Music Videos

For our last class, we looked at a collection of music videos that were incredibly symbolic and rich in content.  Though performance-based, I think music videos are a unique form of filmmaking that coupled with music achieve very clear results.

At their core, music videos are an isolation of music and video. They rely on the relationship between audio and visual but also in its separation. When you watch a music video, you have a fully-formed song guiding you through emotions and stories. You also have the visuals doing the same. Though audio and visuals may seem to be working in conjunction, they each have their own respective life.

What was interesting about Janelle Monae’s music video is the interpretation of her songs. The songs were already made. This meant that the music videos could be anything. For this reason, the visuals added to a video became a life of their own.

Specifically, Janelle Monae added color. Her music videos were incredibly colorful adding to the lyrics of her songs. They elicited further feelings from the listener/now-viewer.

Re-wiring the “Circuit Boy”: The advertising industry’s hegemonization of muscles and the consequences for a gay subculture

In this paper I explore the evolving and overlapping relations between a queer subcommunity—gay male circuit participants—and commercial advertising, with a particular emphasis on the fashion industry. The new territory I chart is in establishing the relationship between circuit and hetero/sexist commercial advertising as reciprocal, rather than unidirectional. To explore the particularities of this reciprocal influence, I borrow an assertion from Filiault and Drummond (2007) that hegemonic, heterosexist masculinity can be performed through both somatype and attitude (the two of which, together, constitute aesthetic). I employ commonly recognized sexual identity categories to distinguish between a presumed majority heterosexual market—a “phantom general audience”— and the gay male market segment. The reason for this, as I posit, is that the phantom market and the gay male market segment often consume popular imagery in different ways. As a gay-identified, cisgender, male, white, educated, toned, upper-middle-class 21-year old man, I possess many of the prerequisite markers for a masculinity that would have been hegemonic in the late 20th century and remain so today. As a genders and sexualities scholar as well as an activist, I feel the tension between my queerness (including encounters with and on the circuit) and engagement with hegemonic masculinity, as gender oppression and homophobia have been primary sources of shame, drivers of performance, and shapers of desire in my life. Throughout, I reflect on a few but relevant personal experiences. In intertwining these retrospectives with academic discussion of media consumption, I call other men to reflect on their complicity and potential moments of victimhood in a hegemonic society with hopes of fostering empathy and underscoring the “interdependence of our struggles for justice.”

Ach – VIS 369 Final

Naruto is Gay: Projections of Homoerotic Interpretations onto Narrative Hegemony in Archetypical Trios

In the complicated dynamics of decisions to project narrative relationships into erotic relationships in the form of fanfiction, the dynamics of aesthetics and classical compatibility may come to mind as a methodology for creating such relationships, however, by looking at the archetypical concept of the “trio” (two contrasting male protagonists with one sole female protagonist) in Naruto, Kingdom Hearts, and Attack on Titan, we can see that the dynamics of the duality of appropriation in fanfiction and resistive exploration and representation define erotic relationships based upon the objectification of male bodies via strong power dynamics, narrative underdevelopment, and abusive relationships. These dynamics then subvert other relationships within the narrative. Through this phenomenon, we can get a better understanding of the representation of media through fanfiction and projection of personal motivations into these fictions in relation to all to common trio archetypes, and the dually appropriative, resistive-to-normaitivty creative process of fanfiction writers to construct a communally sourced narrative that projects the canon onto the new based upon the dynamics of characters within a story and how these map to the configurations desired by the folk creative body of fanfiction writers. This archetype is common in many forms of literature, but can be most visibly exemplified by Japanese media in the past 10 years, where it has been extremely prevalent as a method to create multiple “main characters” that are intended to be equally important.

As primary sources with which to exemplify the dynamics of the archetypical characters in this paper, I’ve selected three scenes from Kingdom Hearts, Naruto, and Attack on Titan, naturally.

As the example for Attack on Titan, I’ve chosen a scene in which Eren is suspected of being a titan in human form by the military and is being threatened to be executed. Mikasa and Armin come to his side to try to vouch for him, but they are threatened too. The scene turns very dramatic very fast, with Eren having flashbacks to memories he doesn’t quite understand of his dead father, among other things, and he begins to understand his abilities. The main nuances of this scene are that normative gender roles (especially for the world war-like aesthetics of the story) are subverted very heavily, as Mikasa lifts Eren over her shoulder to try to protect him, and Armin is still there by their side, as they all frantically try to save themselves and each other, until the last moment before a cannon is fired upon them, and Eren partially turns into a Titan to defend all of them.


