The past connotations to the word or definition of queer do not have the same representation of the present use of the word queer. This is one of the major inadequacies exposed through reading this text. In the past queer meant anything outside of "normal" not necessarily gay/lesbian. Heterosexual acts that fell outside of societies "norms" such as multiple partners was considered queer in the past. Only now do we see the use of queer becoming the more narrow and polarized in its definition of gay/lesbian. I think the term queer exposes the almost insatiable need of categorizing and polarizing that established powers (white/male) seem to have in our society. I feel we are constantly categorized black/white, male/female, Christian/Muslim, gay/straight and that terms are associated to certain sects of our society such as queer. Instead, as the text hints, there are actually multiple sexualities within straight/gay. The Kinsey reports, if I recall, stated that the majority of men who took the test fell in between straight (1) and gay (10). This represents the diversity of sexualities that we self-identify as and begs to question who holds power over such definitions as queer. In Hooks film she talked about white supremacy, the notion that white/male culture dominates the information we hear and see everyday. That perhaps it is from looking at establishments such as these we can reflect on the beginnings of cultural definitions such as queer.
January 2012 Archives
I think the authors mean that binary way of looking at the texts mean that it only considers certain terms that mean queer. In reality you can't exactly label a person just one certain term these days. There are so many other categories of sexualities than just gay, straight, or bi. No one ever really talks about transgenders or even lesbians for that matter. Also no one even talks about the adjectives of these different types of sexualities such a flamboyant gay man or a butch lesbian woman. When it comes to the queer cinema reading they suggest that we as people are supposed to identify with the characters in the film yet there is such a small group of queer characters for queer people to identify with. The central character is usually a white male.
The authors mean to suggest that a binary way of analyzing texts in inadequate because it fails to consider a multitude of identities that are not gay/straight such as bisexual, pansexual, transgender, and fluid among others. In addition to marginalizing these identities the gay/straight binary also fails to take into account how identities are intersecting. The binary would point to identities such as black, straight, and gay, but not a bisexual black trans- woman for example. The Word "queer" brings to the table the fluid, changing, and intersecting identities as well as allow for those viewing films to see it from multiple angles. The example from the text is the gay male identifying with Judy Garland whose sex is "opposite" to those of the spectators. Though acknowledging that there are other sexualities than gay/straight and that there are other genders than man/woman, the concept of heterosexuality becomes just another drag performance. Heterosexual is queered because now someone who identifies as a cis-gendered female can also identify with the gay male character on film while still maintaing her behavior sexually with cis-gendered heterosexual males. The text also says on page 217 that "We are defined not by who we are but by what we do." Therefore one can "be" a butch female and identify as such but sleep with a cis-gendered male. Mainstream society might peg this butch as lying about their identity but the beauty of "gender-fucking" is that the butch person is transgressing gender stereotypes by not sleeping strictly with feminine cis-gendered females.
I am new to the positive use of the word queer. The town I came from never really used it but I had heard older generations use it in a more negative manner, usually meaning "odd" or "weird". When I came to the U of M and noticed people embracing this term it took some getting used to, and honestly I'm still getting used to it. The introduction states that the term "exposes the inadequacy of the straight-gay binary" and this statement really makes a lot of sense to me. Like I said earlier, the town I came from never really used the word "queer", but when referring to sexuality always used one of three terms: gay, straight, or bi (meaning bisexual). Nobody even knew what "asexual" or "pansexual" were, and as far as gender was concerned you were either a guy or a girl, and there was no in between or changing of that. This kind of small town cultural paradigm left no room for the transgendered person, for the sexually fluid person, the pansexual, asexual, or otherwise. The word queer as an umbrella term offers a more flexible identity for those who are uncomfortable labeling as gay, straight, or bi and adhering to the rigid definitions of these labels.
I want to start off by saying that I have a lot of respect for Bell Hooks and the work she has done. I feel her video about Cultural Criticism and becoming/being an enlightened witness bring up fantastic points about Hollywood, the media/entertainment industry, and mainstream society. At the same time however, I feel her argument contains some biases of its own.
I am in agreement with Hooks about the fact that the entertainment/media industry plays into and perpetuates stereotypes for its own profit. Her examples make this clear and support this argument. I also agree that for the most part, the public who views these products (film, TV shows, etc.) often deny that the media perpetuates stereotypes and negative attitudes about marginalized communities on purpose- I have witnessed my own family deny this idea in defense of their favorite tv shows. Then Hooks' started talking about the importance of literacy in becoming an enlightened witness. This part I had a bit of an issue with. While I agree that education is definitely the most valuable asset a person can have aside from character, I feel that she did not explain thoroughly that literacy does not inhibit a person from being able to critique and question the media they are subject to. One does not have to attain a college degree or even a GED to be able to hear a statement and think "Now wait a second, that doesn't sound quite right". I feel the ability to question things and critique things comes from empowerment, and the feeling that you have a right to question things, rather than the feeling that you can question things using pretty words. I do believe that literacy definitely helps a person articulate their thoughts but feel that an illiterate person can question the media too. I wish Bell Hooks' had touched on that more, and feel that by not clarifying that part of her argument, she may have alienated some who are less educated than herself.
The term deemed "Queer" offers a multifaceted and inclusive umbrella-term working for all people whom do not identify with heteronormativity. Queer, on it's own has a unique quality that takes away restrictions of traditional-set in-stone categories in which society feels comfortable in defining. It also eliminates the sometimes confusing border of gender-identity and sexuality that is expressed in GLBT. In the "Celluloid" closet, the depictions of non heterosexual males or females were historically only referenced in terms of what someone should not be: effeminate for males, inquisitive and dominating for females, for one example. When eliminating the boundaries from straight/gay, and incorporating a free-flowing form of genders and sexualities, the differences are less the focal point in a heteronormative society and inclusion begins to set in.
I feel like the straight/gay binary is inadequate because it proposes two groups and forces people to subscribe to one. The specific characteristics that each group presents wont allow for people to completely identify and belong to that group. This may be because they don't identify with every single characteristic, so then where do they belong? The term "Queer" exposes the limitability of the binary. It gives people that doesn't identify with being straight or gay a particular group. But in actuality there is nothing particular about being queer. It gives us lots of options... So; therefore, we all can identify with being queer. We all may have queer thoughts or tendencies. With fetishes or simply just things that we like. We're taught that these things are bad, but that doesn't mean that we stop liking them. We just are "different" from what we should be. In our society nobody likes to be different, so we conform. This reveals how heterosexuality is force upon us and explains why exists. Nobody wants be queer but different is bad. It's not the reality but bad. This is what we are taught, when in actuality everybody has had 'some' sort of queer thoughts.
As the authors write in the introduction to Queer Images, "The word queer exposes the inadequacy of the straight-gay binary and the power hierarchies involved in it." Basically, what they are saying is that in Western society, we have a pretty strict male/female gender binary. People expect that everyone is either male or female (which usually is decided for them at birth, based off of what their genitals look like), and in turn is usually heterosexual, sometimes homosexual. The term "bisexual" has been used to identify people who are attracted to both males and females, but that is certainly not all encompassing enough for everyone. The gay/straight, male/female binary is frustrating for people who feel like they can't fit in to those boxes. Unfortunately, this binary is often perpetuated in film, television, and pop culture; I've noticed even in shows with gay lead characters.
