On the cover of this issue is an image taken from the Wellcome Collection. Titled “Dance of death: death and the pedlar”, the image shows a skeletal personification of Death picking through a basket of goods. In the basket are included masks, crosses, a deck of cards, swords, and a variety of other items. Published in the 18th Century, it is based on, and an interpretation of a piece in Basel on the Dance of Death. It is black and white and a print produced via etching a plate and using this to print the image.
Jonathan A. Allan, Chris Haywood, and Frank G. Karioris
Mapping the City in John Rechy's City of Night
This article discusses John Rechy's 1963 novel City of Night and the metaphorical function of the “City.” The sprawling City includes street corners, bars, beaches, movie theaters, and parks. These spaces are public and private, queer and straight. I argue that Rechy's City functions metaphorically—it is the “sexual underground,” with illicit acts conspiratorially narrated by an anonymous hustler—yet, at the same time, the City is also composed of spaces that are inhabited by so-called “average Americans.” Just as his City sprawls beyond officially recognized boundary lines, the novel also illustrates how efforts to demarcate sexuality as either “gay” or “straight” is futile, as are police efforts to differentiate between “legal” and “illegal” activity.
On a 1st Anniversary
Jonathan A. Allan, Chris Haywood, and Frank G. Karioris
Nota bene: This introduction was written near the end of 2020, a year that saw the world struggle with COVID-19. These issues make up the primary body of the below text. Yet, as we moved into the new year, perhaps thankful that 2020 had come to a close, on 6 January, and before the introduction was sent to publication, the US Capitol building in Washington, DC, was laid siege by far right extremists, White supremacists, and supporters seeking to stop the confirmation of the election of Joseph Biden. I [Frank] am reminded of a similar note I wrote in an article for the Sexual Violence Research Initiative's “16 Days of Activism” series in early December: “We write this post amidst political protests that have shaken Kyrgyzstan, with the recent election results being annulled. We send our thoughts for those working to ensure a fair, democratic, and transparent government; and hope for a speedabsy resolution to these issues” (Kim and Karioris 2020). In a similar sense, with the events still etched in our minds and processes just beginning to begin (arrests, an impeachment, etc.) and the inauguration still to come, we include this short note affirming our commitment to democratic principles, challenging violent masculinity, and supporting antiracist activism.
Wetness, Masculinity, and Neoliberal Erotics in Andrew McMillan's Playtime
Andrew McMillan's poetics dissects the physical minutiae of love and desire, enacting ex post facto a sexual and sexualized innocent pleasure. The scenes play out places such as classrooms, trains, locker-rooms, phone booths, and attic bedrooms, and often reference liquids. Tears, sweat, rain, rivers, blood, and sperm are associated with loss and mourning, a wet erotic (childhood) innocence remembered from a dry(er) perspective of experience and awareness of masculinity. In a post-Thatcher neoliberal framework, McMillan explores scenes of masculinity. Playtime is divided into two parts; if these two parts can be provisionally labeled “before” and “after”—a facile distinction between innocence and experience—McMillan's style and form break down this narrative and open up to fluidity, questioning the possibilities of pleasure (in)formed by neoliberal ideals.
Beyond a Focus on Regulation and Vicarious Illusions
Nathan J. Wilson and David Charnock
The intersection of sexuality, masculinity, and intellectual disability remains underresearched and only partially theorized. What has been studied identifies that, for these men and boys, the expression and embodiment of their male gendered identity is controlled, to a varying extent, by others. This article unpacks key issues related to identity and intellectual disability, and then describes two ideas. First, the concept of the “conditionally masculine” will be explored. This concept proposes that greater degrees of intellectual disability can change one's perceived or actual gendered identity. Second, the theoretical model entitled “doing intellectual disability boys to men” explores how boys with intellectual disability aspire to be like other boys, yet this embodiment and the hopes and dreams they build are sometimes realized vicariously.
