Consider two instances of screened bodies. The first comes from the article published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy where a group of urologists and radiologists attempted to “confirm that it is feasible to take images of the male and female genitals during coitus and to compare this present study with previous theories and recent radiological studies of the anatomy during sexual intercourse” (Faix et al. 2002: 63). In their well-illustrated study of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) screen shots—often simplified and clarified with keyed line drawings—they address the history of trying to imagine and depict heterosexual intercourse, the movement, shape, and position of engaged male and female genitalia, and the factors affecting arousal and orgasm. (The study can only suggest the possibility of two types of vaginal orgasm as the man climaxes once during the experiment while the woman does not. Clitoral stimulation is mentioned but not pursued in the study.) The researchers assert the parameters of “normal” private and sexual lives and echo “natural” expectations with regard to sex, gender, sexuality, and sexual positions and practices. They involve themselves in visual analyses of drawings, sketches, ultrasound displays, and MRI monitors—discussing the details and features of the various technologies and the advantages and drawbacks of the different experimental conditions. They make a special note of “the couple” not experiencing difficulty having intercourse during the four sessions and mention the man’s consumption of Viagra.
As this issue of Screen Bodies went into production, the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was concluding, and Vogue published a short online piece on Hillary Clinton’s sartorial choices for her acceptance speech. While Clinton had often worn brighter, bolder colors and styles for her major appearances, on this evening she donned an ivory suit—a simple canvas against which to continue painting an image of the woman behind the candidacy. At the same time, the Internet continued to disseminate more negative reviews of the rebooted Ghostbusters (2016)—starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones, directed by Paul Feig, written by Katie Dippold and Paul Feig. I think the film is (pace Lucille Ball) funny and brave. It hilariously reverses many sexist tropes and assumptions out of mainstream Hollywood films; it is crude and inappropriate in the best of ways; and responses to it—especially patriarchal, masculinist, heteronormative, and racist ones—continue to demonstrate the importance of critical comedic revisions for feminist interruptions of established paradigms.
About the time I first encountered Robert McRuer’s Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability soon after its publication in 2006, I began to turn my research and teaching from queer theory toward disability studies and crip theory. Or, it might be more accurate to say that crip theory and disability studies began to infect my previous work in queer theory and dis-ease its trajectory. Rather than focus on carnality and desire as much as I once had, I began focusing on corporeality and vulnerability—what Emmanuel Levinas (2006: 64) describes as the radical passivity of being “for the other” without ever desiring such a responsibility, without having either force or intention, something I experience despite myself. Vulnerability, especially rather than capability or ability—with their links to energy, strength, power, and vitality—began to hold a more central place in my research and critical thought. I began rethinking what bodies do and what they do to us when we experience them, especially through screens.
Situating Screen Bodies
This cover of Screen Bodies features a photograph by Collen Mfazwe entitled “Love Has No Gender, Race or Sexuality. Boitumelo and Collen. (August 2017).” Mfazwe lives in Benoni, Gauteng, South Africa, and is a photographer at the South African platform Inkanyiso (Zulu for “the one who brings light”). In “Love Has No Gender,” we find a summary of Mfazwe’s response to South Africa’s drastically high rate of violent crime against womxn, lesbians, and bisexual and trans folk, a long-running pattern of gender-based violence that she confronts in a series she has been developing since 2017 called Imizimba (Bodies).
This issue of Screen Bodies features a Screen Shots section focusing on screening disability, including essays on new disability documentaries, vacillation and the dis/abled male body—especially as it plays out in Fred Zimmerman’s 1950 film The Men—and questions of masquerade and representations of Richard III on stage and screen. It also includes general essays on “undoing” gender through complicity and subversion, the rise in the importance of the haptic in Japanese society, culture, and filmmaking in the 1920s, and an investigation of uncertainty and the “generosity paradox” with regard to gender, sexuality, and ability in cyborg cinema.
Screen Bodies 3.2 engages with a wide variety of topics—fat studies, contemporary queer cinema, (pre)posterity, puzzle films, grief and truth in filmmaking, feminist materialism, digitized bodies, food and horror, and Maghrebi cinema. As well, the selection of articles in this issue represents studies of several media—tv programs, films, publicity stills, and photographs—from a number of locations around the globe—North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. What holds this general issue together, though, is a concern over expectation, assumption, and supposition: what we suppose screens and bodies do and what we suppose they do not do. As usual, with this journal, the focus of this consideration is doublehanded: screen as projection and screen as prohibition. The articles below explore the duality of screens and our responses to them. They engage screening expectation as showing, exposing, divulging, and, at the same time, as testing, partitioning, and withholding. To screen expectation is to reveal and conceal it, and, as these articles argue—each in their own way—this process is what we all engage in when we engage with screening.
This issue acknowledges the work of Rosalie Fish (Cowlitz), Jordan Marie Daniels (Lakota), and the many others who refuse to ignore the situation that has allowed thousands of Indigenous women and girls to be murdered or go missing across North America without the full intervention of law enforcement and other local authorities. As Rosalie Fish said in an interview regarding her activism on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG),
"I felt a little heavy at first just wearing the paint. And I think that was . . . like my ancestors letting me know . . . you need to take this seriously: “What you’re doing, you need to do well.” And I think that’s why I felt really heavy when I first put on my paint and when I tried to run with my paint at first. . . . I would say my personal strength comes from my grandmas, my mom, my great grandma, and I really hope that’s true, that I made them proud." (Inland Northwest Native News interview)
This is a special issue on surveilled bodies, with five articles guest edited by Ira Allen, Assistant Professor of Rhetoric, Writing, and Digital Media Studies at Northern Arizona University and Assistant Editor of Screen Bodies. The question here is one of how screens and bodies are brought together through surveillance (visual and otherwise), how surveillance hails the body to attend to it (beckons us to catch a glimpse of here or there) even as it hides itself from the body, working to be noticed yet remaining unnoticed, in order to keep us “on our toes.” In this light, surveillance is not only about investigating, examining, logging, and controlling the body but also about bringing the body into being as a body-to-be-surveilled, about interpolating the body into becoming evermore surveillable in ever-more granular ways.
Elizabeth Jochum, Graeme Stout and Brian Bergen-Aurand
Jennifer Rhee, The Robotic Imaginary: The Human and the Price of Dehumanized Labor (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2018). 240 pp., ISBN: 978151790298 (paperback, $27)
Soraya Murray, On Video Games: The Politics of Race, Gender and Space (New York: I. B. Tauris, 2018). xv + 315pp., ISBN: 9781786732507 (PDF eBook, $82.50)
Ari Larissa Heinrich, Chinese Surplus: Biopolitical Aesthetics and the Medically Commodified Body (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018). 264 pp., ISBN: 9780822370536 (paperback, $25.95)
John Paul Stadler and Brian Bergen-Aurand
Damon R. Young, Making Sex Public and Other Cinematic Fantasies (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018). 301 pp. ISBN: 978-1-4780-0167-6 / 978-1-4780-0133-1 (hardback, $104.95; paperback, $27.95)
Mauro Carbone, Philosophy-Screens: From Cinema to the Digital Revolution (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2019). 166 pp., ISBN: 9781438474656 / 9781438474649 (hardback, $80.00; paperback, $20.95)