LGBT Film Series @ Cornell, Spring 2015

LGBT_FilmSeries_Spring2015

“We are the Districts: Fannish Resistance to The Hunger Games Marketing Campaigns” at Console-ing Passions, June 2015

I’m thrilled to say that my paper  “We are the Districts: Fannish Resistance to The Hunger Games Marketing Campaigns” has been accepted for the Console-ing Passions Conference in Dublin, Ireland,  June 18-20, 2015.

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Institute for German Cultural Studies Colloquium @ Cornell: Friday, Feb. 6

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Friday, February 6, I’m presenting a paper on transformative fandom and the public sphere at the colloquium of the Institute for German Cultural Studies @ Cornell.

“Full-Frontal TV: Male Nudity and Sex in Cable Television Drama” (Panel at SCMS, March 25-29, 2015 in Montreal, Canada)

We just got the exciting news that our panel for the next SCMS conference was accepted. So I’m going to be on a panel on male nudity in cable TV with a bunch of awesome people:

Full-Frontal TV: Male Nudity and Sex in Cable Television Drama
Chair: Maria San Filippo
Respondent: Peter Lehman

Looking for the Penis: Representing Gay Male Sex and Nudity in HBO’s ‘Looking’/Maria San Filippo

“Do You Really Want to be Normal?”: Male Nudity as Queer Critique on ‘Penny Dreadful’/Andrew Owens

“Jupiter’s Cock!”: Male Nudity, Violence, and the Disruption of Voyeuristic Pleasure in Starz’ ‘Spartacus’/Hannah Mueller

For the abstract of my paper (and a glimpse of the show), see after the cut [BEWARE NUDITY] Continue reading

Country Music and Feminist Parody

This is really more of an observation than a consistent thesis, although I’m grateful for any suggestions to take this a bit further. I got to think about this question when I stumbled across young country duo Maddie & Tae’s recent hit “Girl in a Country Song,” in which the singers criticize the stereotypical representation of women in contemporary mainstream country.

It’s a cute, refreshing country song that points out the objectification of women by male country singers, although it is also a fairly tame protest that works solely within the framework of the genre: “We used to get a little respect,” the women sing, presumably invoking the “good old times” when Southern women were still treated as “real ladies” – not exactly a cry for liberation and gender equality. Still, contrasted with the ridiculousness of some popular country songs in regard to the stereotype of the country girl – yeah, I’m looking at you, “She’s Country“! – this is a nice change of perspective.

What this video made me think of, however, is the way female artists in Europe recently have been using the genre to package feminist critique in a parody of country music. The first example that comes to mind is British singer Lilly Allen’s by now infamous song “Not Fair” that inserts a criticism about men’s inconsiderate laziness in bed into a (fictional) performance in the Porter Wagoner Show, complete with banjo music and cows on stage.

Another case is German Annett Louisan’s song “Dein Ding” (Your Thing) – for the non-German speakers, this is basically a song about the female version of revenge porn: since aspects of a relationship like consideration, respect or faithfulness turn out not to be the singer’s love interest’s “thing,” she posts his “thing” on the internet; with the twist that instead of the embarrassment over his nude pictures going viral, his humiliation stems from a lack of interest – no one likes, shares, or comments on his pictures.  Again, this revenge fantasy is set to a country-themed tune and a Western town setting.

I’m not entirely sure there is a larger point to make here, although I am curious as to why the country/western theme seems to be so gratifying a backdrop for feminist satire in European pop music. At least in Germany, where (German) folk music has the inevitable reputation of being fundamentally conservative, American country music, too, is often grouped quickly into this category. Thus, the easy explanation might simply be that it automatically invokes precisely the gender stereotypes that Maddie & Tae criticize in their song – although of course this also opens up a space to think about Western European stereotypes of the US in general, and gender relations and country music in particular.