Queer is an umbrella term that can refer to anything really, and is easy for me (and many others) to identify as because no other labels seem to fit exactly. However, I've found that often the "mainstream" public has difficulty understanding what the word "queer" means, and assume that a person is just using it as a synonym for "gay," which can be problematic. In the context of this course, I think queer could be a way for us to view film. In other words, if we look at a film through a queer/feminist lens, we will be able to really break it down in terms of gender, race, class, sexuality, etc., and I've found there is often a lot more to a film than it initially seems.
I really enjoyed the way the term Queer was broke down and explained, however I don't like any labels. I have always negated the gray or binary area of any labeling word when used to describe an individual. In my mind, there is a spectrum. At one end of this spectrum lies the really flamboyant gay and on the other lies the really heterosexual being. I believe that no one lies exactly on either side, but rather as time progresses both sides gradually moves towards a common ground (the middle). I like to think of this common ground as Queer. It is a word that encompasses much. It is a safe playground for all and in a way help eliminate the many labels associated with the gay community. Just think if there was one word that could describe the entirety , for example like the word black or white without defining the deep definition such as the type of black or white, this is what Queer does for me. I believe it would give others a reason to be themselves and do what they actually wanted to do. I do believe it's not who we are, but what we do that should define us. And if being oral with the same sex once classifies you as "gay" or "homosexual" then no wonder people pull back from accurately describing their-selves. Who wants to be placed in a box? Those words hold negative connotation and stigmas unlike the word Queer which is fresh, happy and screams "I'm proud!" I dislike labels because of my spectrum example, I don't believe such exist. Binaries and gray areas will always exist, because people lack the understanding that individuals change and act according to what people do not who they are. People attitude, ways, and other things associated with doing is the underlining force of action for the opponent. It's not the surface (i.e. gender). When we begin to ignore that many sexualities exist, we complicate the ongoing changes of individualistic progression. If a person kisses, performs oral sex or shows interest he/she/both shouldn't automatically be classified as gay or bi. Here is where Queer works perfect. However, again I don't like any labels. People are who they are and do what they want. Is there such thing as heterosexuality? Genderfuck has caused a stir in the gay community and have confused the allegedly heterosexuals. If one is to base their likeness of a certain sex based on what is in between that person legs, then I believe the onlooker is confused about his or her sexuality. It simply takes more than an organ to spark interest, for most. Popular media could be to thank for this. Our minds and interest are shaped because of it. For example, when Naomi Campbell says she wishes she had Rupauls legs. I ask myself why she would say that. I believe it is because of the changing world. Everyone is headed there... sorry.
At the time I entered this course entitled "Queer Cinema", I mentally translated the meaning to be "movies involving homosexuality". I believed that queer was a synonym for homosexual--that an antonym for "queer" would be "heterosexual" or "straight". Upon reflecting on the readings and really, reflecting on society, I came to understand that there is a wide range of sexual tendencies/desires/actions and to limit the "choices" to gay or straight would be like limiting voting to a two party system (which, in my bias, is wrong).
You may have seen a movie that came out earlier this year called "My Idiot Brother". The film first depicts the character Natalie (Zooey Deschanel) as a lesbian living with her girlfriend but soon Natalie sleeps with her man friend and characters surrounding Natalie reflect on Natalie's sexuality with ponderous exclamations like "yeah...we don't really know what Natalie is...she's well..no one really knows". Meanwhile, the main character Ned (unsuccessfully) attempts to engage in a threesome with a women and another man. Another main character named Dylan is having an affair with his film subject while his wife is home with the kids. All of these situations differ from the monogamous heterosexual relationship that so many of are told is "normal".
Although this is a somewhat trivial example, it opens discussions about the need to look beyond a dichotomy of sexual preferences.
Before widespread use of the term "queer," people were typically forced to categorize themselves into either heterosexual or homosexuality. This binary leaves a lot of gray area. For example where would you categorize a woman in a homosexual relationship who also experiences sexual desire for men, or a heterosexually married couple who, during sex play, reverse roles and the woman uses a strap-on dildo to penetrate the man anally, or transgendered individuals in any sexual or romantic relationship? All of these overarching "other" sexualities fall into the gray space between heterosexual and homosexual and fit nicely under the broad term, "queer." The word itself reveals these inadequacies by showing what was missing before; it is uncommon to miss something that you never had in the first place. But once the terminology has been revealed, it is possible to look back and think, "oh, that may have been useful 20 years ago when we were trying to decode/analyze/label/categorize x."
If we begin to fully acknowledge all of the sexualities that exist, much more than just heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, and transsexual (those categories most frequently recognized), then it will complicate the categories themselves. I think that we would begin to see that heterosexuality does not exist. Everyone has sexual desires that are perhaps considered "out of the ordinary." Everyone who has ever had sexual desire for someone other than a member of the distinctly opposite biological sex would be considered queer. Any fetishes would cause the categorization of the individual as queer. Individuals engaging in oral, anal, or group sex would be queer. Role-playing could be a portrayal of queerness. An interest in sexual domination or submission would be queer. Perhaps even promiscuity would be queer. Everyone would be, in some way or another, queer.
The reason why I like the word "queer" is because it's all encompassing. What is considered legitimate and accepted sexualities has changed over the years, from being solely heterosexuality, to both homosexuality and heterosexuality, and soon after included bisexuality and transgenderism. However, binaries still exist within the concept of sexuality, that a person is either one or the other, without any room for fluidity. Society has a tendency to try to label and squeeze people into a rigid box that has precise characteristics boundaries, but in all truth, that is not how sexuality works. The gay-straight binary often causes other alternative sexualities to become invisible, such as the "BT" in "GLBT" (which are acknowledged, but misunderstood and often overlooked), asexuals, pansexuals, ect. However, since each person's sexuality is unique as each person themselves, it's impossible to expect everyone to exactly into a certain category in "the rainbow." This is why "queer" is awesome. It is descriptive of anything that doesn't fall into "the norm" of sexuality or gender expression. It is descriptive of anything that doesn't fall into "the norm" of "abnormal" sexuality or gender expression. So suppose a woman is lesbian, but doesn't adhere to the Hollywood perpetuated butch stereotype. Suppose a gay man prefers sitting down and watching the football game with a beer rather than a day out shopping that a more effeminate or "sissy," as the book would say, gay man would enjoy. Suppose a bisexual has a preference to one gender consistently, or maybe his or her preference changes from day to day. It doesn't matter. Every example offered above falls under the rainbow umbrella of queer, and it's wonderful.
"This suggests a third way of defining queer film, one that centers on issues of spectatorship. According to this model, a queer film is one that is viewed by lesbian, gay, or otherwise queer spectators. In other words, all films might be potentially queer if read from a queer viewing position--that is to say, one that challenges dominant assumptions about gender and sexuality" (Benshoff and Griffin 10).
I think this quotation is an important one to keep in mind as we begin a class called "Queer Cinema." It seems that people have a propensity to want to quantify the people and programs we watch. "Is Barack Obama black enough?" "How violent is too violent?" and so on. I think a challenge we might encounter in class is arguing that a film or a character therein is not queer enough. This is a dead-end conversation.
