 1992.

Basically, Vampires and Violets  is a history of lesbians in film.  As one
reviewer (Blanche Wiesen, author of Eleanor Roosevelt) put it, "Every
feminist and everyone interested in cultural studies will want to read it."
The chapters tell the story, from the first chapter, "Female Pleasures and
Perversions in the Silent and Early Sound Cinema," through chapters on the
lesbian spectatorship of the 1930s, post-war Hollywood lesbians, through the
sixth and final chapter "Transgressive Cinema:  Lesbian Independent Film."
The cross-dressing stars, Dietrich and Garbo, the vampire films of the late
'60s, and Silkwood and The Color Purple figure in this interpretive history.

Whatling, Clare.  Fantasising Lesbians in Film.  New York, NY:  St. Martins
Press,  Inc., 1997.

Is there such a thing as lesbian film?  Whatling argues that audiences
project such constructions onto film, "lesbianising" the women in them.  She
explores a range of genres and periods of film and critiques mainstream
feminist and lesbian film theory.  The result is to provide a new way of
accounting for the relationship between an audience and the film's text.

Wilton, Tamsin, ed.  Immortal Invisible:  Lesbians and the Moving Image.  New
York,                   NY:  Routledge, Inc., 1995.

Film-makers, academics, and activists offer essays discussing films by, for,
and about lesbians and queer men.  The essays open up ". . . a new space
within and between feminist and queer theory. . . ," according to Richard
Dyer (see above), who also observes that the essays illuminate ". . . the
centrality of lesbianism to all film images."  The authors debate the
practice of lesbian and queer film-making, from the queer cinema of Monika
Treut to the work of lesbian film-makers Andrea Weiss and Greta Schiller.  In
addition, they consider lesbian spectatorship of such popular films as Aliens
and Red Sonja and independent-made films such as She Must Be Seeing Things,
Salmonberries, and Desert Hearts.

I also recommend a chapter in Richard Dyer's Heavenly Bodies: Film Stars and
Society on "Judy Garland and Gay Men."  All very readable and profitable for
a student coming of age about film and this subject.

I hope I have all the books on this subject in my chapter, but these are ones
which may
well be accessible to your student.

Your library  should have these books, but if not, I hope it will soon add
them to the
collection.    ;-)

Gary Harmon
University of North Florida

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