Love in the Time of AIDS: “The Normal Heart” (2014) and “Pride” (2014)

So more or less coincidentally, within a week I got to see two new movies about the early 1980s that both dealt with the issue of HIV/AIDS: Ryan Murphy’s The Normal Heart (HBO, 2014) and Matthew Warchus/Stephen Beresford’s Pride (Calamity Films, 2014). When I say that I’m here to discuss one of them mostly favorably (Pride) and one of them less so (The Normal Heart), I’m not doing this primarily to draw a comparison between British and American filmmaking, although I believe they can also serve as fairly good examples for a specific type of national cinema/television.

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I admit I had high expectations for The Normal Heart, especially considering the stunning ensemble of actors this movie brought together (Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons etc etc), and thus was actually a bit disturbed by how off-putting I found it. There are two things in particular that bothered me about The Normal Heart: Continue reading

Constance Penley speaks at Cornell November 1

I was thrilled to discover that Constance Penley, famous for her 1997 book Nasa/Trek: Popular Science and Sex in America about female Star Trek fans and fan fiction, is coming to talk at Cornell’s Sensational Humanities Conference October 31/November 1.  Penley is presenting a paper on “Non-Adult Film/Adult Film: The Marked and the Unmarked.”

Men, Women & Children: A less than enthusiastic review

I saw Jason Reitman’s Men, Women and Children at the theater last week. Other reviewers have said this before me, but just to state it again, one more time: Considering the ambitions this film clearly had, it turned out to be not particularly good. Parts of it also made me angry. I have to admit that I have not read Chad Kultgen’s novel (which this movie is based on) very carefully, but from what I can tell, some of the things that bothered me about the movie seem to be just as annoying in the book, whereas others might be a result of the adaptation for the big screen.

MV5BMTAwMzc2OTgwOTZeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDg2ODA4NjIx._V1_SX214_AL_I still think the most interesting part about this movie is the exploration of aesthetic possibilities in the play with different screens and interfaces. MWC is not the first audiovisual text to experiment with this: The 2013 movie Fruitvale Station and the BBC show Sherlock have played with the visual representation of text messages, Her (2013) is another movie that toys with the incorporation of small-screen devices into a cinematic aesthetic of the digital age. Scholars are also becoming interested in this phenomenon: Not too long ago, for instance, I attended a lunch seminar with Professor Bishnupriya Ghosh (University of California) on the aesthetic of surveillance (in the manifestation of security camera feeds) in Bollywood horror movies. All in all, I don’t think the last word has been spoken in that regard, and so I am still curious about the ways in which filmmakers are trying to work through the possibilities that the interplay with different screen formats has to offer.

However, the rest of the movie left a sour taste behind. Strangely, it felt a bit like looking at the browser history of someone who is not very familiar with the internet, is deeply concerned about its dangers, but also intensely fascinated by its dark corners, which in turn makes them feel ashamed of themselves. In other words, the movie felt dirty in places it didn’t need to be, alarmist over things I felt it misrepresented, while at the same time glossing over/downplaying many serious issues that could have used a bit more in-depth scrutiny.

Two storylines in particular I would like to discuss in more detail:

BEWARE THE SPOILERS AND DISCUSSION OF SEXUAL PRACTICES.

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Zombies are People, too: Fans rallying to save “In the Flesh”

In the midst of the discussion about BBC’s plans to shut down the television channel BBC3, fans of the BBC3 production “In the Flesh” are concerned about the future of the show.

Source: reginalds @ tumblr

Source: reginalds @ tumblr

Here are some of the things online fans have been up to since the finale of season 2 in June 2014:
So you want to help save In the Flesh? @ tumblr
Save In the Flesh @ tumblr
Give In the Flesh a Third Season @ Change.org
Save in the Flesh on Twitter

And here’s why this show is worth caring about, especially if you are interested in the representation of LGBT characters, female characters, the representation of mental illness, and zombies: The Daily Dot on In the Flesh