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TDGE 11 Spring Quarter 2018
Response Paper #1 Prompt: Film as part of genre.
Genre can be understood as a group of works that contain similar attributes, which have become
conventions. Geoff King, author of American Independent Cinema, describes genre as “… a type
that has attracted audiences with some consistency in the past, or a type that individual viewers
have enjoyed (or avoided) and are likely to enjoy (or avoid) again.”
Keeping the above description in mind, choose one film from the options below. Watch the film
and write a 700-1000 word response in relation to the genre it is part of as well as the essential
questions of this course: Who is being represented? Who is being obscured or forgotten?
Who is the intended audience? How do these performances fall into or challenge
stereotypes and established tropes?
We will have a half hour presentation at the start of Week 3’s lecture, discussing the qualities of
each genre below which you should consider in relation tot the film you choose. Meanwhile,
choose a film and analyze it in terms of our syllabus questions above.
(Please note that these films are challenging. All of the “Hollywood” films include the death of
gay characters, and some include sexual assault. If you are concerned about triggers and are
uncertain if a film is appropriate for you, email me at [email protected]).
Genre Option 1: Camp/Cult
Optional article to think about the genre of cult films:

The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Dessert,1994 (on course reserves).
Two gay men and a transwoman traveling with a drag performance. You watched the
trailer for week two.

Pink Flamingos, 1972 (on course reserves).
Divine fights for her title as the filthiest person alive.

Liquid Sky, 1982 (this is a complicated option – I put an order through the library, but cannot
guarantee it will arrive and be digitized in time. No streaming purchase options, but the at the
moment the full film is up on YouTube,
(no guarantee that it won’t be taken down).
Aliens land in New York to feed on the endorphins of drug users. But they soon discover
that they prefer the endorphins from sex. The film focuses on lesbian/bisexual punk/New
Wave club kids.
Genre Option 2: Hollywood Drama
• Milk, 2008 (on digital course reserves)
Based on the life and death of gay activist and California elected official Harvey Milk.

Brokeback Mountain, 2005 (on digital course resevers)
A love story between two closeted cowboys.

Monster, 2003 (for rent on Amazon – free with prime)
Fictionalized drama based on the life of serial killer Ailleen Wurnos. Lesbian love story
punctuated by sex work, sexual assault and murder.

The Hours, 2002 (on course reserves)
Three women in different time periods, linked through Virgina Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway
(the first woman is Woolf, writing the novel).
Genre Option 3: Documentary:
• Words, 2017 (on Amazon – free with prime)
An exploration of identity among New Yorkers – the majority LGBTQ+

The Aggressives, 2012 (available streaming through
Follows African American people who identify as “aggressive,” (this is a subculture
category masculine presenting lesbians, but the individuals have a range of gender

The Year We Thought About Love, 2014 (available streaming through
Follows LGBTQ+ youth of Color in a theatre troupe.
Does and Don’ts:
1. Do have a creative title for your paper.
2. Do have a thesis – doesn’t have to be 1 sentence.
3. Don’t include a plot summary. Assume the reader has watched the film. Include plot details
and scene descriptions only as supporting material for larger claims.
4. Don’t write a research paper. You may do research and bring outside sources if you find that
helpful, but this should not be a focus of your response paper.
5. Do not write a 5 paragraph essay. Paragraphs are an important way of organizing arguments
but a 5 paragraph essay is an artificial high school format.
6. Provide specific examples and describe specific scenes in detail in order to support your
7. Use proper citations in your paper.
TDGE 11 – Queer
Instructor Kara Raphaeli
What do you call me?

Professor Raphaeli (I won’t correct you!)

Instructor Raphaeli

Mx. Raphaeli
Do NOT call me:




Queer Performance
What is Queer?
From Course Description:
There exist multiple meanings of the term “queer.”
Queer can be understood as an umbrella term for the
LGBTQ+ community, an activist challenge to
homonormative culture, or a theoretical approach in
which categories are assumed to be fluid rather than

Queer originally meant “strange”

Late 19th century, queer became a slur for samesex attraction or same-sex sex.