(3:18 – 7:25)

As particular examples of where some of the qualities of these architypes can be seen, I’ve chosen a scene where Sora is reunited with Riku and Kairi. In this scene, Sora greets Kairi with an awkward stuttering and inability to speak a sentence, along with an awkward hug, whereas his reuniting with Riku (which takes the form of Sora realizing that Riku is there with him, but not in a physical form that he recognized as him) and he breaks down to his knees, holding Riku’s hand and crying, saying “I looked for you” (it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that this difference is even campy)

For the example of Naruto, I have chosen a well-known scene towards the beginning of the series where Naruto is in a classroom, squatting on a table in front of Sasuke (whether this is to intimidate him, or examine him is vauge), but he gets knocked over, and accidentally kisses Sasuke (to the dismay of the girls in the class, including Sakura). It is impossible to not call this scene a strong example of camp in the series, because the situation is just too absurd not to.

Kingdom Hearts Naruto Attack on Titan
Axel/Roxas – 40% Sasuke/Naruto – 44% Levi/Eren – 46%
Riku/Sora – 34% Kakashi/Iruka – 19% Marco/Jean – 21%
Kairi/Sora – 10% Sasuke/Sakura – 17% Levi/Erwin – 17%
Kairi/Riku/Sora – 8% Naruto/Hinata – 12% Historia/Ymir – 9%
Demyx/Zexion – 7% Sakura/Kakashi – 8% Armin/Eren – 7%

To gauge how fans create original content from these media, I’ve used the database of Archive of Our Own, a popular website to post fanfiction of numerous different series, often being in the thousands of submissions for particularly popular narratives. Using this database, we can not only gauge how popular fanfiction is for any particular series, but also see accurately the exact numbers of submissions, including submissions under specific tags. For our purposes, we’ll be looking at the tags for particular “ships”, or relationships that are tagged for any particular submission, which conveniently list the numbers of submissions for that particular tag. With this system, I’ve put together the relative proportions of particular “ships” in the top 5 tags of each series. (I’ve chosen to only look at the top 5, rather than the top 10, for instance, as there is a quick drop off of when the less popular tags get closer together in popularity and focus on more difficult to explain pairings of secondary characters)


Brienza, Casey. “Sociological Perspectives on Japanese Manga in America.” Sociology Compass 8, no. 5 (2014): 468-77. doi:10.1111/soc4.12158.

Brienza gives us an a theoretical framework with which we can see that fanfiction is a discursive process through which to explore cathartic projections of homoeroticism to resist normative, commercially guided media, as well as a way for the (predominantly straight women) fanfiction writers to project the object of desire onto exclusively men in erotic situations, and avoid the objectification of women

Dennis, Jeffery P. “Drawing Desire: Male Youth and Homoerotic Fan Art.” Journal of LGBT Youth 7, no. 1 (2010): 6-28. doi:10.1080/19361650903507734.

Jeffrey P. Dennis articulates the work of many scholars that “Ethnographic interviews with the writers reveal that most are heterosexual girls and women, using the male pairings to fantasize about erotic desire without female competition. This is to say that the male pairings construct a space of interpretations where women in the readership can fantacize about men without the context of the objectification or power dynamics with and between women, but rather with a pure sense of interaction between male characters as the replaced objects of desire that are intra-acting under this scheme of an alternative.

Green, Joshua, and Henry Jenkins. “Spreadable Media: How Audiences Create Value and Meaning in a Networked Economy.” The Handbook of Media Audiences, 2011, 109-27. doi:10.1002/9781444340525.ch5.

Henry Jenkins, the former director of media studies at MIT gives us a jumping off point for the motivations of readership to produce fanfiction at all, in the form of a succinct quote that he has reinforced time and time again: “Fanfiction is a way of the culture repairing the damage done in a system where contemporary myths are owned by corporations instead of owned by the folk”

McHarry, Mark, Antonia Levi, and Dru Pagliassotti. Boys Love Manga: Essays on the Sexual Ambiguity and Cross-cultural Fandom of the Genre. Jefferson, NC: McFarland &, Publishers, 2010.

In Chapter 4 of Boys Love Manga, Mark John Isola unifies the motivations of fanfiction writers with the consequences of their actions, in the form of a duality that the production of homoerotic fan fiction by predominantly straight women as a way to resist the normative narratives of heteroerotic patriarchy and project the object of desire solely to men is inseparable from the consequence that this action produces an appropriation of the lived experiences of gay men into an unreal, unlived, sterilized version of homoeroticism that complicates, misrepresents, and warps the perceptions and developments of queer identities.