Instead, I like to think of queerness as a lens through which we can view movies--the examples given in the reading do a great job of explaining how films that are otherwise not intended to be queer, and which feature no queer characters (such as Top Gun) can be interpreted differently by queer viewers.
Also, on an unrelated note, I really enjoyed Creekmur and Doty's discussion of camp. I don't have much to add except to say that when I describe something as "campy," it's always a compliment. I love it when films and television are so-bad-they're-good and aware of it.
This reading was so fascinating because it described all of the different types of people there are and can be within the realms of queer culture, and hinted at the idea that there are almost limitless combinations for how people can identify themselves.
The overall message that I took away from this reading is that queer culture is anything but new, yet it is only now starting to be recognized as something more than just a section of fringe culture. It's history seems anything but linear, which is in line with the general definition of 'queer' itself.
This reading dispelled so many horrible preconceived ideas that were drilled in to my head growing up in a heavily Christian culture. For one, I don't have to flinch at the word queer because it can (and should) be viewed as a positive trait. So far, I'm learning that when it comes down to our inner most secret thoughts, we're all queer in one way or another, which makes sense given the many meanings and definitions of queer. I feel that is why a straight/gay binary would not truly fit ANYONE because, as some of the studies in this reading show, if someone professes to be completely straight to the point where they're homophobic, it is most likely because they are suppressing gay tendencies or secret gay desires.
It is readings like this that I want to mail home to my parents, and post on my Facebook account and talk about over coffee with friends. So many people have a misunderstanding of what queer means and this article just proved that not one of us is completely straight and probably, not one of us is completely gay. And we all have tendencies in between.
Responding to the essay we read for this week by Caroline Evans and Lorraine Gamman, I would like to 'queer' viewing in a way that goes beyond rearticulating heterosexist spectatorship and problematizes what I believe is a reductive and largely imagined dichotomy between the (active and masculine) subject who gazes upon the (neutral and feminine) object. I have not fully thought this through yet, and am hoping for this post to be more conversational (perhaps something we can discuss in class).
I want to put this essay into conversation with theorizations by Judith Butler in her book Undoing Gender, where she discusses the limitations by which identity can be defined by the individual, recognizing that symbolic meanings are attributed to ones body and we have little to no control over this. I also would like to put this essay into conversation with theorizations by Donna Haraway in her essay Situated Knowledges, where she discusses the ability of objects of inquiry to become subjects with a degree of agency through producing knowledge and symbolic meanings about them. Our understanding of objects of inquiry affects how we interact with them.
Evans and Gamman suggest a 'queer' viewing of cinema is a viewing in which a queer subject is able to problematize essentialist readings of film by applying a subcultural lens and interpretation as informed by ones identity as an LGBTQ person in a larger heteronormative society. I believe this interpretation of 'queer' viewing to be incredibly limited as it still maintains a gendered dichotomy that posits all subjects as active (masculine) and all objects as passive (feminine). How can a 'queer' viewing take place in a way that does not rely on mutually exclusive, heteronormative, and gendered dichotomies?
The gaze can be consensual and desirable. In his essay titled "Gays and the Gaze" by Hammad Ahmed (found here http://www.beyondmasculinity.com/articles/ahmed.php), Ahmed discusses instances in which queer males seek to be the object of desire and thereby intentionally try to draw the attention of the gaze. In the essay by Evans and Gamman this is discussed through viewing pornography depicting cisgender male objects who are to be viewed for the sexual gratification (i.e. consumption) of a largely cisgender and heterosexual female audience. Expanding upon this, we could talk about pornography made by and for women and queer folk. In contexts where the gaze is desired by the "object", it is far too simple to say that an object of desire is something to be consumed by an active subject as both parties have agency.
Evans and Gamman also discuss that the establishment of an active subject position when viewing cinema requires the subject's interpellation by the object. Subjects must recognize the self to actively view an object. However, if one is to be called into being by an object, this object must have a degree of agency and subjectivity.
The straight-gay binary is inadequate because it creates two very definitive boxes in which people must squeeze themselves into. Those boxes come with a list of characteristics that are specified to each one as well; any cross-over might mean you actually belong in the other box, and identity confusion is the last thing that anyone wants. "Queer" exposes the fact that nobody fits into either of those boxes perfectly and opens up a realm of possibilities: if nobody fits into boxes and nobody can subscribe perfectly to those lists of straight/gay characteristics, then what? "Queer" says that people can identify along any spectrum within sex, gender, and sexuality (among other things) and that, though labels might be useful, they are not definite or necessary. "Queer" also exposes the societal scripts that everyone has been given and shows people that, though society pressures us all to follow those scripts to the letter, it doesn't fit everyone. In fact, those scripts often perpetuate harmful aspects of society, like heteropatriarchy, for example. In the end, this reveals that, even though society has told us that heterosexuality is "normal", "desirable", and even "necessary", "queer" tells us that we can throw that idea out the window. That all identities are valuable and have a place in society, even if we have to fight for that place. This becomes an important component of what and how things are normalized within society, and through what means they are normalized.
In Harry M. Benshoff and Sean Griffin's Queer Images: A History of Gay and Lesbian Film in America the question "what is queer?" is introduced. I was interested to discover that queer was a "collective term to describe the vast array of human sexualities that actually exist outside of monogamous heterosexual procreative intercourse". I am also somewhat ashamed to admit that prior to the article my interpretation of the word "queer" was that it was synonymous with words like "homosexual" or "gay". I also very much enjoyed the discussion of how defensive we are as a nation not to admit to any queer tendencies since they are not heteronormative. But the reality is that many self identified heterosexual people participate in "nonprocreative sexual acts, such as oral and anal sex...sadomasochists sexualities, regardless of who enacts them...medical technologies such as cloning and artificial insemination... [and] fantastic sexualities, such as those of the vampire or the monstrous sexual creatures sometimes found in Japanese comics and anime" quite regularly. So why is there this intense resistance to all that is queer? It's because along with this definition of queer comes the notion that "there is a general overlap between all forms of human sexuality". Then in order to entertain this a fact the general public must entertain the idea that they themselves and those they love may have homosexual or queer tendencies, it would force us to question our "chocolate or vanilla", "black or white", "republican or democrat", "right or wrong" ideology and as a nation we are simply not comfortable doing so. We live under false pretenses of binaries and regardless of the majority of us that do not fit within the guidelines we continue to act as though these polarities are absolute. We enjoy our classification systems. We like deciphering between the groups in the high school lunch room because we want to know who to identify with and who is above and below us in the social order of things. It seems that queer theory threatens our so called "natural" or perhaps more accurate "societal" order to things. Queer extends to more people than does gay; queer speaks to the gray zone of fluidity that most of us would line within if only we acknowledged its existence.
The straight-gay binary is extremely inadequate. There is a sliding scale of sexualities and genders and people can lie anywhere along that scale. It's not just gay or straight. I think Alfred Kinsey was right in his idea of sexuality being a scale, and it's like a bell curve where most people will end up in the middle somewhere. I wouldn't say that the word "queer" doesn't expose anything; it just allows us to have some sort of label without having to define your sexuality or gender, which is a valuable thing because there are some people who have a difficult time defining themselves.
