My essay “On the Gender Trouble of ‘Loving Highsmith'” was published by the LA Review of Books. It is a review of Eva Vitija’s new documentary, Loving Highsmith, but also a broader essay on novelist Patricia Highsmith, film adaptation, and gender.
Rox Recommends: Netflix Edition
As we are all stuck at home self-quarantining (thanks, covid19), I thought I would make a recommended list of things to watch when totally bored out of one’s mind. Rather than make super serious arguments as to why YOU (as my student/my friend/my blood kin/a fellow lover of the cinema and TV box) MUST WATCH the titles below, I thought I would ditch the pompous professor hat and don another complete with quippy contentions. Without further ado, here is “Rox Recommends: The Netflix Edition”:
I’ve divided them into entrees and appetizers or (really) classics and new finds.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Best Ang Lee.
Because all dystopian science fiction should include femme fatales and dance parties.
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
The Get Out of the 1960s, starring Sidney Poitier, Katherine Hepburn, and Spencer Tracy.
Smart women who talk fast—what more does one want from a Y2K coming of age TV series?
Most deserving Best Picture winner ever.
Best romantic comedy of the 21st century, and, yes, it is a competition.
Paris Is Burning
Would there be queer culture without this film? It’s hard (and painful) to imagine.
The Talented Mr. Ripley
Queer murderers for the win. Matt Damon and Jude Law play chess in the bath.
Star Trek: The Original Series
It’s the original. Also, Leonard Nimoy.
(Relatively) New Finds
For the Love of Spock
In case anyone else needs a documentary investigation into the appeal and significance of Leonard Nimoy (see Star Trek above).
Jenny Slate: Stage Fright
Jenny Slate is a Genius (see Obvious Child above).
As if sex and romance weren’t weird enough, let’s set the stakes even higher.
My favorite serial killer series.
Paris is Burning but for 21st century.
Worth watching for David’s sweaters alone.
Because we could all use a utopian science fiction series about global connectivity right now.
Grizzly Man meets Grey Gardens.
I am excited to announce that I have joined the faculty of Clark University. As of July, I am an Assistant Professor of Screen Studies in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts. This fall I will be teaching a seminar, “Gender and Film,” and completing my book manuscript, Lesbian Potentiality and Feminist Media in the 1970s.
“Queer Acknowledgments,” an essay I wrote with Branden Buehler, has been published in Mapping Queer Space(s) of Praxis and Pedagogy, edited by Elizabeth McNeil, James E. Wermers, and Joshua O. Lunn. In the essay, we use social network analysis software to map queer studies’ acknowledgments sections. Doing as much allows us to identify social bonds unrecognized by typical models of academic kinship and picture a queer alternative to the genealogical trees that dominate our scholarly imaginations.
American Studies Association
This week I am looking forward to attending the American Studies Association conference in Chicago. On Sunday, I will be presenting alongside Cáel M. Keegan, micha cárdenas, and Laura Horak on a panel on “Lana and Lilly Wachowski’s Cinematic Pedagogy of Dissent.” Susan Stryker will serve as our chair and respondent. Laura and I will be building off our contribution to the “Sense8 roundtable” and exploring how the embodied, haptic, intersubjective connection between the sensates and the series and its viewers have expanded, strengthened, and become more complicated in season two, leading to the #WeAreTheGlobalCluster fan protest of the series’ cancellation.
Grand Valley State University
In the fall I will be joining the faculty of Grand Valley State University as a Visiting Professor in Visual and Media Arts. My first semester I will be teaching Film Culture, Film Theories, and History of Documentary. I am looking forward to becoming a member of GVSU’s vibrant campus and collaborating with my fellow Film and Video faculty.