 The Final Product

Creating the Perfect Princess: An Examination of the Evolution of the Disney Princess Conglomerate

 the Disney Princess Archetype:


Thesis Statement:

By examining the evolution of the Disney Princess, a discernable pattern is illuminated that ultimately presents the creation of Disney Princesses as a fluid and flexible process that responds to the demands of their buyers and thus consumer culture.  In this manner, this project will explore the balancing act that is the formation of a Disney Princess in order to make the claim that Disney has embarked on a profit driven trajectory with the ultimate goal of creating a new Disney Princess that garners as much notoriety and success as the princesses in Disney’s golden-goose, Frozen.

The Evolution of the Disney Princess:


Examining This Evolution:

In 2000 after attending a Disney on Ice performance full of homemade princess costumes, Andy Mooney and the rest of the Disney consumer-products division made the revolutionary decision to market the company’s Princesses and all of their princess accoutrements as a single entity.


The Explosion of the Disney Princess Conglomerate:

“in 2015, it was estimated that there were over 40, 000 ‘princess products’ being sold worldwide for a profit of $2.64 billion in product sales”

Researchers Examine the Effects of this Explosion:

“In a misogynistic culture, it’s never too early to drill into the minds of girls that what really matters is their appearance and their ability to please men sexually,” which many parents argued was a notion only reinforced by the superficial and male-centric Disney Princess narratives. 

Disney  Responds:

  Image result for brave

To No Avail….

“In 2009, Disney released “The Princess and the Frog,” its first animated princess movie in more than a decade, starring Tiana, the company’s first African-American heroine. It grossed a disappointing $104 million at the box office. It remains the company’s lowest-grossing princess movie.”

http://Her Prince Has Come. Critics, Too.

Disney Responds…AGAIN


“Frozen-Mania: How Elsa, Anna and Olaf Conquered the World”

Princesses, However, Are Still Found To Be Problematic…

Coyne et al. – 2016 – Pretty as a Princess Longitudinal Effects of Enga


Disney Creates New Non-Princess Era:

“’The Princess franchise has to evolve,’” says Josh Silverman, executive vice president for global licensing at Disney Consumer Products, the division that handles all the brand licenses. “’The focus will be on empowered heroines.’”


The Death of the Disney Princess:

Hine et al. – 2018 – From the Sleeping Princess to the World-Saving Dau

“’If I were to make the movies you guys wanted me to make about princesses, I would be murdered,’” [John] Lasseter once told a group raising concerns about the character Merida’s cynical attitude in “Brave,” according to a former colleague. He said, ‘I couldn’t make the movies Walt Disney made today.’”

Where Does Disney Go From Here?

1)Live-Action Remakes

2) Reimagining the Original Disney Princesses

Will this ever end? (My View)

Although Disney has clearly struggled to both create and emulate the success of Frozen and its two, princess protagonists, the Disney Princess conglomerate is still a wildly profitable enterprise with seemingly endless marketing and brand potential, which suggests that Disney will never stop trying to recreate the perfect princesses that were Anna and Elsa of Disney’s Frozen.

Project’s Bibliography:

VIS 369 Final Project Bibliography

Cool Girls Only: The Modern Male Fantasy

Cool Girls Only: The Modern Male Fantasy Final Paper

Introduction to “The Cool Girl”:

The “Cool Girl” archetype was initially identified by Gillian Flynn in her 2012 novel Gone Girl.[1]In the novel, protagonist Amy fakes her own disappearance and leaves a trail of clues ultimately intended to implicate her husband in the crime. Amy diatribes about the impossibility of the Cool Girl after she reveals her plot to the reader over halfway through the book:

Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.

Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time, Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men—friends, coworkers, strangers—giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them.[2]

In short, the Cool Girl in Gone Girl is a woman who acts like a man and looks like a supermodel.[3]She does not have the emotional depth or insecurities that complicate women to men, deeming her an ideal female construction for the prevailing “bro-culture” of the modern age. After Gone Girl’s David Fincher film adaptation in 2014, the Cool Girl received mass media attention as a revelation of a contemporary female archetype that had gone nameless. Amy’s frustration with the pressure to be a “Cool Girl” resonated with many viewers, and the film’s brilliant rendition of the written monologue sparked widespread debate about the Cool Girl’s presence in modern day film, literature, and more.


