March 17, 2005

Cinema Studies

Cinema Studies

We don’t mean to come across like a passel of reactionaries, but we don’t think that undergraduates should study film. After all, barely any contemporary college students are functionally literate; under such circumstances, we feel as if it’s far better that they spend their precious time in between bouts of binge drinking with a book, rather than a movie.

Some might say that our stance on this issue demonstrates what a tired bunch of fuddy-duddies we are. Perhaps so. Still, we don’t want to see a day come when students are watching Joe Dirt for homework. Or for any reason, for that matter.

And then there’s the related issue of scholarly publications on film. So many college professors seem to think that merely discussing movies—the more ridiculous the better—in an academic setting is deeply “transgressive.” Naturally, these days the only thing that would be earnestly “transgressive” in academic circles is voting Republican. Even so, academic types get all giddy expatiating on stupid movies.

Don’t believe us? Then clearly, dear reader, you have not taken a gander at the Fall 2001 number of the journal Cinema Studies, which features an article penned by one Nicholas F. Radel, a professor of English at Furman University.

The magnificently ridiculous title of Mr. Radel’s piece says it all: “The Transnational Ga(y)ze: Constructing the East European Object of Desire in Gay Film and Pornography after the Fall of the Wall.”

Delicious, isn’t it? We, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” particularly savored Mr. Radel’s pathetically typical use of parentheses. You can imagine him patting himself on the back after typing the word “Ga(y)ze,” can’t you? Sure, his ideas may all be pseudo-radical academic boilerplate; but, man, can he use those parentheses!

Mr. Radel’s article begins with a sublimely ridiculous sentence: “Of all the effects of the collapse of the Iron Curtain on East-West relations, perhaps the one that will be the least discussed is its effect on gay communities in the United States.”

Gee, Mr. Radel, we wonder why that is? Actually, given the number of idiotic English professors in these here United States, we have the sneaking suspicion that the influence of the collapse of the Iron Curtain on US gay communities will be among the topics most pondered.

So what, you may (or may not) be asking yourself, is Mr. Radel’s landmark work of scholarship about? Let Mr. Radel tell us himself: “In particular, I wish to examine the ways of in which Eastern Europeans are constructed as desirable sexual partners for American gay men in Gary Terracino’s popular short film My Polish Waiter (1994) and in some examples from the increasingly large number of gay pornographic films that feature young men from Eastern Europe.”

Ah, yes: A typical subject for today’s scholar of English. And just think of all the trouble Mr. Radel has gone to. He’s probably had to take in hours and hours of homosexual pornography.

Naturally, Mr. Radel’s lucubration contains the usual postmodern methodological throat clearing (with nods to Foucault, Zizek, and kindred academic gurus) and dubious political points.

For an instance of the latter, enjoy this sentence: “But, as the fall of the Berlin Wall has taught us, even our most cherished binaries perish.”

To which we, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” respond: That’s what the collapse of Communism taught him? Gosh, it appears as if Mr. Radel was asleep in history class. Or perhaps he was watching homosexual pornography.

If you think that’s bad, take a gander at our favorite sentence from Mr. Radel’s magnum opus: “To make moral and aesthetic distinctions between a film interested in the muscles and limp penises of athletic young men and one interested in the anuses of ephebic younger ones is to evade the ways in which both types of film position their subjects as figures to be watched, objects waiting to be seen.”

A darn good point, that.

Posted at March 17, 2005 12:01 AM | TrackBack