So once again, I'm figuring out how to fit this into 12 sessions, but I'm trying to articulate some principles--not only movies I think are cool, but following a theme. I'd been thinking the idea here is Conformity and Repression, Rebellion and Subversion. Sometimes the best theses are sort of obvious, and it seems to me it makes sense to emphasize how American representations of sex, in popular culture and in politics, are founded in essentially puritan notioons of orginial sin. New populations, new media, new artforms, new belief systems arise, but that is the currency they deal in, so they adapt only in terms that fail to escape the prevailing ways of framing the cultural questions around sex.
Now, I like this approach because it gets at what's American about American movies' ideas about sex; because it allows us to focus on sexual behavior and how it's represented, instead of taking sexuality as a mere instance of gender identity and relations; because it allows me to ground the course in a few basic instances I particularly like, especially Bill Condon's film Kinsey (along with the cultural politics of serious biological, sociological or historical study of sex) and Michael Warner's book The Trouble with Normal; because it puts the hetero/homo division, along with fetishisms and paraphilia and the whole question of what Americans do and don't consider sex, consider racy, and really enjoy and fear in representations of sex, in a more interesting light than either politics or Freudian views; because it sets me up personally to come back later and discuss the garden-of-Eden fantasy in relation to Melanie Klein's ideas about sex and aggression; because it seems to me to place issues of genre and sexuality in an interesting light (as with film noir, horror, and farce especially); because it gives me some kind of ground for distinguishing between the commercial cinema, porno and the adult film industry, and avant-garde and experimental film, on a kind of ideological as well as purely descriptive basis; and because I think it provides the ground for interesting choices in readings.
So that is kind of where I am today, and it leaves me choosing from among the following films, I think
Introduction to the course:
Kinsey with Sex Ed Videos from the 1950s, with excerpts from The Subject is Sex, Heavy Petting, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex
If I decide to cover the early establishment of sexual themes in melodrama in silent film it might be with
Broken Blossoms, Our Modern Maidens
To establish the difference between American and European representations of sex:
For the importance of star persona and celebrity:Marlene Dietrich (Blonde Venus), Mae West, Marilyn Monroe
I want to do something on the erotics of the musical: The Gang’s All Here, with Busby Berkeley numbers, and the documentary on Carmen Miranda, Bananas is My Business. This covers star persona and exoticism of culture and race as well.
For melodrama on the theme of repression in "middle America": All That Heaven Allows (women and children)
Rebel Without a Cause (teens, homoeroticism, "homosociality" and triangles)
For farce on the same theme:
The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek
Pillow Talk, The Thrill of It All, or Man’s Favorite Sport
Back to the Future (great Oedipal stuff there, a good place to cover Freud)
On sex and power:
The Apartment, Secretary, Some Like It Hot (as well as Sunset Blvd.)
On the film noir "myth" of repression, erotics, and violence:
Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity, Sunset Blvd.
On the same issue in other genres:
Duel in the Sun / Lust in the Dust, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Carrie, Psycho, Bonnie and Clyde, Scream (as pastiche)
Boys Don't Cry (with The Brandon Teena Story)
The "erotic thriller":Basic Instinct
How homoerotics is represented:
Top Gun, The Gay Deceivers, The Celluloid Closet, Poison, Postcards from America
How race is read as sex and vice-versa: Mandingo, Foxy Brown, She’s Gotta Have It
Porno: Inside Deep Throat, with some interviews with Adult Stars and early porn; Pornography: The Secret History of Civilisation (British documentary)
Avant-garde: Trash, Curt McDowell shorts, Thundercrack!, Blow Job, Sins of the Fleshapoids, Scorpio Rising, Flaming Creatures, A Dirty Shame. I'm surprised and pleased at how much stuff I've got on this topic, so I want to do it right.
To establish differences between American and other ways of representing sex, I'm thinking about: The Dreamers, Last Tango in Paris, Belle de Jour, and Happy Together, but especially thinking of showing Y tu mama tambien or Law of Desire.
Some of these are pretty indispensable to me; the others I need a couple more weeks to mull over. I'm working on the readings now, and in some instances I may choose a film on the basis of whether I can find a good reading to go with it. I'm still thinking these over as possible required texts:
Warner, Michael. The Trouble with Normal
D’Emilio, John, and Estelle B. Freedman. Intimate Matters : A History of Sexuality in America
Dyer, Richard. Stars. McNair, Brian. Mediated Sex : Pornography and Postmodern Culture.
Money, John. Gay, Straight, and In-Between: The Sexology of Erotic Orientation
Poulson-Bryant, Scott. Hung : A Meditation on the Measure of Black Men in America.
There really isn't a reasonably short introduction to the critical study of film I can throw in, or I would. I have a lot of essays collected for reserve readings. That's it for now.