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Fitness Doping
Jesper Andreasson and Thomas Johansson
This article aims to explore the connections between bodybuilding, (hyper)masculinity, sexuality, and the construction of subcultural and sexual spaces among Swedish male fitness dopers. Analytically, the article employs the perspectives of hardcore masculinities—and the potential harms to relationships and health involved in the use of doping—as well as more legitimate and hegemonic masculinity configurations. The results show that there is a delicate balance between masculinity-connoted sexual and other bodily urges and desires, on the one hand, and the loss of control, on the other. Living in a pornographic imaginary can also result in a loss of reasonable contact with the world outside the subculture of bodybuilding. Upholding this lifestyle thus involves an ambivalent construction of masculinity found at the intersection between marginality and hegemony, which sometimes leads to loneliness and a lack of intimate relationships.
The Full Monty (Peter Cattaneo, 1997)
The Full Monty (Peter Cattaneo, 1997) is much acclaimed as a comedy film. Yet, its screenplay is based on a serious context, contemporary of its shooting—the industrial crisis in the North of England—and deals with its societal effects—a major shift in gender roles and patterns. The real achievement of the male characters is that they resolve gender conflicts adopting cultural practices traditionally reserved for women, asserting their masculinity while posing as sex objects. At a time when men–women relationships are at the heart of debates in the Western World, this article seeks to demonstrate that the movie has a quasi-universal dimension by suggesting that, rather than a reversal of gender roles, a new kind of balance can emerge, with all its attendant “contradictions.”
An Interview with Author Ta-wei Chi on the New Translation of The Membranes
Jane Chi Hyun Park and Ta-wei Chi
This interview is based on a series of email exchanges in November 2019 between Taiwanese writer and scholar Ta-wei Chi and Korean American scholar Jane Chi Hyun Park about Chi's queer speculative novella, The Membranes. The first section provides a summary of the novella, which was recently translated into English by Ari Heinrich. The second section paints a picture in broad brush strokes of the contexts in which Chi wrote The Membranes—taking into consideration key cross-cultural influences and critical reception in Taiwan in the 1990s. It also examines the cultural and political relevance of Chi's creative predictions about the future within the present historical moment. Finally, it explores afterlives for the novella in the form of sequels and possible cinematic adaptations.
Andrew J. Ball
I am pleased to begin the final issue of the year with a very special announcement. Screen Bodies is modifying its editorial direction and the kind of work it will feature. Many of our readers will already have a sense of these changes, made evident by the new Aims and Scope section we made available online earlier this summer, and by the journal's new subtitle, The Journal of Embodiment, Media Arts, and Technology. As these indicate, the foundational commitments of the journal remain unchanged; however, moving forward will we intensify our focus on new media art, technology studies, and the interface of the sciences and the humanities. We will continue to examine the cultural, aesthetic, ethical, and political dimensions of emerging technologies, but with a renewed attention to such areas as intermediality, human–machine interface, virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, generative art, smart environments, immersive and interactive installations, machine learning, biotechnology, computer science, digital culture, and digital humanities. The journal will continue to prioritize matters of the body and screen media, both in terms of representation and engagement, but will emphasize research that critically reexamines those very concepts, as, for example, in the case of object-oriented feminism's nonanthropocentric approach, which asks us to rethink what we mean by bodies and embodiment.
Toward a Queer Sinofuturism
Ari Heinrich, Howard Chiang, and Ta-wei Chi
This special issue on “Queer Sinofuturisms” aims to explore how artists and writers working across various media in Sinophone contexts use science to envision—and indeed to fabulate—non-normative gender and erotic expressions in relation to the corporeal future of humanity. By investigating visions of the future that incorporate queerness and creative applications of computer and biotechnology, “Queer Sinofuturisms” aims to counter pervasive techno-Orientalist discourses, such as those discourses in the Blade Runner movies (Ridley Scott, 1982; and Denis Villeneuve, 2017) that frame “Asian” futures as strictly dystopian—and heteronormative by default. What happens, this issue of Screen Bodies asks, if we simultaneously destabilize techno-Orientalist narratives of the future while queering assumptions about the heteronormativity so often inscribed upon that future in mainstream iterations and embodiments? What kinds of fabulous fabulations might emerge?