1980s-90s activists chose to reclaim the word.

Positive self-identification

(some gay and lesbian people still view the
word “queer” as hurtful)
From the book Queer: A Graphic History
by Meg-John Barker and Julian Scheele
From Queer
A Graphic History
From Queer
A Graphic History
What is performance?
There exist multiple meanings of the term “queer.” Queer can
be understood as an umbrella term for the LGBTQ+ community,
an activist challenge to homonormative culture, or a theoretical
approach in which categories are assumed to be fluid rather
than fixed. Likewise, performance might be understood
as traditionally structured (i.e. staged, filmed or audio
recorded), loosely structured forms of public
performance (i.e. parades and protests), and even the
manner in which individuals present themselves to
others (i.e. at school, on the street, on social media etc).
Performance of Self

The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, 1956.
Erving Goffman – sociologist who analyzed
social interactions as theatrical.

“All of us who are queer can loosely be defined
as solo performers, insofar as we have to
fashion an identity around gender and
sexuality…” – David Roman, O Solo Homo: The
New Queer Performance
So What Are We Studying in
This Course???

Types of performances: Films, music, music videos,
theatre, YouTubers, podcasts

Types of Queer:

Films from the LGBT “canon”

More diverse films ignored by the canon

These exist in tension

Let’s queer it!


Dark comedy

Conversion Therapy

Compulsory Heterosexuality – The idea that
heterosexuality is enforced by society through
patriarchy and social institutions – especially
Think. Pair. Share.
If the goal of True Directions is to turn gay teens
straight, why do they focus on gender roles?
How are assumptions about gender and sexuality
challenged in the film?
The character of Jan:
Her gender presentation is masculine, but she likes
Gender and sexuality are related, but not
inextricably linked.

Who are the characters who got kicked out
before Megan?

Jan, Dolph and Andre – All People of Color

US Gender roles are inherently white

Many racial stereotypes are related to gendered
characteristics and behaviors

Drag queen

Identifies as a man

Creator and host of RuPaul’s Drag Race

Singer – “Supermodel (You Better Work)” a hit in

Drag relies on Camp

Camp – form of humor that is prevalent in queer
art. It relies on irony and exaggeration.

Example: “Supermodel (You Better Work)” use of

“Vanities” in place of “Vanity Fair”

“Drague” in place of “Vogue”
Lecture Card

Name, PID, and week number on one side

answer on other side

QUESTION: What is one aspect of But I’m a
Cheerleader that left an impression on you?
Week 2
Classroom Culture
This classroom is a space for us all to learn new
ideas and to engage in dialogue about difficult
and often personal subjects. However, learning
and thinking critically can be a challenging and
vulnerable process. Even when everyone is
committed to being respectful, someone may
say something that results in unintentional
Classroom Culture
The following ground rules are intended to
assist us in expressing our thoughts while
maintaining a respectful, thoughtful and
authentic dialogue.
A. Respect.
B. Avoid Generalizations.
C. No devil’s advocate.
D. Assume best intentions
Topics of Interest
According to Survey

Contemporary films with diverse representation

Love Stories

Family Dynamics, Coming Out Stories, AIDS
Crisis, Trans Identity

Specific topics I will do my best to find
representation for
Response Paper #1 Prompt
Due Wednesday, April 25 11:59PM
Genre films: Choose between camp/cult, Hollywood or
Documentary genres and watch one of the optional films.
Cult: Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Adventures of Priscilla
Queen of the Dessert, Pink Flamingos, Liquid Sky.
Hollywood Drama: Milk, Brokeback Mountain, Monster, The
Documentary: Words, The Aggressives, TBA
Starting points: Consider the film in relation to the genre. Who is
being represented? Who is being obscured or forgotten? Who is
the intended audience? How do these performances fall into or
challenge stereotypes and established tropes?
Boys Don’t Cry