When we acknowledge the existence of multiple sexualities and genders, we show that heterosexuality may not be as much of a majority as once thought. Since people are given more options to be who they truly are, they don't have to say that they are either gay or straight, they have a wide array of options to choose from, or not decide and just identify as queer.
In a way, I believe that identifying as queer is kind of an easy out because you don't have to really have to explain yourself, you can just be you. It's convenient because people can't always put how they feel into words. Also people are always growing and changing and sexuality is a part of the personality that continues to grow with the person.
One of the primary difficulties that arises in relation to the GLBT movement is the complicated way in which people label themselves and others and further the societal implications of using those labels. In the readings for this week, the inadequacy of the "gay-straight" form of terminology was discussed. The biggest flaw in this "gay-straight binary" is the exclusive way in which it is often used. To be gay or to be straight are very distinct opposites. However, to use this type of terminology often imposes an inflexible vernacular with little room for people who feel in between these two points (bisexuals), or people feel that they belong far outside of merely gay or straight. Thus the term "queer" offers a less binding or confining way of defining oneself.
For our purposes in this class, "queer" seems to take on a definition far beyond something merely of the GLBT community. In its usage, "queer" can be utilized to express something that is outside of what is typically perceived as a cultural norm. By nature "queer" exposes and brings cultural weight to those issues, ideas and people that exist beyond the reach of patriarchy and heteronormativity. In this sense, "queer" does not necessarily pertain to strictly GLBT films, music, television or literature. Rather, to be "queer" could include a film about feminism in the 21st century, or the pursuit of racial and cultural equality because these ideas speak to people who are not foundationally part of a heternormative super-structure.
When one begins to examine the use of the term "queer" in the lexicon of culture and society, ultimately, our understanding and comprehension of heterosexuality must also be brought in to discussion. Can a person in society be completely heterosexual or completely "queer?" As bell hooks discussed in her documentary, at any given time there are numerous societal factors at work influencing the way human beings interact with each other. One's place in society is never stable. And it seems as though to be "queer" is to reconcile with this cultural instability while existing in a heternormative society.
Well the word "queer" points to inadequacies when applied to a certain person or group of people. Contemporarily, it is meant to refer to GLBT people and the inadequacies that fall upon this group of people.
Initially, it meant anyone who had sex outside of marriage; to some extent this definition is still true today. The chapter talks about heterosexual men who engage in anal sex as queer; then they turn around and label gay men and women as being involved in queer relationships since they do not conform to heterosexual norms.
So the inadequacy is the simplest form of hypocrisy. You cannot claim to heterosexual, attack homosexuals, then proceed to engage in queer sexual relations. The only issue queer address is varying from the hetero-normative of one man and one woman engaging in sexual relations primarily for procreation.
If we are to look at heterosexuality and the range it takes on, we would find ourselves in the queer realm. Being heterosexual is extremely limiting, whereas being queer is liberating. I would rather not tie down my sexuality into a small box. I'm not sure how I could live like that.
Being a media theory major, I have been asked to critically analyze many forms of media. Hook presents an interesting perspective on media in regards to representation of norms and expectations. She wants viewers to realize that the racist and homophobic beliefs have been instilled in them by media's machine of portraying those on screen.
Hooks uses a lot of two dollar words in an attempt to stress her point of assessing media's representation of culture to the viewer. She uses one term frequently, "White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy." At first, I thought this was a cleverly coined term, but by the end of the documentary I thought she was a crazed feminist. All throughout the documentary, with the exception of the OJ portion, I just really wanted her to not talk anymore.
It was as if someone had pissed her off and she was on the attack. This perception carried throughout the entire documentary.
To answer your question, she talks about cultural expectations in media and how they form our perceptions and that we must train our brains to analyze the moment they fit into "that" mold.
Finally, In regards to Hooks and her comment, that we must be "enlightened witnesses when we watch represenations," I believe she wants the public to take the media for what it is worth. To see an actor portray a black character as just that, a character on screen. We must begin to assess that our media expectations do not follow through into reality.
I believe what they are proposing as inadequate is that the straight-gay binary isn't all encompassing. It's a vague linear spectrum that does not include all types of sexualities. For Western cultures the reading says, "people are encouraged to self-identify as either straight or gay." What's inadequate about this binary is that there are so many different situations, feelings and factors that play into a persons actions and desires that giving everyone a label of either being "straight" or "gay" just doesn't suffice. The term queer is used as an all encompassing term to describe all the other sexualities that occur outside of straight monogamous intercourse. What's revealed about heterosexuality is that it shouldn't be something that children are automatically taught or expected to be - because it's definitely not the only way. I liked reading about porn categories and how specific they all were, that definitely opened my eyes to some other sexual preferences. The straight-gay binary is too simple when each human's sexuality can be vast and complex. After reading through the list of porn categories it almost seems like a boring choice to watch. Personally, I'm not a porn-watcher but if I was I think I would pick something a little more exciting than hetero-homo binary. It just shows that as humans our sexuality can't and shouldn't be limited!
Bell Hooks clearly has a lot of experience critically examining media and how it represents minority groups, and I enjoyed listening to her thoughts on so many pop culture institutions. She leads by example by teaching us to always examine everything we are seeing - for example, pointing out that the thief in one movie was depicted as a dark-skinned man, even though the book it is based on did not specify his race. Things like these make me realize I should approach every piece of media I consume for any prejudices or possible discriminations present.
One strategy she uses to analyze pop culture is her own experience. She notes how her Grandma often verbally mocked her dark sister, and how this led her to realize that things weren't right in the way a lot of society treated race and how pop culture sometimes only entrenches these stereotypes and feelings.
When hooks talks about being enlightened witnesses, I think she means we need to keep in mind their situations and struggles through everyday life and how sometimes, movies and TV shows only exacerbate these problems. For example, when the hero of a movie uses the word 'gay' as a derogative but is otherwise a likeable and attractive character, the audience is much more likely to glaze over the use and even begin to think it's acceptable. They will probably be more likely to use it themselves. I always think of a South Park example - Stan and Kyle, the two main characters in my mind, are very normal, likeable boys - but the writers have them consistently and very casually use gay and fag. When a young audience sees the hero of the show who you're supposed to like say these things, they must automatically assume most people do this and that it's acceptable - something I think is very bad. It's surprising because I know the creators of South Park are quite liberal and otherwise gay-friendly, but I suppose that's another story.
In a class on queer cinema, an enlightened witness would bring an open mind, a good understanding of previous queer representations and how they have evolved over the decades, and most of all an empathetic mind to how important GLBT representations are because of how much they affect the opinions on non-queer everyday people.
I also agree that we have to question who the experts are. There are many times when I am watching a movie and think to myself, who was the mastermind behind this? or why are they portraying a certain race in such a way that is so stereotypical? Is there any a time when race wont be so critical to examining pop culture in movies? I feel that sometimes it should be about the character and not their race!
