The B Word
165 pages

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2013 Slant Magazine Top Ten Books, Film Studies Winner 2014 Lambda Book Awards, bisexual nonfiction

Visit the author's website Listen to an IU Press podcast with the author.

Often disguised in public discourse by terms like "gay," "homoerotic," "homosocial," or "queer," bisexuality is strangely absent from queer studies and virtually untreated in film and media criticism. Maria San Filippo aims to explore the central role bisexuality plays in contemporary screen culture, establishing its importance in representation, marketing, and spectatorship. By examining a variety of media genres including art cinema, sexploitation cinema and vampire films, "bromances," and series television, San Filippo discovers "missed moments" where bisexual readings of these texts reveal a more malleable notion of subjectivity and eroticism. San Filippo's work moves beyond the subject of heteronormativity and responds to "compulsory monosexuality," where it's not necessarily a couple's gender that is at issue, but rather that an individual chooses one or the other. The B Word transcends dominant relational formation (gay, straight, or otherwise) and brings a discursive voice to the field of queer and film studies.

Prologue: Chasing Amy and Bisexual (In)visibility
Introduction: Binary Trouble and Compulsory Monosexuality
1. Unthinking Monosexuality: Bisexual Representability in Art Cinema
2. Power Play/s: Bisexuality as Privilege and Pathology in Sexploitation Cinema
3. Of Cowboys and Cocksmen: Bisexuality and the Contemporary Hollywood Bromance
4. Bisexuality on the Boob Tube
Conclusion: Queer/ing Bisexuality



Publié par
Date de parution 12 avril 2013
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780253008923
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 2 Mo

