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Frame by Frame

Archive for May, 2012

Frame by Frame Video: Gay and Lesbian Identity in the Hollywood Cinema

Friday, May 11th, 2012

I have a new Frame by Frame video today on gay and lesbian identity in Hollywood cinema, past and present. You can access the video by clicking here, or on the image above; a transcript of my brief overview appears below.

“Hi. I’m Wheeler Winston Dixon, James Ryan Professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln,
 and this is Frame By Frame. And today I want to talk about gay and lesbian identities in Hollywood cinema, 
from the beginning to the present. 
Hollywood has never been a leader in this area. Gays and lesbians  have always been marginalized in the cinema. Early portrayals of gay characters or lesbian characters in films were always stereotypical, 
and often deeply insulting. 
They were relegated to “pansy” roles or stereotypical “limp-wristed” roles, 
and these early films are very difficult to look at because they completely marginalize gays and lesbians as characters.

Interestingly, there were many gay people working in Hollywood during this period. Dorothy Arzner, the director… and George Cukor, of course, who was gay, 
and directed most of Gone With the Wind, until Clark Gable’s homophobia forced him out of the production. 
But you had to wait a long time in Hollywood before gays and lesbians were sympathetically and realistically portrayed on the screen. 
Even in the 1960s, you had films like Midnight Cowboy, The Boys in the Band, The Killing of Sister George, 
and Cruising, one of the most infamous films of all time, directed by William Friedkin.

It’s not until relatively recently that you have films like Sunday Bloody Sunday, which is the first real gay onscreen kiss, and Cabaret, which was a more direct look at the gay and lesbian lifestyle. An Early Frost, Parting Glances, My Beautiful Laundrette — these are films which basically treated homosexuality and lesbianism as part of the human experience. Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss, Poison, 
Swoon, The Living End — these are all films that basically portray things in a more positive light. And, of course, the ascendency of pop artists like Andy Warhol, who brought gay concerns into the mainstream, 
is another factor in moving films forward in this area.

There’s still a long way to go. 
American cinema is absolutely heterotopic. Gay-bashing jokes, unfortunately, still occur in too many comedies as a staple.This is something where Hollywood has a lot of catching up to do. 
It’s just like the same thing that happens with racism. 
Homophobia and racism, unfortunately, are part of American cinema, and go hand in hand, 
and they have yet to be erased in terms of the way that Hollywood represents everyone equally on the screen.”

Frame by Frame Video: Science Fiction Films

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Here’s the latest video in my Frame by Frame series, edited and directed by Curt Bright. This is the subtitled version; here’s a transcript of my text:

“Hi. I’m Wheeler Winston Dixon, James Ryan professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and this is Frame By Frame. Science fiction films first came about in the beginning of cinema with Georges Méliès’ Trip to the Moon, but they’ve come in sporadic waves of interest.

I’m thinking, for example, of Things to Come, the fantastic British film, and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis in 1927. But a vogue for science fiction didn’t really hit till the 1950s in America, 
with things like When Worlds Collide, The Thing, which was one of the first great science fiction films, 
The Day the Earth Stood Still, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, when science fiction reflected a kind of Cold War paranoia.

The other thing about science fiction is that it’s tied curiously to the Western. As the westerns sort of became moribund, and now people don’t make too many westerns these days, science fiction became ‘the final frontier.’ As manifest destiny was more or less explored, space became the new frontier that had to be explored. And this, of course, led to the success of the Star Trek and Star Wars series, and of course, the dystopian science fiction films like Alien.

Now, that we’re here in the 21st century, science fiction has become an absolute generic staple. Science fiction films are more popular than ever. I think they offer a sense of escape; they offer a sense of wonder, they offer a sense of exploring something beyond what we know. The world has become very small now. We’re in touch with everyone around the world, whether we like to or not. Science fiction offers us a sense that there’s frontier out there that we don’t know.

There’s civilizations out there that we don’t know, and science fiction offers us a way to escape, but also it’s a commentary on the smallness of our world right now, and also it projects into the future the possibilities of what can happen, in terms of both good, or in terms of bad… as in Blade Runner, in which the future does not work. So science fiction projects both our fear, and our hopes, on the cinema screen.”

You can view the video by clicking here, or on the image above.

About the Author

Wheeler Winston Dixon

Wheeler Winston Dixon, Ryan Professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is an internationally recognized scholar and writer of film history, theory and criticism. He is the author of numerous books and more than 70 articles on film and appears regularly in national media outlets discussing film and culture trends. Frame by Frame is a collection of his thoughts on a number of those topics. To contact Prof. Dixon for an interview, reach him at 402.472.6064 or wdixon1@unl.edu.

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In The National News

National media outlets featured and cited Wheeler Winston Dixon on a number of topics in the past month. Find out more on the website http://newsroom.unl.edu/inthenews/