Whither Queer Cinema?

StinkyLulu has a running discussion on the state of independent queer cinema, and asks: "One: what's the most tedious trend in gay film? Two: what work does independent queer cinema have left to do? In short, what do you hate and what do you most yet hope to see?"

The first question is easiest for me to answer, at least with respect to the ideal-type gay indie flick: the simultaneous hyper moralist take on sexual libertinism, urban gay culture, body culture, and "the bar scene" with a shameless soft-core use of those very things to sell the film. My particular take on the genre aside, it's remarkable how this ideology is not all that different from Klute (which I just showed in intro) or, changing a few things, of classical Hollywood. To my eye, this is the best argument for a demand-side approach to ideological analysis.

Thinking more broadly, the Screen conference last summer saw a reinvigorated interrogation of queer cinema - what it meant, how to define the early 1990s moment, etc. I wasn't always in thrall with the answers provided: too much disdain of popular gay and lesbian genre production, universalizing what I see as particular sociologically-inflected taste and political preferences. But one interesting response: queer cinema is emerging most forcefully in a wide spectrum of European, Asian and other international contexts. The work of a new wave of scholarship, then, has grappled with gay liberation, queer politics and gay/lesbian visibility in national contexts beyond the Anglo-American axis that's dominated many discussions of gayness and gay cinema.

But writing as an only mildly cosmopolitan American gay man, with my own sociologically-inflected tastes and preferences, I'd say what I'd like to see is more credible syntheses of local color realism and romantic melodrama. To my eye, no gay representations have captured my imagination and identification since the British Queer as Folk.** Which is a long time to go ventriloquizing spectatorship.

**Brothers and Sisters comes close, Sex and the City is arguably not a gay representation, and the films I've seen have not delivered the generic pleasures and complexity that television has. Am I missing anything?


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