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The B Word
The B Word
This book is a publication of
INDIANA UNIVERSITY PRESS 601 North Morton Street Bloomington, Indiana 47404–3797 USA
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© 2013 by Maria San Filippo
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The Association of American University Presses’ Resolution on Permissions constitutes the only exception to this prohibition.
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences–Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48–1992.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
San Filippo, Maria. The B word : bisexuality in contemporary film and television / Maria San Filippo. pages cm Based on the author’s dissertation (doctoral) – University of California, Los Angeles. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-253-00879-4 (cl : alk. paper) – ISBN 978-0-253-00885-5 (pb : alk. paper) – ISBN 978-0-253-00892-3 (eb) 1. Bisexuality in motion pictures. 2. Bisexuality on television. I. Title. PN1995.9.B57S36 2013 791.43086’63 – dc23 2012042177
1 2 3 4 5 18 17 16 15 14 13
In memory of
and of
ALEXANDER DOTY (1954–2012)
ROBIN WOOD (1931–2009)
PROLOGUEChasing Amyand Bisexual (In)visibility
INTRODUCTION Binary Trouble and Compulsory Monosexuality
1 Unthinking Monosexuality: Bisexual Representability in Art Cinema
2 Power Play/s: Bisexuality as Privilege and Pathology in Sexploitation Cinema
3 Of Cowboys and Cocksmen: Bisexuality and the Contemporary Hollywood Bromance
4 Bisexuality on the Boob Tube
CONCLUSION Queer/ing Bisexuality Notes Bibliography Index
During the long gestation of this project, I have benefitted from the insights and support of many advisers, colleagues, friends, and family. I especially wish to thank my UCLA dissertation committee, Denise Mann, Kathleen McHugh, Jim Schultz, and especially my chair, Janet Bergstrom, as well as the other mentors who have guided and advocated for me and become friends in the process: Laura Mulvey, Vivian Sobchack, Wini Wood, and the warm, wise women of WGS at Harvard. My gratitude goes out to Tania Modleski for offering her assurance of my project’s potential, and to Jane Behnken for first showing interest in my manuscript and for shepherding it along. Jane’s colleagues at Indiana University Press, especially Peter Froehlich, Darja Malcolm-Clarke, Raina Polivka, Sarah Wyatt Swanson, and Jenna Whittaker, have provided invaluable support along the way, and Eric Levy proved an outstanding copyeditor in the final act. My undergraduate alma mater and postgraduate home, Wellesley College, and its passionate, talented teachers and students, are an ongoing source of creative revelation and intellectual stimulation for me. My UCLA classmates and friends Ross Melnick, Jennifer Moorman, Maya Montañez Smukler, and Laurel Westrup have contributed a decade’s worth of personal and professional celebration and commiseration, for which I’m eternally grateful. Candace Moore has been an inspiration as a thinker and writer, and in so many other ways. My parents Frank and D San Filippo, my sister Kristina San Filippo, and my “sister” Ivey Doyal Rucket are all immeasurably part of who I am and what I’ve done, for which I’m forever in their debt. Above all, I wish to thank Vernon Shetley – my unflagging mentor, my most discerning editor, my favorite fellow cinéaste, and “the best and loyalist friend a girl ever had.”
The B Word
Theway the world is, how seldom it is that you meet that one person who just gets you. . . . It’s so rare. And to cut oneself off from finding that person, to immediately halve your options . . .
Chasing Amyand Bisexual (In)visibility
When asked about this book’s topic, I typically respond that it deals with bisexuality in film and television. The most frequent response, offered up by people from diverse areas of my life, is, “You mean likeChasing Amy?” This American independent film about a self-proclaimed lesbian who is forced to question her sexual identity after meeting and falling for a man clearly occupies a prominent place in cultural consciousness around bisexuality. (The other steadfastly recurring response has been, “You mean likeBasic InstinctVerhoeven, 1992]?” I address this film in [Paul chapter 2.) In thinking about why Chasing Amyshould leap to mind when the topic turns to bisexuality onscreen, I recognized several ways in which this film provides an apt entry into the concerns of this book.Chasing Amy’s female lead, Alyssa Jones (played by petite, blonde, Minnie Mouse–voiced Joey Lauren Adams), adheres to mainstream culture’s preference for safely gender-conforming images of queer women, at the same time that Alyssa’s femme appearance also contradicts prevailing assumptions about what queer women look like. Indeed, it is Alyssa’snotbeing visibly queer that allows for the film’s first-act revelation on the part of male lead Holden (Ben Affleck) and presumably a substantial number of spectators who would not have surmised Alyssa’s sexual preference from the coy hints given in the film’s trailer (“She just needs the right guy”) and tagline (“It’s not who you love. It’s how”). In this way, Alyssa’s visual imperceptibility serves to foreground the recurring issue, both in queer media representation and in the everyday experiences of many bisexual/queer women, of bisexual invisibility. Yet I would immediately revise this to read(in)visibility, to signal the spectral presence that bisexuality occupies, both onscreen and within the broader landscape of sexual identity. Bisexuality is both visibleand invisible, as my parenthetical designation indicates, due to the slippage between its representational pervasiveness and the alternating measures of tacit acceptance, disidentification, or disavowal that render bisexuality discursively un(der)spoken. Bisexuality’s (in)visibility belies its ubiquity within our culture, and indeed constitutes a disavowal of the twinned fascination and anxiety bisexuality provokes. For there are traces throughout the contemporary screen mediascape that suggest the degree to which bisexuality serves as a driving force in the production, marketing, and consumption of screen media and technology. Not just in queer cinema or on cable channels targeted at “the gay community,” but on network shows and in Hollywood movies playing at the local multiplex. The presence of bisexuality is not limited to bisexual characters and plot lines involving bisexual relationships; bisexuality is also a crucial component in the strategies and processes involved in selling and experiencing screen media. Yet this key presence goes almost entirely unacknowledged and undiscussed. Media scholars and critics occasionally appear to notice it, but they call it by other names: gay, lesbian, homoerotic, homosocial, queer . . . To a surprising extent, bisexuality remains the orientation that dares not speak its name. Into this discursive gap falls a good deal of knowledge that it is essential we retrieve in order to grasp with precision how sexuality works – not just within film and television, but with regard to everyday desires, behaviors, and subjectivities. Chasing Amy’s boy-meets-lesbian plotline sets into motion such a retrieval, through its explicit appraisal of bisexual (in)visibility and the related cultural attitudes about bisexuality it confronts: namely, the belief that bisexuality is “just a phase” or “the easy way out,” bi-phobia on the part of both straight-and gay-identified individuals (“Another one bites the dust,” Alyssa’s lesbian friends say upon hearing she is dating a man), and the stereotype of the promiscuous, commitment-phobic bisexual. As a film aimed at and embraced by a young straightand queer viewership,Chasing Amyan example of what the is television industry callsdual-casting:media text strategically designed to cross demographic a boundaries to appeal to two (or more) niche audiences. The third installment in Kevin Smith’s “New Jersey Trilogy” – it aims considerably higher than its predecessorsClerks(1994) andMallrats(1995) – Chasing Amymore to Richard Linklater and Quentin Tarantino than to New Queer Cinema. Its owes hyperarticulate, endlessly referential dialogue and slacker mien targets, and flatters, an alternative subculture of clever-yet-disillusioned (and primarily heterosexual) young adults much like the ones that
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