What media and certain viewpoints that were concerned with specified ideologies are likely to control people easily who do not adjust critical thinking. In that, as Hooks discussed all over her works, it is extremely important to approach given means critically, which an original performer selects to show consciously. Hooks constantly points out the role of money in the industry and popular culture which disregards morality and pursues profits. In order to win the sympathy of majority, the way that performers are adopting is consciously picked for the best result. Players choose what they want to show not what is necessarily to be shown. What they are arguing seems very natural as if they demand and follow such a fair and reasonable fact. However, one should notice that the shared interests of popular culture and the industry conceal deception involved with racism, sexism, heteroecism, and so forth. I personally think those camouflages are fairly subliminal and even very powerful that absorb sneakily while one looks away for a second. For instance, the movie Braveheart, mentioned in the Hook's documentary, has offered a chance to think about liberation of Ireland, which reveals an impact of popular culture. In the same vein, the popular culture of United States or Hollywood that keeps a dominated position all over the world ultimately does affect and penetrate into people's mind. It is interesting that this kind of atmosphere, in fact, even brings a huge transformation of the society itself. The transformation of standards of beauty in South Korea is very distinctive because a westernized (or marginalized) concept of beauty, reflected from movies stars of Hollywood, models of fashion show in Paris, and every manipulated advertisements starred by whites, pushes the girls to have a plastic surgery such as a plastic surgery for double eyelids. It is crucial to understand people to be "enlightened witnesses" when they watch representation for avoiding blind faith of such trends. "Enlightened witnesses" no longer stay passive against majority power which likewise can be applied in observing queer cinema. The white hetero sexual upper class power is practiced within its own superiority not from the inferiority of people of colors as Hooks mentioned on a documentary, the case of Spike Lee who were accused as a failure. Similarly, queer culture has nothing to do with simplified perpetuation within hetero sexual regulations, but its diverse approach to the issue and experiences.
In hooks' documentary, she examines how power and money affect what we see in the media and how the images we see affect our beliefs. She advocates that we become critical viewers of images presented in the media to avoid perpetuating inequalities and misrepresentations in society. To become critically aware of what is presented in the media, we need to look at what the creators of the media's motives are and furthermore be in-tune with what the overall message of the media presents. For example, hooks explains that in the movie Hoop Dreams, the guy who turns toward academics isn't looked upon nearly as favorably as the basketball hero. We have to look at what that message sends out to viewers, and ask why the decision was made to portray each character a certain way. Oftentimes, decisions are made based on what producers believe viewers want, and what message will please box office crowds rather than what is most realistic. Hooks also uses Madonna's transformation from a feminist figure to a misogynist pleasing sex symbol to demonstrate how money affects what we see in the media. As they say, sex sells and so Madonna becomes sexier. Hooks advises that as critical viewers of media, we don't buy into the idea that media celebrities are appropriate representations of groups of people. When hooks says that we need to be "enlightened witnesses" when watching marginalized groups of people on screen, she means that we need to recognize the power structures that lie behind the scenes. We should realize that the media isn't an accurate way to judge a culture, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Sometimes what is shown is just what those in power think will sell. For example hooks illustrates that many films about Blacks are made by white directors, producers, and writers because they will give primarily white audiences what they are looking for. In relation to this class, we need to be enlightened witnesses in order to view queer cinema with questions of who is in power in mind.
Bell Hooks' film teaches us to watch films critically by bring to our attention things that we may not have even considered previously. Through example, she was able to teach us what sorts of things we need to be watching for and why they may be viewed as problematic representations of culture. Hooks put extraordinary emphasis on race in this documentary which is extremely helpful to me. As a member of a privileged race, I have never before been in a place to really think analyze the racialization of roles in film.
In order to analyze films or popular culture, one must be able to remove it from the realm of entertainment. She goes on to explain that she is able to really enjoy watching a film because of the entertainment factor, but then is able to simultaneously dislike the film because of the problems of representation within it.
Hooks spends much of the documentary discussing the concept of being an "enlightened witness." In order to be an enlightened witness, one must do more than simply watch the material. One must also understand the manner in which they respond to the material (consciously or otherwise). Understanding the reactions or internalizations that are a result of pop culture is just as important as analyzing the representations within the culture itself.
An enlightened witness creates a better space for discussion than a simple spectator does. Without these witnesses, our discussion would be limited to solely analyzing the film itself in an objective manner. The enlightened witness brings to the table a subjectivity that is very valuable in a discussion experience. By analyzing the film itself as well as our individual responses to it, we are able to create a much more active and useful discussion than if we were solely discussing it as spectators.
Bell Hooks demonstrates the importance at looking at films critically, rather than just sitting back and enjoying them for entertainment value. Although I often hear people say that it really doesn't matter what happens on movies and in T.V., it seems that popular culture frames most of what people say and do within everyday life. As Bell Hooks illustrated, most Americans probably never even thought of Ireland before they watched the movie Braveheart.
That concept can be stretched over to so many things that the media brings to the attention of the public, as well as underlying themes dealing with race, class, gender, sexuality, etc. Although this documentary is pretty dated, and there were some films mentioned that I had never even heard of, much of Hooks' concerns still ring true today.
Though I haven't seen the movie KIDS, when Hooks voiced her concerns about the fact that most people couldn't even recall the names of the female leads, I thought of many movies today. If you think about it, almost every movie or T.V. show has a male lead character, and if it doesn't then it's a "chick flick" or we are supposed to feel oh so impressed when some tiny actress has a powerful leading role. The representation of gender in films is still a huge problem today.
Hooks also mentions the role of race in film, and though I can't remember the name of the movie, there was one where the director chose a black male to play the role of a thief, though the original story didn't call for that. Though this was obviously an older film, I think there are still some racist issues with film today, such as the "token black guy" in horror films who is always getting killed first. Though there has been some progress in recent years, I still think it is important to be an "enlightened witness" when watching films. By this I mean that we should view films through a critical feminist eye; instead of ignoring the racist/sexist/heterosexist things we see on screen, we have to remember to pay attention to them, because they do matter.
In the documentary, Cultural Criticisms and Transformation, bell hooks offers a critical reading of race, gender and class in popular culture, focusing largely on film and music. hooks suggests a direct connection exists between media representations, harmful stereotypes, structures of white supremacy, and the personal choices we make in our lives when interacting with folks. Reading media critically demands that the viewer actively participates and converses with what they are viewing, as opposed to simply engaging in a passive process of consumption.
The term "enlightened witness" describes a critical witness who is educated and exercises agency. In film, a subject who is infused with culture controls the camera. This is to say their values, assumptions, the way they see the world (i.e. their gaze) is thereby not neutral or 'objective'. According to hooks, the reproduction of racial and gendered stereotypes in popular culture and media is a conscious effort, one done for purposes of wealth accumulation. This rearticulates, and actively reproduces social inequity, misogyny, colonization, and imperialism through implying a natural inherence to white supremacy capitalist patriarchy. Another aspect I read in hook's use of the term "enlightened witness" is the privileged understanding women, queer folk and people of color have of white supremacy and heterosexism, as they are more likely to understand the assumptions and values of dominant culture while also understanding the values of marginalized populations. The "enlightened witness" through actively conversing with popular culture and media can recognize the ways in which white supremacy capitalist patriarchy and heterosexism have become internalized by people of color, women and queer folk.
Critical race and feminist theorizations inform hooks strategies in analyzing popular culture and media. I believe queer theory also borrows from this way of viewing reading both what is explicitly articulated but also what is more implicit (some call this reading against the grain).
