Week 13 Response

The “golden age” of queer cinema — from the years of 1985 to 1997, according to Neta Alexander in Queer is Not a Four Letter Word — has its roots in underground cinema, or films made on inexpensive cameras any filmmaker could afford to purchase at a local Best Buy. The queer films that came out during this period were radically counter to the conservative culture of the Reagan administration that dominated the mainstream, and they shed much-needed light on oft-underheard queer stories about the AIDs epidemic and other topics about identity, representation, escapism. The author notes that sometime around 1999, the year Boys Don’t Cry was released with critical and commercial success, Hollywood began to realize that queer films were profitable to a mass audience. After Boys, a slew of high budget Hollywood queer films followed in its wake: Brokeback MountainMilk, and Dallas Buyers Club, to name a few. Most are written/directed/generally created by straight men, and are intended to not only engage a queer audience but a straight one as well. The crossover appeal of these films doesn’t diminish their importance or worth, but it does call into question the state of queer cinema and the stories that still need to be told. In the recent Oscar season (a good marker of mainstream public appeal), films like Moonlight and Carol were celebrated for their portrayals of queer relationships, and for good reason. Both Moonlight and Carol‘s screenplays were adapted from works written by queer authors, which is a promising step in the right direction for “new queer cinema,” whatever that might entail. But film critics and theorists shouldn’t neglect those underground origins of queer cinema, and keep an eye on independent, low budget queer films that confront and document personal queer topics from the ground up.

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