1999 film based on the life and death of
Brandon Teena

Oscar Winner

We won’t be watching it
Strikes Against
Boys Don’t Cry

Trans character played by cis actor

Contributes to trans erasure

Perpetuates negative stereotypes

Takes away acting opportunity from potential trans actor

Graphic sexual violence – Gratuitous and itself a perpetuation
of violence

Tragic Trans Narrative
Tragic Trans Narrative

Sympathetic death


trans character functions on a symbolic level or as
a catalyst for cis characters.

We can do better
Passing: Profiling the Lives
of Young Transmen of Color

Short documentary

Passing – means being perceived as the gender
one identifies as – not being perceived as trans

Intersectional analysis – documentary focuses on
the ways these three men navigate the world
because of how they are perceived as black men.
“Everything I knew about trans
people was negative”
– Lucah
Background Information

1990 release (filmed 1987-89)

Canonical queer film

About Ballroom scene – gay African American competitive

Filmmaker Jenny Livingston – middle class white lesbian. Why
does this matter?
Although Livingston is queer herself, she made a film
about a community she is not part of and which is
marginalized due to factors of race, class and gender
identity in ways that Livingston does not experience.
Nature of Documentary Films
Documentaries seem unbiased because they are
recording live events and directly interviewing
subjects. However, documentary filmmakers are
creating narratives through editing, through
frameworks, through the types of questions they
ask and the moments they ask them. It’s important
to recognize that.

An inclusive space but predominately a community of
gay men and trans women (Lesbians, straight cis
women and trans men participate in smaller numbers)

Kinship networks:

Ballroom functions with different groups called Houses.

Leaders are called House Mothers – House Mothers
may identify as men or women.

Gender categories:

Butch queens – gay men. they may or may not
perform in drag.

Femme queens – trans women
Keep in mind:

Ballroom isn’t just playing with gender, it is also
playing with class and racialized class inequality
Note on Offensive Language

Language varies by time period and culture.
Some words used freely in Paris is Burning are
today considered offensive slurs.
Content Warning: biological
essentialism, transphobia,
objectification of transfeminine bodies,
homophobic slur, nudity, trans death
Criticism of Paris is Burning
“So much of what is expressed in the film has to do with
questions of power and privilege and the way racism
impedes black progress… Here, the supposedly
‘outsider’ position is primarily located in the experience of
whiteness. Livingston appears unwilling to interrogate
the way assuming the position of outsider looking in, as
well as being interpreter, can, and often does, prevent
and distort one’s perspective.” – bell hooks
Criticism (cont.)

Livingston made her success on the film but
subjects did not receive a significant share of the

Film overly focused on criminal behavior and
financial desperation despite existance of
community members more financially secure with
professional careers.
Lecture Card:
How do the ballroom performances play with
class and racialized class inequality?
• Term used by queer theorist José Esteban Muñoz.
Muñoz resists clear definition of “disidentification,”
redefining the term multiple times in his writing,
offering different variants. This makes it hard to
explain simply.
• At its core, disidentification is a tactic in which queer
people of color negotiate space within dominant
culture, neither outright rejecting nor conforming to
dominant culture.
• Example from Paris is Burning: Realness
Tragic Trans Narrative

How is Venus Xtravaganza’s death depicted?

Could Livingston have made a different choice
so as not to exploit and objectify her murder?

Trans women experience a disproportionate
amount of violence, particularly trans WOC. (28
recorded murders of trans women in 2017).

Gay icon (in white gay male culture of the 90s and 2000s)

Support of gay community – 80s and 90s AIDS Activism

Queer representation in controversial videos
“Vogue” came out in 1990 (same year as Paris is Burning)

While Madonna does have queer men of color performing,
she centers herself in the video and vogue becomes
synonymous with Madonna to the mainstream and to white
gay culture.