Something I would like to interrogate further about this is how this internalization of white supremacy capitalist patriarchy means that people of color, women and queer folk will actively reproduce systems of violence and inequity despite their status as a marginal subject because they are also informed by dominant societies (liberal, white, male and moneyed) beliefs and ideologies. Who is recognized as in a position of "expert"? Whose voices are we most likely to recognize as credible? This is partially a tangent, but it made me think of work folks such as Tim Wise have done attempting to dismantle white supremacy and to divest themselves of white privilege. Tim Wise is recognized as a powerhouse, as an expert within this field, despite the fact that what he knows is borrowed (with and without giving credit) from academics and activists of color.
bell hooks film teaches us to watch films critically by explicitly showing viewers of the film ways in which pop culture overcomes our senses. She is able to pull out examples such as Spike Jones' so called failure as a film maker and not only debunk the lies created by the media but also interpret the larger social message being delivered by that lie. hooks then takes her analysis a step further and postulates the motivations and payoffs of perpetuating those false social messages. So in the example of Spike Lee, hooks points out that even though the box office has declared Spike Lee a success, critics and commentators insist on dubbing him a failure. Spike Lee is juxtaposed with Woody Allen, who has had box office flop after flop and yet is still hailed as a mega star of American film making. She offers these two film makers as an example of the "white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy" because Spike Lee is being defamed in the public eye (although his films hold the truth) because he is black whereas Woody Allen is allowed greater success because he is white.
In analyzing pop culture bell hooks first interprets what the message is that the media outlet is attempting to deliver, she then carefully dissects the media to reveal the message that is actually delivered. In the end, she also exposes the motivations, as well as the pay offs for delivering the hidden message. She also pays special attention to covert ways that media tricks the consumer into thinking they are consuming one thing while really they are consuming another. It is through this lesson that hooks allows the viewer to realize that there is more going on during the consumption of films (or other media) than entertainment.
As enlightened witnesses, viewers are more knowledgeable of the messages that they are receiving. The viewer/consumer is able to interpret messages of representation in a more critical way rather than as simply entertainment. In a class such as queer cinema, being an enlightened witness to representation will be useful when attempting to interpret empowering vs. degrading images/messages in films. As hooks pointed out in her film, oftentimes images that are purported to be empowering have the opposite effect when critically evaluated.
In the film Cultural Criticisms and Transformation, Bell Hooks creates a critical analysis of pop culture and its current(relatively) understanding. Looking at topics of race, gender, and class, Hooks brings up the discussion of the White supremacist capitalist patriarchy. This term is used to describe how looking through a specific lens, specifically gender or race, may not allow for a full view of the impact of entertainment. From the use of specific actors/actresses, to the dialogue in the film, Hooks explains that all parts of a film have a meaning. The discussion of rap brought up why there is such a tunnel view of popular rap. The influence of money aids decision making, thus the people writing the checks are controlling the representations of the artists. In analyzing pop culture and films, Hooks uses the point of view of the viewer to parse out the real meanings of the media. Looking through the eyes of the viewer, in most cases she discussed a white consumer; she explained the importance of the representations of Madonna. Remembering that money has a large influence, if not total, on the producers and artists; money controlled what Madonna produced as a product. Her product, to be sold to America, was to conform to the norm of hyper sexuality. Hooks discussed the Enlightened Witness, when talking about how people receive a representation, and how they react to it. An enlightened witness is one who can be critically vigilant about what they are told, and can use their critical reading and writing skills to further an understanding and intellectual response to it. Bringing this idea to Queer Cinema will open doors to an intellectual conversation of what profound messages can be within the media. The idea of the enlightened witness is one synonymous with open-mindedness and academia, and when brought to Queer Cinema, will only cause the conversations to be more academic and insightful.
I found Bell Hook's explanation of minority representation in the white male dominated media very insightful and thought provoking. Though misrepresentation runs rampant in the media, I feel that it is not intentional, but expressed on a subconscious level in character/plot writing. Many people are engrained with a certain stereotype of a minority, whether viewers or film producers, which is then translated into what we see on television shows and movies. When viewers see these representations, they are being somewhat programmed to believe that this is what a certain minority is like. Included in the viewers are also the minorities themselves. I feel that often times, when the viewers subjected to misrepresentation see mass media's portrayal of themselves, there is often a desire to mimmic what they see. Whether it's a tough acting, street smart black teenager or an impossibly skinny bombshell wearing hardly any clothing, there is a subconscious desire to accept and perpetuate what the viewer is seeing as reality. I guess, in a sense, it's a vicious circle. The problem of misrepresentation and degradation may have started with white-male supremacy, but it continues in the culture's "normal" interpretation of minorities.
So all in all, Bell Hooks makes a good point to think critically of how characters, whether black, female, or otherwise are represented. Do they reinforce or break down the walls of degradation and stereotyping? How does the general population react to these representations?
Bell Hooks created an extremely accessible approach to the infrastructure to institutionalized white supremestand patriarchy. I found her ability to comment on the conscious manipulation of imagery, and motives was not only insightful but simplistic and to the point. In her explanation of rap and it's relationship with misogyny, the motivation of greed and money are the full force behind the choices represented by the media; once these action are in place, one can ascertain the damage brought onto specific cultures and groups of people. Her most grounded point that stuck with me after the lecture was her comparisons of the "White Wonderbread" society and the "Exotic Endangered Species" that is represented by what is deemed "blackness". This idea that white culture in it's current state is too safe and boring for mass audiences to rely on the this representation, as it does not sell, in exchange for creating a need for an interesting and manipulated image of non-white culture for maximizing a given product or commodity. It is this social construct that allows what we deem as "whiteness" to be what Hooks says as "static" and safe at the expense of other cultures.
In her documentary film about cultural criticism, bell hooks offers up analyses of (then-)current trends in entertainment in a way that is both thoughtful and easy to understand. One thing she argues is that "there is a direct link between representations and choices we make." This link proves how crucial it is that we, as consumers of media, understand what the deliberate choices of, say, filmmakers mean and how they impact the way we behave toward others.
To analyze film, hooks wants us to understand the "conscious manipulations" of filmmakers, for example, choosing that thieves and villains be portrayed by black men. To be critical viewers (or "enlightened witnesses, as it were), we must understand not only what is being shown on screen, but why, who has written it, for whose consumption, and what the end goals of the entertainment are. She also warns against viewing transgressive tastes as radical or progressive ones, a connection I had not yet considered.
I think the most compelling tactic hooks outlined for us to be enlightened witnesses is to acknowledge that everyone who makes (or authorizes and promotes) films is making strategic choices. By acknowledging that, we can begin to critique both those choices and their impacts. Relating this to queer cinema, I am excited to discuss the application of concepts like the gaze and the deliberate choices of filmmakers. I am also interested in the political issues and contexts explored (or parodied) by queer cinema and the social repercussions of queer films.
Hook teaches us that there is a direct link between the media we are expose too and the real lives we live. She teaches us that it is important to think critically of things that we allow into our lives, and especially to think critically of those things that we do not necessarily allow but that we are bombarded with everyday. The movies we watch are not just some fantasy world, they are based off of reality as we know it. Although, as Hook's makes clear, watching a rape scene in movie may not make a woman think it is ok to be raped, it may perhaps expose her to the idea that her body is to be dominated by a man and that it is somewhat acceptable; acceptable enough to be shown to billion's of people all over the world.