Essential to the Cool Girl’s success is her authenticity. In the article “Jennifer Lawrence And The History Of Cool Girls”, journalist Anne Helen Petersen refers to the allure of Cool Girls and what prevent us from—at least initially—hating them: “She’s never polished; she’s always fucking up.”[1]Peterson’s article points out that the Cool Girl is not an entirely new archetype. Indeed, according to Peterson, each era of cinema has had its own “Cool Girls” who woo male audiences and push the boundaries of femininity. Often, these celebrities have faded from the spotlight when they cross the line of acceptable “Cool Girl” behavior and do something which deems them undesirable.[2]But there is something about the modern-day Cool Girl which makes her decidedly different from her predecessors. For one, an increasingly informal society has changed male culture, creating a new form of male behavior referred to as “bro culture.”[3]The 2012 article, “A Quick and Dirty Tour of Misogynistic Bro Culture,” reflects that “popular culture, especially cultural products aimed at young men, teaches men to be womanizers.”[4]Specifically, the article cites that the pervasiveness of pornography caused by the internet largely contributes to bro-culture, and allows men easy access to porn at an early age. As a result, many men grow up accustomed to the idea of women as sex objects or the subject of fantasy.[5]Other impacts of technology, such as sports networks like ESPN and TV shows like Entourage, which facilitate male gatherings and make “bros” an on-screen staple, legitimize the bro behavior. For the Cool Girl, bro-culture presents a new set of criteria which she must meet to be deemed “Cool”. Cool Girls of the modern day must eat like the boys, watch sports like the boys, and be game for the gross and harassing behavior that bros are likely to inflict on her from time to time.

This paper aims to dissect on-screen representations of the Cool Girl and examine how the persona has, due to wild popularity, transitioned from fictional characters to real-world celebrities. Moreover, I intend to explore how the Cool Girl fantasy has sparked a real-world expectation among young men who grew up watching the Cool Girl on-screen. These analyses will ultimately conclude with a projection of the Cool Girl’s future. Ultimately, I want to show that, while the Cool Girl may be marketable, her effortless Cool and Hot persona relies on a sense of authenticity and effortlessness that leashes her to the will of the patriarchy.

The Cool Girl’s Romantic Comedy Rebirth:

Though, as Peterson points out in her article,[1]the Cool Girl archetype is nothing new, the modern day Cool Girl is in many ways a byproduct of late 90s and early 2000s romantic comedies. Romantic comedies serve as a natural fit for Cool Girl characters, since these women are the ideal objects of male desire and it is easy for men to trip over themselves in attempts to woo the ethereal Cool Girl. Three movies which present modern Cool Girls are:

There’s Something About Mary (1998)

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

The Cool Girl Manifested in Celebrity:

Except from an Interview With Mila KunisCool Girls have a unique duality on and off screen. Due to their likeable status on-screen, some Cool Girl actresses and performers have assumed the role in their off-screen personas as well. Many of these women are extremely well-liked, and seen as the authentic “relatable girl” celebrities that Hollywood has long been lacking. While Cool Girls may appear to be universally likable, response to celebrities who emulate the archetype suggest that being a Cool Girl is more of a balancing act than a recipe for success.

Mila Kunis’ Jim Beam Campaign
Excerpt From an Interview With Mila Kunis

On the other hand, Cool Girls, namely Jennifer Lawrence, have received immense scrutiny for their “Coolness”, with some fans calling it contrived. Some blogs tear these actresses apart.

Excerpt from the Tumblr Blog “

The Cult of the Cool Girl

Taken from an Episode of Barstool Chicks

While the celebrity and fictional Cool Girls are not necessarily harmful in and of themselves, they seem to cultivate a male obsession that promotes unrealistic standards and misogyny. Take, for example, the popular blog Total Frat Move.[1]

Excerpt from the Total Frat Move Article “50 Ways to Be The Perfect College Girlfriend

Total Frat Move, or TFM, appeals to young college men in fraternities, providing weekly fraternity stories and “TFM Babes of the Day” through both their website and Instagram. TFM has largely embraced the Cool Girl as a female standard. In short, women who act the part of the Cool Girl are accepted and praised by the blog, while those who are too needy or unwilling to throw back a beer are admonished.