“Justify My Love”

1990 Madonna music video

Banned from MTV for sexual content

Varied representations of queer sexuality

Content Warning: Lots of simulated sex, partial
Week 4
Rocky Horror Picture Show
Response Paper #1
Analysis in relation to Genre



• Not really a genre, but a status, due to the loyal and passionate
fan following.
• However, cult films tend to share common characteristics.
• Tend to be controversial and subversive in content.
• You might ask: how does this film challenge cultural
norms? Are social taboos depicted?
• Low-budget to the point of being cheesy. The low-budget
quality becomes part of the film’s charm.
• Camp, parody, satire
• Genre films – flops that do not have mass appeal but over time
develop a following as the niche audience discovers the film.
Documentary films allow audiences to learn, think and feel about
the experiences of others. A critical viewer can analyze how these
films build those moments of learning, thinking and feeling in their
audiences. There are a number of sub-classifications
• Observational – (filmmaker is as absent as possible, wants to be
a fly on the wall, not influencing the events being filmed.)
• Expository – provides information and aims to teach or has an
argument and attempts persuade the audience.
• Participatory – filmmaker actively engages with the subjects and
the material (not just asking questions, but affecting outcomes).
• Reflexive – focus is on the filmmaking itself.
• Poetic – filmmaker creates “feeling” more than a point. Aethetic
It might be useful to think about these categories and where the
film falls in order to step away from the subject matter and
recognize what the filmmaker’s goals are.
Some questions to think about to understand how the
documentary is constructed?

What is the storyline the filmmaker is building?
Is there a narrative arc? How implicit or explicit is that arc?
What questions are asked during interviews?
Where do interviews take place?
How might editing choices build meaning (e.g. progression of
shots, the combination of visual shot and voice over)?
Hollywood Films
What is the general environment in Hollywood regarding
LGBTQ+ representation?
• Underrepresentation of LGBTQ+ experiences.
• LGBT characters that do exist are usually white and
rarely explored form an intersectional perspective.
• Despite many actors being LGBTQ-identified, many are
closeted, out LGBTQ actors are discriminated against.
• Homophobic and transphobic jokes still rampant in film
The films on the prompt DO focus on
lesbian and gay characters.
What are the conditions of these films?
Hollywood films have a tendency to feel ‘big’ in comparison
to independent films or television shows.
What is a big budget?
Black Panther had a budget of 200 million.
Brokeback Mountain – 14 million (178 million in box office)
The Hours – 25 million production budget (108 million in
box office)
Monster – 8 million (60 million box office)
Milk – 20 million (56 million box office)
(For comparison, But I’m a Cheerleader had a 1.2 million
budget and box office success of 2.6 million.)
Who is telling the story?
Who is Watching?

Hollywood films are marketed to a generalized audience, requiring that
the stories feel universal. How are the queer characters written to feel
universal? Do you see markers of queerness that have been “erased”?

Who is telling the story? Hollywood films rarely provide an opportunity
for marginalized people to tell their own stories.
• Example: Brokeback Mountain
• Based on a short story written by Annie Proulx – a straight woman.
• Directed by Ang Lee – a straight man.
• The actors – neither Gyllenhaal nor Ledger identify as queer.

Star power: who are the actors? Are they well known?
Playing a gay character is often considered “brave.”


