This article considers the representation of gendered disability in The Men (Fred Zinnemann, 1950), Marlon Brando’s first film. A groundbreaking yet deeply ambiguous text, the film explores notions of normative and non-normative physicality through the lens of masculinity, sexuality, and their implications for human status. In the light of key works by disability scholars and of Judith Butler’s discussion of the cultural construction of the body, this article examines the multiple and subversive meanings made available by the film, and the extent to which The Men allows for a different bodily identity based on dissent.
Disability, Gender, and Discourse in The Men
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.
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).
Crossing Boundaries in New Disability Documentary Cinema
Documentary film has traditionally perpetuated damaging cultural understandings of disability. However, Astra Taylor’s Examined Life (2008) and Bonnie Sherr Klein’s Shameless: The Art of Disability (2006) utilize documentary techniques to problematize the culturally constructed boundary between disability and able-bodiedness. Spectators are dragged into simultaneously traditional and innovative relationships with the spaces, bodies, and lives inhabited by the documentaries’ disabled subjects. These relationships encourage connection and intimacy even as they contain moments of distance and alienation. The films’ ambivalent representations foster an appreciation of disabled bodies as a reflection of valuable human diversity and a denaturalization of disability’s Otherness. As examples of new disability documentary cinema, the documentaries reflect the political potential of complex and affective representations of disabled subjects.
The End FGM Guardian Global Media Campaign
The increasing digitization of print media has resulted in the expansion of female genital mutilation (FGM) eradication efforts from print articles, editorials and novels, to online newspapers. The Guardian recently launched an online “End FGM Guardian Global Media Campaign,” incorporating video, film, and multimedia. This report reviews the digitization of FGM eradication efforts by comparing End FGM to past anti-female circumcision screen texts. Focusing on a film featured in the campaign, Shara Amin and Nabaz Ahmed’s 2007 documentary, A Handful of Ash, this report applies a post-colonial feminist critique of gender, sexuality and colonialism to examine how the digitization of pain and suffering is mobilized and consumed. Comparing the film to anti-circumcision screen texts, Ousmane Sembène’s Moolaadé and Sherry Hormann’s Desert Flower, this report historicizes the global media campaign and highlights its’ repackaging of past imperialist discourses on the body in new digitized ways.
The Human Body as Raw Material
This article investigates the varied reactions of audiences to cinematic depictions of the human body as objectified raw material. The investigation proceeds, first, by explicating an ontological distinction between being-in-itself and being-for-itself, which in turn allows for a clarification of the processes involved in the objectification of one human being by another. The article then argues that in films where depictions of bodily objectification are pushed to an extreme—such as The Human Centipede, Nymphomaniac, and Videodrome—a potentially positive, empathic potential is unlocked in audiences. Rather than simply resulting in the humiliation of human characters, such films encourage audiences to experience a kind of sympathy for the characters that is related to, but not distinct from, other horrific, humorous, and erotic feelings. The article concludes that the objectification of human bodies in film is both unavoidable and a potentially positive moral exercise.
Who Embodies europe? Explorations into the Construction of european Bodies
Anika Keinz and Paweł Lewicki
In this special issue we focus on processes of europeanisation and the work of colonial legacies and their impact on the production of the european body, a body that is always already racialised, classed and gendered. ‘european body’ can be observed in discourses and practices that constitute the normal/desired/legitimate body and concomitantly impacts notions about the civilised/cultured body, often linked to whiteness, secularism, legitimate class and gender performances. We ask to look back across pasts and into the present in order to explore who currently marks the boundaries of what is considered civilised, cultured, “normal” and comes to define what is considered a european body. What embodies the present, which and whose body epitomises europeaness and how does europeanisation generate (tacit) knowledge about the legitimate body?
Two Hong Kong Women Filmmakers' Perspectives on Sex after 1997
Hong Kong women have been taking up the camera to explore the changing nature of their identity. Linking the depiction of the gendered body with the demand for women’s rights as sexual citizens, several directors have examined changing attitudes toward women’s sexuality. Yau Ching, for example, interrogates the issues of sex work, the internet, and lesbian desire in Ho Yuk: Let’s Love Hong Kong (2002). Barbara Wong’s documentary, Women’s Private Parts (2001), however, uses the televisual talking head interview and observational camera to highlight the way women view their bodies within contemporary Chinese culture. By examining the common ground shared by these very different films, a vision of women’s sexuality emerges that highlights Hong Kong women’s struggle for full sexual citizenship.
Democracy, Identification, and Embodiment
The significance of embodiment has long been overlooked in theories of deliberative democracy. Deliberation is characterized by inclusive and rational discussion that functions in an allegedly neutral and abstract space. This article draws attention to the bodies between which political interaction always occurs. Bodies have important yet unpredictable effects for political interaction and can extend or disorder the careful conscious conversation invoked by deliberative democrats. Identities are reproduced by bodies, and bodies may conform to or transform their identifications. Using Merleau-Ponty's notion of habitual knowledge, the article argues that bodies provide limitations, capacities, and opportunities for democratic politics. At the same time, bodies and their identifications are themselves transformed through deliberation and other types of political experience.
The Political Aesthetics of Death
In a global media market, images of war and victimhood are trafficked as master tropes of trauma situations with immense emotional appeal. Concurrent with this transformation of historical atrocities into consumable commodities, new forms of spectatorship—focused on bodies, medicine, and death—are being produced by the entertainment industry. The article examines this fascination with corpses by focusing on Body Worlds, a traveling anatomical exhibit that was initially launched in Germany. I interrogate the means by which dissected corpses are presented as popular entertainment in a post-Holocaust society and seek to explain the installation's global appeal. My research reveals that the collusion between the state and private enterprise not only endorses the global traffic in corpses but also enables the public spectacle of anatomical human bodies by negating subjectivity, violence, and history.