I am back in LA after yet another amazing WisCon. This was a big year for me. I presented on three panels (one on judging the Titpree, a second on Sense8, and a third in response to the vids that premiered at the vid party). The Sense8 panel, which included brilliant papers by micha cárdenas and Cáel Keegan and extended our discussion about the series’ utopianism from the Spectator roundtable, was especially well received. I also premiered my Hidden Figures vid at the vid party and my student Nina Lamaria premiered “Meeting of Two (Space) Queens,” the Barbarella femslash vid she made for my “Sexuality and Science Fiction” course. The audience loved the latter and discussed it fervently at the panel the next day. I felt extremely proud to be her teacher. Finally, as a member of the 2016 James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award jury, I was given the incredible opportunity of introducing Anna-Marie McLemore and giving her the award for When the Moon Was Ours. I am sharing my speech about the novel below as well as the vid I made, which played for the 1000-person audience before Anna-Marie came on stage.
A few weeks after we selected When the Moon Was Ours as the Tiptree winner, I assigned the book to a small class of USC undergraduates. The seminar was “Sexuality and Science Fiction,” and I begged the forgiveness of those more fastidious students invested in the differences between science fiction and fantasy for sneaking in this work of magical realism. This stake in genre specificity was partially a result of my having assigned Joanna Russ’ “Speculations: The Subjunctivity of Science Fiction” on the first day of class. In that 1973 essay, she made the argument that what provides science fiction its dynamism is that “science fiction must neither be impossible nor possible.” By this she meant readers must judge the science-fictional-ness of any given story by what they themselves know of the actual world. In comparison, fantasy, she wrote, carries its own frame with it. “Actuality is the frame, fantasy (what could not have happened) exists inside the frame.” However, my last-minute choice to assign When the Moon Was Ours in a science fiction seminar was quickly forgiven.
True, in this novel my students encountered impossible characters, objects, and events quite unlike those we had read in any other text across the semester: a girl who grows roses from her wrist, their changing colors exposing her most intimate desires; pumpkins that turn to glass, only shattering and rising to the stars when long silenced truths are finally spoken; a river with the potential to either change one’s body, as one had always wished, or take it away, as one had also sometimes wished. However, to my students, many of whom were queer and at least one of whom was trans, When the Moon Was Ours and its impossible characters and events articulated the very possibility of their own lives. Too often rendered impossible by those who would wish them so, my queer and trans students found in the magic of Sam and Miel’s love (and that of Miel’s sister and Sam’s mother and even the Bonner sisters who learn to let go) the magic they experience every day. In speaking her and her husband’s truths, Anna-Marie McLemore shattered the frame that tells queer youth that their love could not or ought not to exist. She created imagery that made the forms of intimacy and kinship so familiar to me, my students, and thousands of others like us as palpable as a pollination brush on a flower petal. She gave us the moon and made it ours.
Before Anna-Marie comes on stage to accept her prize, I would like to play a vid I made of the book, which celebrates the queer love story at its core.
“Transgender Media” Spectator Issue
The special issue of Spectator on transgender media that I edited is off to the printer and should be available to readers in a matter of weeks. It includes essays by Laura Horak, Tom Sapsford, Quinlan Miller and Erica Rand, Lucy J. Miller, Eliza Steinbock, Rachel Reinke, and John Musser as well as a Sense8 roundtable featuring Moya Bailey, micha cárdenas, Laura Horak, Lokeilani Kaimana, Cáel M. Keegan, Geneveive Newman, Roxanne Samer, and Raffi Sarkissian. Check with your university library for a copy!
Spectatorship: Shifting Theories of Gender, Sexuality, and Media
The book I edited withWilliam Whittington, Spectatorship: Shifting Theories of Gender, Sexuality, and Media, is available for pre-order with UT Press. It is designed for feminist and queer media studies classrooms and features contributions by Amy Lawrence, Gaylyn Studlar, Anna Everett, Stephen Tropiano, Mary Celeste Kearney, Christie Milliken, Sean Griffin, Hollis Griffin, Raffi Sarkissian, Jennifer DeClue, Harry Benshoff, Suzanne Scott, and others from across 25 years of the journal Spectator’s history.
Queer Film Classics Review
My review of the Queer Film Classics series is now available online here. It is but one entry in Jump Cut 57. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the issue, which includes dossiers on Transgender Media, Queer Media, 1970s Leftist Media, and Under The Skin as well as a very special archive of the early feminist film journal Women and Film.