1975 adaptation of the stage musical Rocky Horror
Show (Produced in London in 1972, on Broadway
1975, revived on Broadway in 2000)
Camp tribute of old sci-fi
Became a cult film/midnight movie, performing
midnight showings in NYC at the Waverly Theatre
Callback lines emerged and then greater level of
audience interaction.
Audience Interaction

Shadow Casts – silently perform the film in front of
the screen.
Callback lines are scripted. They developed over time
vary over the years and in different regions, but are
mostly the same.
Physical participation: Dancing the Time Warp and
props (props include a newspaper, toilet paper,
flashlight or glowstick, latex glove, rice).
Content Warning
Use of antiquated word “transvestite,” violence
(but not graphic, rather cheesy), ableism, sexually
suggestive from start to finish, but without nudity.
Think. Pair. Share.
Discuss your reactions/experience of the film, using the
guiding questions:

Who is being represented?
Who is being obscured or forgotten?
Who is the intended audience?
How do these performances fall into or challenge
stereotypes and established tropes?
Whose Film is this?
On the one hand, the film represents gender fluidity and
sexual freedom, a rejection of binaries and traditional
norms. Such messages are welcome across different
identifications within LGBTQ+ community.
On the other hand:
• White film
• Gay male focus
• Writer Richard O’Brien transmisogynistic
(discriminatory towards trans women)
David Bowie
Two points:
1. Bowie’s performances as queer art that
influenced and inspired generations of queer
2.Bowie as a public figure whose sexuality was
invasively questioned – and what that media
fixation did for queer people.
Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
Queer Art:–IqqusnNQ
Bowie as Public Figure

Bowie came out as gay in 1972.

In 1976 he came out/clarified his sexuality as bisexual.

Bowie came to regret coming out, because the media
wouldn’t stop asking him about his sexuality. He wasn’t
interested in being a political activist, he wanted to be
approached as an artist, not a sexual oddity.

Clip from a 1979 interview (Start
at 5:38)
Bi Erasure

Bisexuality is invisible – sexuality is inferred from
partner’s gender.

Biphoiba – bisexual people experience discrimination
from both mainstream culture and gay/lesbian

Belief that bisexuality isn’t real, is really gay but not fully
out of the closet. This is especially prevalent in relation
to bisexual men.
Why Does Bowie Being Out
as Bisexual Matter?

Because there is so little bisexual male representation

RHPS: Frank is NOT gay, seduces men and women
Advanced Concept:
Queer Temporality
Temporality = existing in relationship to time
(basically a fancy way of saying time)
Major theorists who write about queer time:
Elizabeth Freeman, Jack Halberstam, Lee
Edelman, José Esteban Muñoz.
Queer people experience time differently from the
way straight people experience time.
“Queer uses of time and space develop, at least in
part, in opposition to the institutions of family,
heterosexuality, and reproduction. They also develop
according to other logics of location, movement, and
identification. If we try to think about queerness as an
outcome of strange temporalities, imaginative life
schedules, and eccentric economic practices, we
detach queerness from sexual identity…” – In A Queer
Time and Place, Halberstam
Queer Space
RHPS midnight shows are queer spaces – plenty of straight
people participate in RHPS, but focus of the film is a sexpositive rejection of binary gender and sexuality, and the
focus of the event is a rejection of the static relationship
between film and audience. And, of course, also a safe
space for queer people (and cisgendered straight people) to
play with gender, to connect in this community subculture.
“Lost in time. And lost in Space. And meaning.”
– final line of RHPS
Brad and Janet are the ideal Americans – straight,
white and middle class.
The film begins with them at a wedding, but they
get a flat tire and end up having their normal life
disrupted by Frank’s queer castle – a queer time
(Time Warp!) and space (Planet Transsexual).
Lecture Card
1. What is one insight you had from the Think. Pair.
Share exercise?
2. Do you have a sense of what I mean by camp yet?
What is making sense? What is confusing?
Week 4 – Angels in America

2 plays – total of almost 6 hours of theatre

currently on Broadway

Miniseries is faithful to the plays and is 6 hours long

We will watch the first half = the first play. It is 2 hours and 40 minutes

We will start watching right away and watch the whole class. No organized
break – use the restroom as you need to. We will keep last 10 min to discuss
and for a lecture card. We will discuss the film more Week 5

I will upload reading tomorrow. Please make sure you do reading, as I will
not be doing an introduction to the material in class.

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