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Looking in a Mirror or Through a Window: Mainstream Audiences and Gay Men Portrayed in Film and Television.

Bamford, N., 2016. Looking in a Mirror or Through a Window: Mainstream Audiences and Gay Men Portrayed in Film and Television. In: ASPERA Annual Conference 2016: The Big Questions, 5 - 7 July 2016, Canberra, Australia. (Unpublished)

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As Vito Russo made clear in The Celluloid Closet (1987), 20th century LGBT screen representations were almost entirely negative or, at best, hidden or coded. Contemporary emancipation has changed that, aided by screen representations. But that requires a mainstream audience to come in to see a gay-themed film. Two successful early examples of such films were Philadelphia and Brokeback Mountain. But gay audiences were very aware that those were not entirely authentic in their representation – feeling ‘watered-down’ or ‘heterosexualised’ to make them acceptable to mass audiences. They were also seen to have reassured those audiences because, although sympathetically told, both stories end with the death of one of the lovers, subtly reinforcing a homophobic message. More recently two British TV dramas, Cucumber and London Spy have taken a different approach, offering an ‘exotic otherness’ in the world they present, making gay men seem somehow exciting in their difference. But these are, arguably, equally inauthentic. In this paper I draw from my PhD by practice for which I am writing a contemporary, gay, screen version of Madame Butterfly. My intention is to offer a mainstream audience an authentic insight into a gay world. But the story involves aspects of gay behaviour which might alienate such an audience. So do I make a film which will easily attract a gay audience but ‘preach to the converted’? Or do I tone it down to make it more palatable to the mainstream, or, conversely, exaggerate and ‘exoticise’ it, both of which risk rendering it inauthentic? I argue that there is a challenge addressing the issue of diversity in contemporary screen production – persuading audiences not simply to look in a mirror at a reflection of themselves, but rather to look through a window at others.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Group:Faculty of Media & Communication
ID Code:24902
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:27 Oct 2016 10:35
Last Modified:14 Mar 2022 13:59


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