Other male-media sites send similar messages. The extremely popular website and media company Barstool Sports, for instance, has a selection of eight, nearly all-white, thin and conventionally attractive girls permitted to write for the website. These women are the Cool Girls—between their looks and willingness to write articles on sports, they are the idealized women of the modern-day bro. Their section, titled “Barstool Chicks”, includes bits such as the “Call Her Daddy” podcast, which corroborates their sexualization by male readers and staff members. One Barstool Chicks article, titled “Sean ‘McBae’ Continues To Win On And Off The Field” talks about the “smokeshow” girlfriend of an NFL coach, linking revealing photos from her Instagram and saying that the coach has everything, including “an absolute rocket to go home to every night.”[1]In these instances, the Cool Girl is complicit in the objectification of other women, and contributes happily to a misogynistic male culture.

Annotated  bibliography:

  1. David Fincher, Gone Girl, (2014):
    1. The first source to examine is the infamous Cool Girl monologue in the 2014 Gone Girl film adaptation, directed by David Fincher. In the clip, we understand Amy’s plot to fake her disappearance, drive away, and begin a new life for herself through a series of cut shots. She begins the monologue as she is driving, then as she is transforming herself from the perfect, skinny, well-manicured “Cool Girl” to what she perceives as the total opposite. She dyes her hair a mousy brown, wears shapeless clothing, buys drug store hair products, and eats junk food for herself, not to please those around her. All the while, Amy’s voice plays in the background, as the script deviates slightly from Flynn’s original writing to heighten Amy’s scorned woman narrative and delve deeper into her archetype’s role in her failed marriage.
  2. Anne Helen Petersen, “Jennifer Lawrence And The History Of Cool Girls,” BuzzFeed, accessed November 11, 2018, girls.
    1. In this article, journalist Anne Helen Peterson responds to the Cool Girl archetype presented in Gone Girl. She begins the piece with an examination of who many consider the ultimate real-life Cool Girl, Jennifer Lawrence. Peterson writes: “Lawrence performs Cool Girlness with such skill, such seamlessness, that it doesn’t seem like a performance at all. I’m not suggesting that Lawrence is intentionally inauthentic, scheming, or manipulative: Rather, like all the Cool Girls you know, she’s subconsciously figured out what makes people like her, and she’s using it.” Peterson claims that the Cool Girl is a manifestation of all personality traits deemed ideal by the patriarchy, and thus that many Cool Girls use the persona as a means of self-promotion rather than genuine authenticity. It is in itself, an archetype characterized by manufactured authenticity. Peterson goes on to note a few Cool Girls who will be mentioned in this paper, specifically Mila Kunis, Olivia Munn, and Olivia Wilde, before diving into a historical analysis of past Cool Girls. She cites Clara Bow, Carole Lombard, and Jane Fonda as three of Lawrence’s predecessors.
  3. Kat Stoeffel, “Chrissy Tiegan is the Queen of the Cool Girls,” The Cut, accessed November 11, 2018,
    1. This article analyzes Chrissy Tiegan as an additional example of the Cool Girl archetype, claiming that Tiegan ticks all boxes that Flynn defined in her initial analysis.
  4. EW Staff, “Searching for the Ultimate TV/Movie ‘Cool Girl’” Entertainment Weekly, accessed November 11, 2018:
    1. A list of characters who are thought to comply with the “Cool Girl” archetype and an analysis of how well they actually fit the description.
  5. Annie Lord, “Dear Jennifer Lawrence, please can you stop pretending to be normal now,” 2017:
    1. Lord writes a scathing article attacking Jennifer Lawrence for her persona, and “revealing” that her feigned “masculine” and “bro-y” personality quirks are actually just masking her underlying “rude” personality. The article claims that Lawrence is manufactured and attacks her in numerous aspects, finding clips where she tries to play off what the author considers “mean” behavior as something “chill” and “relatable”. Lord’s article is self-defeating, as she rips Lawrence apart with such lacking empathy that you can not help but feel bad that Lawrence suffers so much criticism for attempting to achieve success in a male-dominated industry.
  6. Becca Rothfield, “Gone Girl’s Feminist Update of the Old-Fashioned Femme Fatale,” 2014:
    1. Rothfield posits that changing male ideals have resulted in a new type of sexism, one which rejects the ultra-femininity of previous eras and declares the “Cool Girl” as the ideal female. Rothfield roots the “Cool Girl” of Gone Girl in the longstanding Femme Fatale archetype of film noir. Amy intends to harm her husband as a means of punishing him for inflicting his ideals onto her personality, forcing her to live a sham existence in order to make him happy.
  7. Patrick Osborne, “’I’m the Bitch That Makes You a Man’: Conditional Love as Female Vengeance in Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl,” Florida State University
    1. Osborne argues that Amy can be viewed as a “feminist anti-hero that rejects (yet also ambivalently overconforms to) the postfeminist simulation: ‘cool girl.’” Osborne argues that Amy’s rejection of her former Cool Girl persona is in part a way to bolster her belief that unconditional love is impossible. In her monologue, Osborne contends, Amy effectively disassembles the manufactured aspects of her personality that were intended to please her husband and prevent him from viewing her as opposing or imperfect in any way.
  8. Emily VanLeuvan, “Film Genre and David Fincher’s Gone Girl,” Bridgewater State University, 2016.
    1. VanLeuvan takes her analysis of Amy’s monologue a step further, analyzing the specifics of the scene and declaring the cinematic sequence as a visual demonstration of Amy’s liberation from the pressures women feel to please men.
  9. “Stephanie Orman, “’What a Perfect Monster!’ Gone Girl’sDestabilization of Feminine Archetypes in Popular Media,” Simmons College, 2016.
    1. Orman’s piece focuses less on Amy’s Cool Girl status, and more on her role as a post-feminist heroine for the reader, one who deploys every trick in the book to gain sympathy from the public and then rips away her narrative as a sympathetic female victim to explore her own agency and intention in her actions. The piece demonstrates an important way that women may feel resistant to the Cool Girl and may give some insight as to why the public has begun to sour on the archetype. No one expresses the public’s frustration more than the Cool Girl herself, and this linkage is key to understanding how and why we must break down this archetype as a patriarchal construction.