Hook's uses the strategies of looking at who is behind the film/popular media, why certain roles are filled by certain people, and looking at the film as though it does in a way represent real life.
I think what Hook's means by "enlightened witnesses" is that we should view representations of marginalized communities with a knowledge that that representation is a stereotype, or is the representation based on whoever created that character, or who directed that movie; to think critically of the context in which this character is created and exactly who the person behind the character is.
It is easy to zone out when viewing a film and just absorb all that the movie is without thinking twice as to what is beneath the surface of the film. The more you are exposed to an idea, and that that idea is ok, then the more likely you are to accept that idea as being ok. It is just like a classroom; the instructor can lecture to you as to what is right and what is wrong, but if you do not take the time to engage with class discussions and to think critically and acknowledge that maybe you shouldn't just believe everything anyone tells you, then you are just a blind follower. I think that really delving beneath the surface of things is a great way to become self actualized. I find Hook's methods of relating critical theory to popular culture is brilliant because honestly, I learn better and am more engaged when things are relatable to my life outside of academia.
I feel that bell hooks' approach to analysing film is one that we could all benefit from. Instead of only judging movies on one aspect, bell hooks combines all those analytics into a multifaceted tool which enables us to see deeper into the film than we may once have. When we watch a film, we usually focus on the problem or part of the film that seems most relevant to our particular lives. If I was a white, straight, cisgendered male, and was watching a film such as Boys Don't Cry, I feel that I would view it in an entirely different light than I would as a queer individual. I may overlook a number of the finities and not be able to connect with the film as well as I could if I had put myself in someone else's shoes. Bell hooks teaches us to do this, and to remove ourselves from our own minds, and view the film from many different standpoints, as well as trying to fit ourselves into the character's shoes. Bell Hooks teaches us to watch these films from different standpoints, as well as even changing the language we use to express such ideas as we may encounter while viewing them. For instance; instead of using the term racism, bell hooks encourages the term 'white supremacy'. This brings an even more direct light to where the problem lies. Instead of using broad umbrella terms to describe a problem, hooks forces us to take a jab at where the problem in race truly lies. We're forced to deal with an actual problem, not a generalisation that we can easily blow off and exempt ourselves from. We need to be aware of every aspect of the film, and be aware of how all individuals are being portrayed. Oft times directors/producers attempt to draw our attentions away by using certain effects or musical scores, etc. We have to take a closer look at the film, and really be able to define what the true issues are, and how each population is being represented, taking in account our own experiences, as well as putting ourselves in the situations of others.
With some time for reflection after watching the film, I plan to watch films critically to extract my personal life experiences from my analysis. In order to objectively critique a film, we have to step back and look at the surroundings of the given topic. In this way, the audience can take on a certain omniscient role by separating him/herself from the equation and seriously, yet objectively observe the film.
The ways about which I'll continue watching films critically will be centered around awareness. Awareness of intention(s) of the film makers, awareness of societal trends, and be fully aware of the implications of language used in the films, and by myself. With a conscious understanding of the film-makers goals, we can have a more accurate understanding of what is actually going on in the film, as well as what may be altered to produce a given outcome or audience reaction. Without an understanding of social, political, or economic trends of the setting of the film and/or the setting of the time in which the film was produced, we can miss out on a lot of potential social commentary or implications being portrayed, even subtly, throughout the film. By using accurate language to convey my critiques, I'll be able to more effectively express my thoughts on a film. As mentioned by Bell Hooks, the use of "white supremacy" over "racism" gives radically different angles on a similar issue.
In order to be an "enlightened witness" we must be aware of the intent of a given film. By altering and manipulating music, certain scene edits, using color schemes and other symbolism, films shift the direct account of a story to a specific version of the story. This makes it imperative for the audience to have an awareness of the goals of the film makers first and foremost.
It teaches us to watch critically by looking through different lenses and identifying what is actually being portrayed. The film reminded me to not just pay attention to the movie's storyline but to be aware of each character and their role, the agenda's the filmmaker may have and the stereotypes they reinforce. The strategies she utilizes are taking common negative, discriminatory tendencies of society and identifying them through film and the media. For example when she talks about the movie Kids and how even though one of the main characters was a woman, she didn't have as strong of a voice as the two other male characters. Or in the media how Madonna consciously played into sexism in order to make more money and regain popularity. Hollywood keeps reinforcing stereotypes through film and media that it becomes so easy for us as an audience to buy into the fact that the thief is black, the rape victim a weak woman or the two lovers in the film being a white, heterosexual couple. What Hook wants us to do is abolish these stereotypes and to not let the media consistently form and reinforce these opinions. When Hook says that we need to be "enlightened witnesses," she means that we need to have our own understanding of how actual society is compared to hollywood's agendas while they are repeatedly feeding us the same stereotypes. Skills that an enlightened witness brings to a queer cinema class is the ability to identify and look past common social, racial, gender and sexual constructs. To think more critically under the influence of the representations of certain films and to understand what is being shown.
What I got from Hook in terms of the ways to look at films critically was to be consciously aware of the characters, directors, and filmmakers societal biases and representations. To be able to ask ourselves why it is portrayed this way and who may benefit from it being portrayed in this manner are important critical questions. Hook talked about the movie KIDS and how that whenever she asked someone about the lead female character they never remembered yet the leading white male characters names were always remembered. I think Hook really wants viewers to be conscious of these small and important revelations seen in film. That these small details lead to larger conclusions. In essence it seemed that the ability to think critically about films is in itself a strategy in bringing meaning out of pop culture films. Earlier in the film we were shown clips of black men being the thieves or voices of the villain (Darth Vader). Hook discusses how these representations of select characters in certain roles are used to perpetuate the ideals of the filmmaker or Hollywood. That this in itself is a reflection of "white supremacy". I think being aware of such ideas as white supremacy as Hook defines triggers a response in future films we watch as a class. I think being aware is one of the best strategies to employ in critiquing a film. As far the term "Enlightened Witnesses" goes Hook defines this as " being critically vigilant about the world we live in". In the way we interpret, listen, and respond to things we have to keep critically vigilant. Hook calls it 'de-colonizing our minds" so we can think more openly and critically about a subject without the influence of the patriarchal system.
In "Cultural Criticism and Transformation", bell hooks is very eloquent when describing the interlocking politics of gender and race, and the way that those things are complicated through affects of popular media, especially films and music. By presenting her coined comprehensive ideology of "White supremacist capitalist patriarchy", she is giving us a very wide and valuable lens with which to critique both movies and other aspects of society. By explaining that everything in society is produced and consumed through that lens, she is urging us to see through that lens as well: to understand and critically think about what we are consuming and the ways those views impact society. When hooks explains her idea of the "enlightened witness", she's talking about seeing everything through a critical lens and then responding to the message. Instead of passively accepting the message that popular media is telling us, we have to question it and how we are responding to it. This holds especially true for thinking about marginalized communities, who are often not given the space to speak for themselves in society. If the people with the most power (read: money) are consuming movies about marginalized communities (which are usually being mutated through a White lens in the first place) and are drawing certain ideas and assumptions from those representations- that is inherently dangerous. Because those people are only seeing and thinking about those communities through that lens of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, instead of taking the initiative to gather their own education and hone their ideas through actually speaking and working with that marginalized community. Her example of this phenomenon was showcased when she was talking about the production and consumption of rap music in America. When it comes to being an enlightened witness and watching queer movies, there is always a realm of things to think about critically. The first and foremost is, obviously, the way we understand "queer" in society and if queerness is happening in some way through or in the film. There is also the necessity of looking at race, class, gender, sex, and sexuality (among many other things) and the way those identities intersect both with each other, with the way we understand "queer" in society, and the way those things are being presented as "queer" through or in the film in question.
