In “Pop, Queer, or Fascist? The Ambiguity of Mass Culture in Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising,” Suarez examines how the film’s use of popular texts highlights the paradoxical quality of mass culture. Through directly referencing popular texts and placing them within the film, Anger “creates an open text which can be read in two nearly symmetrical, mutually contradictory ways” (124). The first interpretation, Suarez explains, is that the film paints mass culture and the systems of popular consumption as domination, even the precursor to fascism. The other interpretation is more hopeful. It “stresses the anti-authoritarian openness and malleability of popular meanings” (124). The film consistently maintains these two opposing viewpoints, allowing the film to be read as in favor of one or the other or both at any given moment. Suarez references how Scorpio mimics the images of Marlon Brando and James Dean in the film to demonstrate the possibility for double-reading. On one hand, the moment could be interpreted as exemplifying the domination of mass culture and how it determines Scorpio’s behavior and looks, to the point that it “erase[s] his own identity and authenticity” (124). On the other hand, because the moment is embedded in the established homoerotic context of the film, it can be read as a moment that “outs the repressed homosocial and homoerotic significations” of the images of Marlon Brando and James Dean and what they mean to Scorpio (124). The examination of the duality and ambiguity of this film can, for one, help reveal the value of queer readings, how viewing an object through a queer lens can shift the significance dramatically and open up whole new interpretations.
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.