By Philippa Orme, Isaac Pletcher and Wesley Kirkpatrick
Welcome to the landmark 20th issue of Frames Cinema Journal, “Queering the quotidian: Queer phenomenological approaches to ‘lowbrow’ entertainment”!
Film phenomenology positions the sensory impressions and expressions of the body at the core of our engagement with cinema in ways that are proving useful for queer theorists. After all, the body is fundamental to explorations of queer identity. Queer bodies sense, relate and respond to the world differently; they are fluid, transgress boundaries, and resist definition within normative identity categories. Building on queer phenomenological approaches, Frames’ 20th issue turns to the everyday media forms most frequently at our fingertips. It asks: what can phenomenological analyses of quotidian and so-called ‘lowbrow’ media, and their affective qualities, tell us about embodied queer subjectivities and experiences?
It would be appropriately ‘queer’, perhaps, that you will find a vast spectrum of responses across all ten articles. Animation, reality TV, slapstick comedy, virtual reality, to affective qualities of horror genres, are considered. Authors also bring questions of methodology to the forefront, prioritising the insights offered by audience studies and autoethnography, making for some compelling explorations of queer affective experience.
The opening Feature Article, by Spyridon Chairetis, draws on the queer research tradition’s interest in audience studies to analyse how five queer viewers ‘make sense’ of the Greek version of the popular reality show, The Bachelor (ALPHA, 2020-2021). In a case study of the moving image installation, Swinguerra (2019), which engages with music video aesthetics in its portrayal of Brazilian queer dance groups, Danilo Baraúna mediates on the queer affective experience of disorientation. In a close reading of queer emotional affects in The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s (1975) “Floor Show” sequence and Hazbin Hotel’s (2019) music video “Addict”, John Francis considers the feelings, emotions, exclamations, and dis/order, most visible in horror genres. The following article by Emma Morton addresses early Italian slapstick comedy, which examines how the construction of the cross-dressed body produces affective notions of queerness. Finally, Annie Ward draws on the work of visual artist Lynn Hershman Leeson to explore how existence on digital platforms, from VR devices, Twitter to Reddit, contributes to queer orientations, experimentations and boundary breaking – despite frameworks which force users into rigid categories.
In a scene analysis from the animated series, The Owl House (2020-), Lindsey Pelucacci opens our section on POV Featurettes to explore how bisexual orientations are positioned as multi-directional and interdisciplinary. Following, Liz Hendy considers Showgirls (1995), which they argue presents viewers with an ambivalent queer subjectivity, visible in the bodily ‘phallic power’ of its protagonist, Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley). We then move to the photographic and collage work of the Spanish lesbian collective LSD, Madrid-based activists who intervened with space and politics through local positions, in Esther Perez Nieto’s examination of the video essay Retroalimentación (1998), made by the LSD member Virginia Villaplana. The focus returns to horror in the concluding POV; Sam Tabet identifies avenues for queer butch identification through the heterosexual cis-gendered character, Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), from The Walking Dead (2010-2022).
Cameron Mumford also considers the horror genre in our Video Essays section. Placing Bit (Brad Michael Elmore, 2019, US) and Séance (Simon Barrett, 2021, US) in conversation, Mumford moves beyond questions of representation to investigate how horror genres reflect ideas of queer lived experience.
Our Book Review section features a review of Efrén Cuevas’ Filming History from Below: Microhistorical Documentaries (Wallflower, 2022) by Stuart A. Neave, as well as a review of Greg Garrett’s A Long, Long Way: Hollywood’s Unfinished Journey from Racism to Reconciliation (Oxford University Press, 2020) by Clement Obropta.
Accompanying this issue, we are delighted to present the dossier “Translating German Film History” in collaboration with the German Screen Studies Network (GSSN). Having recently relocated to the University of St Andrews, the GSSN has here sought to shine a light on diverse works pertaining to German film history which have evaded any English-language translation to date. GSSN co-director Paul Flaig offers his very own translation of a short text by the Dadaist artist Raoul Hausmann, titled Filmdämmerung/Twilight of Film (1929), alongside an introduction serving to situate Hausmann’s work alongside those of his fellow avant-gardists, but also within this tumultuous period of German history. Wesley Kirkpatrick provides a critical reading of the German actor Emil Jannings’ neglected autobiography, Theater, Film – Das Leben und Ich (1951), offering a warning against undertaking translation for the mere sake of translation. And finally, Laura Lux highlights the Harun Farocki Institut’s tremendously valuable work collecting the various German-language writings of the influential filmmaker and film critic, Harun Farocki spanning across the latter half of the twentieth century. Ordered chronologically, the dossier offers an insight into the value yet to be uncovered from handling German primary source materials towards broader understandings of film history.
As always, we are extremely grateful for our dedicated editorial team, and our contributors, for all their hard work. It’s been a joy to work on this issue with you.
Philippa Orme, Isaac Pletcher and Wesley Kirkpatrick