Section 1:

[1]Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl(Broadway Books, 2014).


[3]Anne Helen Petersen, “Jennifer Lawrence And The History Of Cool Girls,” BuzzFeed, accessed November 12, 2018,

Section 2:

[1]Petersen, “Jennifer Lawrence And The History Of Cool Girls.”



[3]“What We Mean When We Say ‘Bro Culture,’” accessed January 15, 2019,

[4]“What We Mean When We Say ‘Bro Culture.’”

[5]Joan C. Chrisler et al., “A Quick and Dirty Tour of Misogynistic Bro Culture,” Sex Roles66, no. 11 (June 1, 2012): 810–11,

Section 3:

[1]“Welcome to Total Frat Move | By Grandex Media,” accessed January 15, 2019,

[1]Kayce Smith1/14/2019 12:10 PM, “Sean ‘McBae’ Continues To Win On And Off The Field,” accessed January 15, 2019,

No Day But Today: Theatre, Gay America, and the Theatrical Sanitation of AIDS 1985-1996


Prior to the AIDS plague, representation for the queer community was limited to the point of near nonexistence. After AIDS emerged in the queer community, invisibility persisted, but the urgency for representation intensified greatly. Between 1985 and 1996, there was an increase in the portrayal of people with AIDS, particularly in the four shows The Normal Heart (1985), Angels in America (1991), Falsettos (1992), and Rent (1996). These four works of theater were paramount in raising awareness for AIDS to the general, presumed straight audience. There was also an increase in AIDS-related performance art in less conventional venues centered in the queer community. 

In this paper I explore how each of these four theater works portrayed AIDS from the inside in the gay male community and how these portrayals both excluded the macro nature of AIDS in America, while opening up avenues that had not previously existed for talking about the epidemic in a personal, human way, at the same time that off-Broadway performance art centered in the queer community was overall more realistic and harsh in its portrayal of AIDS though it failed to reach a wide, mainstream audience or reach popular acclaim.

There are many things that The Normal Heart, Angels in America, Falsettos, and Rent completely miss as works depicting the AIDS crisis. Protagonists of color, queer women protagonists, and protagonists facing true poverty are missing from all of them. They present instead a more palatable portrayal of the AIDS crisis in the form of white gay men with some level of financial security, except for Rent which presents white straight men with some level of financial security. This mass misrepresentation of AIDS does not negate the value present in all of these works but it is erasure. It is indicative of an institutional problem in the medium when realistically representative work is not able to succeed on a mass scale. The theater-going audiences are presumed wealthy, white, and straight. The shows that found this mass success makes this sort of audience feel affirmed and validated, not necessarily challenged nor educated. The performance art was centered in the queer community at the center of the AIDS crisis, but it was because of its harsher, realistic portrayal of the crisis that it was unable to see mainstream acclaim. There is a balance of values in this dichotomy. The shows that saw mainstream acclaim were able to spread their message to a wider audience, and were therefore able to increase the visibility of AIDS. But that value is offset by the fact that the truth was sanitized to reach this wider audience. There is not inherent value in this wide acclaim when it is built on a false mask of the AIDS crisis that only confirms the preconceived notions of its audience.