Hook teaches us to not only watch the movie, but to look at who made the movie, who chose the cast, and wrote the script. Does an actor's race determine which roles they will play? I thought it was interesting for her to point out how in the original storyline for the movie "Smoke," there was no indication for the race of the thief, yet the director chose an African American man to play the character. It makes me wonder if the movie would have still been received as well with a white thief or if the person who was stolen from was African American.
Some of the strategies have to do with critical viewing, and looking past the movie itself. I guess it's similar to what I said before about checking out who directed, who produced it and who wrote it and how they all kind of meshed together. Also knowing the audience and who perceived what messages from the movie is also important. Pulling out common stereotypes is also important. Movies, television and other types of popular culture are where we get our views on society especially now that people aren't reading nearly as much as they used to, so it's really important to pull apart these stereotypes and break down barriers that we see.
I believe what she means by "enlightened witness" is someone who critically watching these films and actually pulling apart the things we find to be wrong, and stereotypical. We need to bust the myths that the movies put out about people based on race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. An "enlightened witness" would probably bring an open mind to be able to objectively look at the movies and decide what they think the movie is trying to say about queers. A keen eye to detail would also be important. Also a desire to do research and look behind the scenes and figure out who went into making the movie might also be a valuable skill.
Let me first start out by saying I do not agree with all of the opinions that Bell Hooks states in her documentary. I think she herself is a bit racist and thinks that black people are represented well enough on the media and when they are they are not represented well. I think there are movies such as Ali with Will Smith that portray black people in a very good way. Although Hooks does teach us a lot of ways to look at films critically. She teaches us the ideas on how films do use racial profiling to get a response out of the audience watching. She also teaches us a bit on what themes we can look for in movies such as domestic violence, as in the OJ Simpson trial, and feminism power, as with Madonna's career. As much as I disagree with a lot of Bell Hook's ideas and theories, she does have a few good ones that make sense to me such as her story on Spike Lee's movie. It was a culturally moving movie that made a decent profit but it didn't make enough to be profound. Hooks uses a lot of racial profiling to explain movies and the extent that they impact culture. She also uses gender, like when it comes to the movie Kids. She explains that people remember the men and the raping scene, where as the women kind of go unnoticed. When Hooks talks about being enlightened witnesses when we watch representations it means that we the media around us and we are critically vigilant about the world we live in. This is the media that we are able to remove ourselves and understand the representation that media is creating for us. We understand how we are being represented and do not argue with how movies or television or books say we are. We just accept it. Overall, Bell Hooks documentary proved to be insightful and was interesting to watch.
It is often difficult, as consumers of mass media, to separate for ourselves the tenuous distinction between the passive consumption and the active engagement of culture. We seem to be predisposed and inclined towards the former- that is, although we may make decisions about which films to see, which songs or artists to listen to or which news sources to follow, our participation therein is intrinsically shallow and non-committal. Because we are bombarded by so many images and ideas, we rarely take the time or effort to endeavor further into the true nature of what we are shone. In Cultural Criticism and Transformation, bell hooks touches upon the critical analysis that is necessary to truly engage with the cultural materials presented to us on a daily basis.
One of the most powerful examples in this documentary was the discussion of Spike Lee's cultural impact as a film of director of color. hooks raises the point that although Lee's film Malcolm X was historically acknowledged as a failure due to less than astounding box office results- when in reality, the film was no more or less successful than numerous other Hollywood films helmed by caucasian directors. From a historical perspective, the film Malcolm X has been tinted by the lens of failure, and thus, its meaning and interpretation of changed. hooks argues that one must look outside of the film to gain true insight into its cultural verbiage.
In discussing film and culture, hooks adeptly utilizes the ideologies of race, gender, sexuality and class to critique the images that are presented to us as consumers. However, the distinction must be made, as hooks notes early in the documentary, that each of these ideologies works tangentially and conjunctively in pursuit and formation of meaning. In other words, the discussion of culture cannot simply take place with one factor in mind. Thus, our society seems to have adopted (as hooks calls it) a "White Supremacy Capitalist Patriarchy."
Further, to be an "enlightened witness" is to reject the idea of the passive consumption of culture. When one watches a film, one must remain attuned to the implications of any minority representation when it is presented on the screen. Because one cannot remove oneself from representation, it is better to actively engage and understand the ideology behind a cultural representation.
In this documentary bell hooks draws upon many things that are of great importance in the discussion of defining queer cinema. Firstly, a concept that is key throughout academia is to read and think critically. It is therefore important in this instance as well. bell hooks eludes to the significance of critical thinking particularly when she talks about how in film, the importance is not always the emotion that the movie evokes in a viewer but rather the overall meaning. This is important to remember when watching films because although the feelings that come about may be an indication of what is really going on, they may also be misleading in deciphering the message. This is why critical analysis is important, that is, dissecting the parts of the movie and rearranging them, like puzzle pieces, to find out what is not being explicitly said.
Another way in which critical analysis helps to discover the meaning behind popular culture is in a multi-facited way. Our reality is not one dimensional, yet why does our society insist on rationalizing behaviors in such a way? bell hooks says she starting using the term "White Supremacy Capitalist Patriarchy" instead of something more similar "racism" because "racism" does not allow for the messiness within the problem. We do not just have whites beating Blacks or men raping women the issues are complicated through and intersection of race, gender, and socioeconomic status. This should be displayed through our media and when things like the OJ Simpson trial arise we should not pick sides according to identity that best suites us, but we should analyze that situation independent of the politics surrounding it.
bell hooks also discusses analyzing films through the director and the audience. She talks about how this can be key to success of the film. This was the instance of Spike Lee. Hollywood said that Lee is a failure because his movies had not done as well as they were supposed to. But what is not being said is that white viewers and critics were not interested in an authentic portrayal of Black culture. This is because the movies that are tolerated by the general public are stories of minor culture through a white lens since this doesn't require the white person to feel ostracized. bells hooks's "Cultural Criticism and Transformation" provides an involved explanation of critical thinking and one that will translate nicely when working with queer cinema.
Welcome to your Spring semester Queer Cinema course! This blog will be used as a space to continue and create conversations outside of our class discussions. You will be asked to post short responses here on a regular basis, as well as respond to your colleagues' posts. You can also use the blog as a way to enhance your participation grade by posting additional entries from what you're required to write. If doing so, please contact me once you've posted an additional response, so that I can make certain to note it in my grade book.
Please remember to be respectful in this space and remember that it is a public blog, meaning that it is not protected from the public eye. Only post here what you would be comfortable having seen by family, friends, and future employers!
Here's to an exciting, fun, and thought-provoking semester!