Editor's Introduction

in Screen Bodies
Author: Andrew J. Ball1
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  • 1 Harvard University, USA

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.

We begin Volume 5 of Screen Bodies with Amy E. Borden's excellent essay, “Shadows, Screens, Bodies, and Light: Reading the Discursive Shadow in the Age of American Silent Cinema.” Borden undertakes a discursive analysis of mass print culture at the turn of the century and finds that the figure of the shadow was ubiquitously used to describe new image-creation technologies and the images they produced. Oriented in part in audience studies, Borden shows that popular discourse established a firm link between theatrical shadowgraphy, x-ray, and motion-picture technologies. This prepared audiences to receive the cultural assemblage of light-body-screen or performer-machine-image as a “bound set” mutually figured by the shadow. Ultimately, Borden shows that the intermedial qualities of early cinema were such that audiences regarded the body as “the fulcrum” between screen images and new image-production technologies.

We continue, in a different register, to examine matters of audience reception in Julian Binder's “Close to You: Karen Carpenter and the Body-Martyr in Queer Memory.” Binder explains how a figure as seemingly wholesome and banal as Karen Carpenter came to acquire the status of an icon in collective queer memory. Binder looks to numerous commemorations of Carpenter in American visual culture to shed light on this process of cultural hagiography. Modifying Eric Rofes's concept of the martyr-target-victim trope in representations of queer people, Binder introduces his notion of the body-martyr to account for Carpenter's posthumous elevation. In particular, Binder argues that the story of Karen's struggle for autonomy over her body, her subjectivity, and her image deeply resonates with queer communities. Binder shows that Karen's story is a tragedy that is “located in her body,” and thus exemplifies how the body is a nexus of meaning and power in society. Further, Binder argues that the canonization of Karen Carpenter illustrates how the construction of collective memory is central to a process of queer communal repair and care.

In her essay, “Groped and Gutted: Hollywood's Hegemonic Reimagining of Counterculture,” Samantha Eddy turns our attention to the American culture industry, to its power relations, and to the mechanics of their reproduction. Eddy uses an effective combination of quantitative and critical methods to show that the feminist potential of the slasher genre was co-opted and transformed by major studios to reinforce the norms of cis white masculinity. She introduces her concept of “the hegemonic imagination” to demonstrate how an oppositional symbolic form is appropriated by those in power and redeployed to maintain the existent hierarchy. In particular, Eddy tracks how the American film industry used the marginalized identities and emancipatory idiom of the slasher movie to reproduce and legitimate white, heterosexist masculinity. Eddy presents a clear, rigorous, and intersectional example of how the symbolic forms of mass culture—and their material infrastructures—are invested in the nation's power dynamics.

Looking forward, the final issue of Screen Bodies in 2020 (available in December) will complete our two-volume series featuring guest edited “Screen Shots.” I am particularly excited to announce that this issue's “Screen Shot” will be devoted to the newly emerging concept of “Queer Sinofuturisms” and will be guest edited by Ari Heinrich (University of California, San Diego), Howard Chiang (University of California, Davis), and Ta-wei Chi (National Chengchi University). The issue will feature two exemplary general articles as well. Take it from me, I have read the issue and it is not to be missed!

Screen Bodies

The Journal of Embodiment, Media Arts, and Technology

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