This article is a theoretical, audiovisual, and personal exploration of being a trans and non-binary person and the challenges this position produces at the moment of entering the outside world. Getting ready to enter public space is a seemingly mundane everyday task. However, in the context of a world that continuously fails or refuses to recognize trans and non-binary people, the literal act of stepping outside can mean to move from a figurative state of self-determination to one of imposition. We produced a short film project called Step Out to delve into issues of vulnerability and recognition that surface throughout experiences of crossing the threshold into public space. It explores the acts performed as preparation to face the world, and invokes the emotions this can conquer in trans and non-binary people. Breathing is the leading metaphor in the film, indicating existence and resistance simultaneously. The article concludes with a discussion of affective states and considers them, along with failed recognition, through the lens of Lauren Berlant’s concept of “cruel optimism.”
An Autoethnographic Exploration of Non-binary Queerness, Vulnerability, and Recognition in Step Out
Lara Bochmann and Erin Hampson
Todd Berliner's Hollywood Aesthetic advances an original perspective on Hollywood filmmaking by insisting on its fundamentally aesthetic character, and exploring its particular aesthetic features with the tools of neoformalist film analysis, cognitive psychology, and the philosophy of art. I focus on two of the book's most ambitious claims: a) that appreciation of the style of Hollywood films can play an important role in our experience of them, over and above its role in representing and expressively dramatizing narrative elements; and b) that the ideological dimension of Hollywood filmmaking serves its aesthetic purposes, rather than vice versa. I conclude by noting a common root to the resistance likely to greet Berliner's two bold inversions of conventional wisdom on narrative, style, aesthetics, and ideology.
Kata Szita, Paul Taberham, and Grant Tavinor
Bernard Perron and Felix Schröter, eds., Video Games and the Mind: Essays on Cognition, Affect and Emotion (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2016), 224 pp., $39.95 (softcover), ISBN: 9780786499090.
Christopher Holliday, The Computer-Animated Film: Industry, Style and Genre (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018), 272 pp., $39.95 (paperback), ISBN: 9781474427890.
Aubrey Anable, Playing with Feelings: Video Games and Affect (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 2018), 200 pp., $25.00 (paperback), ISBN: 9781517900250, and Christopher Hanson, Game Time: Understanding Temporality in Video Games (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2018), 296 pp., $38.00 (paperback), ISBN: 9780253032867.
Karen Carpenter and the Body-Martyr in Queer Memory
There has been much thought given to role of the body as a site of political, physiological, and cultural negotiation. What place then does the beloved and astonishingly affective singer of 1970s soft-rock, Karen Carpenter, occupy in this weighty discourse? Karen’s death from complications related to her eating disorder in 1983 shocked the public, eliciting a new wave of cultural consciousness about the embodied nature of mental illness. But beyond the stereotypical white suburban Carpenters fan, Karen and her story had already become a cult favorite amongst the queer avant-garde as soon as four years after death, a mysterious phenomenon that I argue is decidedly queer in its emotional trafficking of Karen’s subjectivity, among other areas. This essay explores the ways in which our bodies double as cultural repositories, as hallowed sites of memory, and as icons of martyrdom with the capacity to emit a healing resonance analogous to their fabricated religious counterparts. I must admit, this paper might also be guilty of occasionally engaging in the typical essentializing tendency toward Karen’s personhood. For her sake then, reader, I ask you to ponder the following question with the same aversion to neat finality that you apply to your own story as you flip the page: who really was Karen Carpenter?
Andrew J. Ball
I am pleased to introduce the penultimate entry in our series of four issues featuring “Screen Shots” curated by a multidisciplinary group of guest editors. Each of these special sections has taken up a vital line of inquiry. The first focused on “Screening Indigenous Bodies” (4.1) and was followed by our issue on “Screening Surveillance” (4.2). In the current “Screen Shot,” edited by Wibke Straube of the Centre for Gender Studies, Karlstad University, our authors address the critically relevant topic of “Screening Non-Binary and Trans Bodies.” As Dr. Straube has offered introductory remarks on this section, I will limit my comments to the three general articles in this issue.
James E. Cutting
Much of aesthetics is based in psychological responses. Yet seldom have such responses—couched in empirically based psychological terms—played a central role in the discussion of movie aesthetics. Happily, Todd Berliner's Hollywood Aesthetic: Pleasure in American Cinema does just that. This commentary discusses some history and some twists and turns behind Berliner's analysis.
Hollywood’s Hegemonic Reimagining of Counterculture
The realm of horror provides a creative space in which the breakdown of social order can either expose power relations or further cement them by having them persist after the collapse. Carol Clover proposed that the 1970s slasher film genre—known for its sex and gore fanfare—provided feminist identification through its “final girl” indie invention. Over three decades later, with the genre now commercialized, this research exposes the reality of sexual and horrific imagery within the Hollywood mainstay. Using a mixed-methods approach, I develop four categories of depiction across cisgender representation in these films: violent, sexual, sexually violent, and postmortem. I explore the ways in which a white, heterosexist imagination has appropriated this once productive genre through the violent treatment of bodies. This exposes the means by which hegemonic, oppressive structures assimilate and sanitize counter-media. This article provides an important discussion on how counterculture is transformed in capital systems and then used to uphold the very structures it seeks to confront. The result of such assimilation is the violent treatment and stereotyping of marginalized identities in which creative efforts now pursue new means of brutalization and dehumanization.
Hollywood Aesthetic: Pleasure in American Cinema investigates the Hollywood film industry's chief artistic accomplishment: providing aesthetic pleasure to mass audiences. Grounded in film history and supported by research in psychology and philosophical aesthetics, the book explains (1) the intrinsic properties characteristic of Hollywood cinema that induce aesthetic pleasure; (2) the cognitive and affective processes, sparked by Hollywood movies, that become engaged during aesthetic pleasure; and (3) the exhilarated aesthetic experiences afforded by an array of persistently entertaining Hollywood movies. Hollywood Aesthetic addresses four fundamental components of Hollywood's aesthetic design—narrative, style, ideology, and genre—aiming for a comprehensive appraisal of Hollywood cinema's capacity to excite aesthetic pleasure. This article outlines the book's main points and themes. As a précis, it is heavy on ideas and light on evidence, which is to be found in the book itself.
A Reply to Critics
In this reply to four commentaries on my book, Hollywood Aesthetic: Pleasure in American Cinema, I address several conceptual and methodological issues raised by the respondents. Those issues include the book's focus on aesthetic pleasure; the functions of narrative, style, ideology, and genre in Hollywood cinema; the relationship between ideology and aesthetics; the use of scientific research in the humanities; normative aesthetic evaluations; real versus hypothetical spectators; and the practices of aesthetic film analysis.