Week 4 – Ryan Beggs

This week’s section of readings focused around Avant-Garde attitudes, each selection seemed to touch upon topical issues that contemporary Americans are aware of today. The first in Chris Straayer’s The She-man: Postmodern bi-sexed performance in film and video, the whole idea of masquerade is discussed. To begin Sraayer confirms the notion that “Certain makeup and costume styles have conventionally coded a woman’s surface as sexual and announced her sex” (62). This position relates to the fact that men and by extension men in drag, queens, etc., are able to emphasize certain aspects of their personality through costuming. The second selection of readings titled Experimental Cinema, The Film Reader and the chapter “‘Pop, Queer, or Fascist?’ The ambiguity of mass culture in Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising” by Juan Suarez, the biker scene is discussed and developed extensively. Suarez articulates that “Gay-biker imagery encoded in an instinctive untutored way the affirmation of difference, the depersonalization and de-inviduation of marginality” (123), which highlights how gay audiences began to identify with the biker scene. Finally, the last selection by Thomas Waugh titled Cockteaser goes extensively into Andy Warhol’s relationship to his art, audience, and the queer world.  Waugh brings up an interesting question when he asks: “To what extent does the historic gay audience pattern of intense identification with screen women, whether tinsel goddesses or Warhol superstars, undercut gender entirely as a useful category in thinking about audiences and their reception of film?” (54). This question poses an intriguing and poignant thought process, that gender may not be a useful category to consider (especially in contemporary America), because audiences are swaying in several directions. Additionally, this question inherently validates gay audiences as an important population films have power to connect with and appeal towards. Overall, these readings seem to source important and relevant ideas that stimulate thought about Avant-Garde attitudes of the time.

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