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The Scarlet & Black

Harris Cinema celebrates queerness with glam-rock musicals

By Kelly Pyzik

This past week, the Stonewall Resource Center (SRC) sponsored a series of speakers and films to explore and celebrate queer theory.

On Thursday, February 28, Professor of English and Gender Studies at the University of Utah, Kathryn Bond Stockton gave a talk in JRC 101 entitled, “Sameness, Underwear, Pleasure, and Need: What Does Queer Theory Ask Us to Do?”

“I feel our campus is very LGBT-friendly and positive and supportive, but we really don’t talk about the differences within that community and one of those differences is the queer movement, which is in some ways critical of LGBT identity politics,” said Theresa Geller, English, before the talk. “Stockton will be here to talk about where we are in queer theory today, what it is, what its origin is, and what it is asking us to do now.”

At 8 p.m on Thursday, there was a dessert meet-and-greet with Stockton in Mears lounge for students who wanted to engage with her further about her talk.

Tonight, Friday evening, two films, described by Geller as “glam-rock informed queer musicals,” will be showing in Harris. Hedwig and the Angry Inch, directed, written, and starred in by John Cameron Mitchell, will be playing at 6:30 p.m, and Velvet Goldmine, featuring Christian Bale and Ewan MacGregor, will be playing at 9 p.m.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch is the story of a transexual punk rock musician touring the U.S. with her band mates and pursuing an ex-boyfriend who stole her music years ago.

“Hedwig relates transgender and queer politics to global politics because the movie starts in East Germany and comes to the U.S. It’s all about displacement and marginalization, and is fun and really angry and righteous,” Geller said. “We hope people dress totally glam in their best glitter rock wear. I think there are going to be prizes for the best costumes.”

Velvet Goldmine was directed by Todd Haynes and follows a British newspaper reporter investigating the career of a glam rock star, Brian Slade. Todd Haynes is considered one of the core founders of new queer cinema in the ’90s, “which was a movement of cinema that politicized filmmaking and came from a really critical place, from Act Up and AIDS activism,” according to Geller.

Geller is co-editing a book with Julia Leyda, associate professor at Sophia University in Tokyo, whom she met at a Society of Cinema Media Studies conference in Boston last year. The two bonded over Todd Haynes films and decided to edit a book together that would counter the most common misconceptions about Haynes’ relationship with the queer theory movement and talk about his real feminist vision.

“What happened to queer cinema was it became very driven by white, gay men. The focus here is to try to bring women back to the center of queer theory and queer analysis,” Geller said.

Both professors will have a chapter in the book covering a different Haynes film, as well as a chapter by Grinnell English department alumna Jess Issacharoff ‘09.

On Monday, March 4th, Leyda will be giving a talk at 12 p.m in BCA 152 on womens fan-dom and their relationship to Velvet Goldmine.

“I don’t think we should have films that don’t have intellectual discussions afterward. We don’t just want to consume another object,” Geller said. “We should have lots of conversations about how film affects our lives.”

In bringing these speakers and films to campus, Geller’s hope is that the Grinnell community will be enlightened about queer theory and its political vision.

“I think we use the word queer very lightly here. We need to keep in mind that queer theory was always a radical, critical position to identity politics and always wanted to trouble identity,” Geller said. “I think by adding Queer to LGBT, we lose its radical, critical, political interrogation of what it means to claim an identity, and the closures of claiming an identity. I want to keep alive queer theory’s contestatory politics.”

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