Week 5 Reading Assignment

Suarez’s essay Pop, Queer or Fascist? discusses how Kenneth Anger incorporates pop culture elements in his film Scorpio Rising as a means of unveiling certain homoerotic connotations. This  culture is made ambiguous in its standing due to its free roaming nature which provides leeway for interpretation, thus the receiver being able to ‘tamper’ with the dominant message the art form is trying to convey, may affect the way it’s construed in the long-run. When looking at the specific application of popular youth culture such as, “rock and roll songs and the iconography of the motorcycle cult” (115) in Scorpio Rising we notice that a certain “appropriation is dominated by a gay viewpoint that unveils meanings-such as homoerotic plots, or the proximity of eroticism and violence-which tend to remain displaced or muted in the straight uses of these forms” (116). These aforementioned unveilings not only offer credible insight but further expand the spectrum of interpretation when presenting these elements in a heteronormative setting.

By “appropriating” this mass culture, in respect to the intent of Anger, we help “ascribe gay significations” (129) to the whole of Scorpio Rising which further “regulates the film’s interpretations of popular texts” (129). The first example of popular text, juxtaposing the heteronormative ideals, is through the non-diegetic application of popular love songs, whilst the visual action takes place. All the songs, ‘straight’ in their nature, ironically catalyze Anger’s status quo. “While many of these songs are interpreted by male singers, and their implied addresses are women, they are edited to eroticized male images” (129). The songs, while they may typically address male-female relationships, are given new meaning in the film when paired with the image of a boy wrapped in leather. Another example of Anger’s juxtaposing of hetero/homo sexual elements can be seen in the use of snippets from Laszlo Benedek’s, The Wild One and pin ups of James Dean in the biker’s apartment. All these exemplify the homoerotic nuances prevalent, in the form of art direction. The film, Scorpio Rising succeeds in illustrating the “mobility of popular meanings” (129) referring to popular culture as whole and its malleable nature when it comes to contextualizing it.

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. New York: Routledge, 2002: 115 – 137.

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