Scorpio Rising and Consumer Agency

Juan A. Suarez’s article “Pop, Queer, or Fascist” explores the ways in which images or sounds of mass media can be manipulated and twisted in context in order to change their meaning. Suarez writes that “appropriation and contextualization illustrate a frequently unmapped force in mass culture: consumer agency” (Suarez 129). Consumer agency is a way in which individuals can subvert the intent and rigidness mass media to fit their own circumstance and to fit these images and sounds in way that suits their own pleasures and interests. This is a theme that shows up prominently in Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising. It is displayed through the juxtaposition of 1960’s love songs, with implied heterosexual intent, and images of the bikers in the film that serve to sexualize them through the image in combination with the songs. For example, the article uses the example of a scene where the camera gazes at a boy donned in leather while Elvis Presley’s “(You’re The) Devil In Disguise” plays. The sexualized images of the boy on screen serves to manipulate the meaning of the words Presley sings, morphing the image of a heterosexual romance from the song into one of homoerotic desire as the boy is seen with the song playing. Also, this theme of consumer agency is inherently tied in with the characters of the movies themselves as they modify their motorcycles from their factory models into the machines that they wish to have in order to fit the image that they want. The idea of consumer agency is important in relation to queerness in that, like the scene in the movie, things from mainstream media can be appropriated to the queer community, subverting the dominant heterosexist ideology present in mainstream mass media. While mainstream mass media is largely fitting in with a heterosexist ideology, individuals have the agency to change the interpretation and meaning of these things through appropriation and context.

 

Works Cited

Suarez, Juan A. “Pop, Queer, or Fascist: The Ambiguity of Mass Culture in Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising.” Experimental Cinema: The Film Reader. Wheeler Winston Dixon and Gwendolyn Audrey Foster (eds.). New York: Routledge, 2002.

 

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