The Normal Heart

Angels in America:



Off-Broadway Performance Art

John Bernd, photographed by Don Chiappinelli


1. Axton, Natalie. “Remembering and Reframing the Memory of a Choreographer Lost to AIDS”. 4 November 2016.

Axton’s article on John Bernd serves to explain his choreography and how it was inseparable from his battle with AIDS and his queer identity. I use it to contextualize John Bernd’s choreography and his history.

2. Brantley, Ben. “Rock Opera A La ‘Boheme’ And ‘Hair’.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 14 Feb. 1996,

A review for the New York Times analyzes Rent early in its run and gives insight into why it was such a cultural phenomenon, particularly regarding Jonathan Larson’s death. I use Brantley’s analysis to understand the massive success of Rent, in particular regarding the effect of Larson’s death on how the show was received and interpreted.

3. Finn, William. Falsettos, 1993.

4. France, David. How to Survive a Plague : the Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed Aids. 2016.

France’s book is an extremely comprehensive overview of the AIDS crisis through many different lenses. He addresses the situation personally, biologically, sociologically, politically, and artistically. I use France’s work to contextualize The Normal Heart and Larry Kramer’s participation in AIDS activism.

4. Houston-Jones, Ishmael. “Scenes From a Life: Ishmael Houston-Jones on John Bernd and Contemporary Dance”. 26 June 2018.

A modern choreographer comments on and analyzes the legacy of choreographer John Bernd. Houston-Jones elaborates on the connection between John Bernd’s having AIDS and his choreography that he created up until his death in 1988. Houston-Jones is also necessary in understanding the weight of the lost artistic potential caused by AIDS.

5. Kramer, Larry. The Normal Heart, 1985.

6. Kushner, Tony. Angels in America, 1991.

7. Larson, Jonathan. Rent, 1996.

8. Rich, Frank. “THEATER: ‘THE NORMAL HEART,’ BY LARRY KRAMER.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 22 Apr. 1985,

A review of The Normal Heart contextualizes the show in the era of AIDS and addresses Kramer’s brash tone and overall dismissal of the queer community favorably. I use Rich’s analysis to show how straight people understood Kramer’s position in a way that was ultimately detrimental to the gay community.

9. Saunders, Dudley. Statement on “In These Boxes”.

10. Schulman, Sarah. Stagestruck: Theatre, AIDS, and the Marketing of Gay America. September 1998.

Sarah Schulman exposes the sinister nature of Rent, specifically relating to the plagiarism of her own work, and contextualizes it in the broader nature of AIDS-related theatre at the time. Schulman’s work is essential in understanding the phenomenon behind Rent and in exploring the lesser known works of theater in the PWA community, many of which have been lost.

Final Paper


Miss Representation: How to Represent her Brains without Sexualizing her Body

The Evolution of the Smart, “Nerdy” Female Movie Character

While thinking about different character archetypes to explore in this final project, I looked back at the films we viewed during the course.  One character that especially interested me was Kay Scott All That Heaven Allows. Her character struck me not because of how she acted; I am pretty fond of smart and sassy women onscreen. Her character struck me because of how blatantly her character was dismissed by the other characters, especially the male characters but not exclusively. I have seen many movies that do not lend themselves to feminist values or represent women in an equal way, but I had grown accustom to the present luxury of films at least attempting to empower women in their roles onscreen. In the few scenes of All that heaven Allows we watched in class and the few more I have watched on my own, Kay’s sharp and witty comments did not earn her male attention (or attention at all). Her cute glasses and perky ponytail were constantly dismissed by the other characters as she was condemned for focusing so much of her time in academia and taking psychology so seriously. But this is what grabbed my attention. I chalked up her dismissal to a product of the time that the movie was released. In 1955, women were expected to play a certain role, in real life and this carried onto the screen. Women were expected to be physically beautiful, submissive, and not too smart.


Kay’s character, and the way she is treated onscreen, has evolved. Fortunately. Through the kind of forward-one-step-and-back-two-steps progress. Unfortunately. But as women have started to be valued at more than their face-value (literally) in society, their representation on screen and the role that nerdy women play in films has expanded. I will trace the evolution of the smart, nerdy female character from being completely dismissed by the characters and the plot to attracting the eyes of her fellow male characters and the audience—and more importantly how she expanded her role.  Through this evolution, I will utilize characters who both strictly play the nerdy female role and characters who push the boundaries of this role, either from within the archetype or from the outside. For the purposes of this analysis (and because I just finished the series), I am going to identify Jessica Day from New Girl as the modern female nerd, a much sexier and less ignored but just as nerdy female character. On the shoulders of the many nerdy personas who came before her, Jess worked her way to the center of her own TV show. But did this nerdy girl have to change from how we saw her as Kay Scott to appeal to the audience enough to have her own show as Jessica Day?


Beauty over Brains

As I mentioned earlier, Kay’s character in All That Heaven Allows, was dismissed because she did not conform to what the film industry deemed valuable onscreen during the 1950s. Although the actress, Gloria Talbott, is definitely attractive by most beauty standards, the character she plays as Kay strips her of this stereotypical attractiveness as soon as she opens her mouth. Her know-it-all attitude and refusal to sit down and be quiet makes her unsuitable in the eyes of stereotypical men during the 1950s.[1] As female characters were usually displayed only in relation to the male characters, Kay’s lack of appeal to men forced her character to the sideline for the audience as well.

While actresses’ onscreen value was largely based on their physical attractiveness, their physical beauty did not guarantee their character’s value in terms of the plot if their character did not conform to the expected female persona. A smart female character lost attractiveness points if she was too knowledgeable in comparison to the man. This does not only explain why characters like Kay were dismissed in early films, but it also explains the value behind female characters who seem to add nothing (in dialogue or action) to the plot. The archetype of this counter-character that first comes to mind is: the Bond Girl. These stereotypically beautiful and sexy characters were a staple of the series during the sixties, but their cinematic role was limited to adding eye-appeal and (in a real stretch) romance to the film. While Bond Girls might be the extreme opposite of the nerd girl in film in terms of sexual exploitation and female expectations, they speak to how women have traditionally been used onscreen, and they explain why the nerdy girls were ignored in early films.


Brains over Beauty  

As I said earlier, the evolution of female characters was not completely linear chronologically. Smart women worked their way towards the core cast of the film, but never quite accomplished a center role without altering their character. Two examples of smart and even nerdy female characters who made their way to this intermediate role are Velma in Scooby Doo and Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter Series. These two characters were intermediate characters between the early intellectual female characters like Kay Scott who were completely eclipsed from the plot and the present nerdy women characters like Jessica Day who are at the center of the series. In order to cover the distance between this important but still secondary role and earn the spotlight of the main character, female characters must exude a certain sexiness or allure. Velma and Hermione are not yet exploited sexually, but this is at a cost: their lack of sexual attraction keeps them on the relative outskirts of the action. They are not the whole package. Their intellect contributes to the plot and helps the core group solve problems and realize situations, but they are only there to help, not to lead or to be sought after.

It could be argued that it is better for a female character to avoid the main character role if it means that she is able to maintain her dignity and avoid exploiting her sexuality. Even so, both Scooby Doo and the Harry Potter Series contain scenes where the Velma and Hermione undergo some sort of transformation and dress up for an event and their physical beauty is realized by the rest of the cast. It is only after this kind of scene where they are pursued by any male characters. So while their overall character may have escaped this exploitation, the notion that their desirability exists under their glasses and know-it-all comments adds another element to their character that brings them closer to the center of attention.

Transformation Genre

Along this same line of thought, if a smart or nerdy female character shows any sort of desire to attract a partner, it is nearly a given that she must undergo some sort of physical transformation, to conform to conventional beauty standards and attract another character. Even if the physical transformation is for another reason besides attracting another person, movies that portray a smart or capable female character who does not know how or care to make herself conventionally attractive usually have a physical transformation or “make-over” weaved into the plot, as if a woman is not fulfilling her full potential if she is not appealing as physically attractive as she is able to. Two films that demonstrate this type of movie are The Princess Diaries and Miss Congeniality. Honestly, I love both of these films, and while the motivator for the female character’s make-over is not completely motivated by winning over a love interest, both Gracie Hart and Mia Thermopolis are rewarded for their transformation with a man realizing her beauty and falling for her.

Kay Scott to Jessica Day

The film industry has come a long way from Bond Girl character types and blatantly ignoring Kay Scott’s character. Female characters are now leads in James Bond-esque movies, like Atomic Blonde, and classic super-hero movies, like Wonder Woman. While the characters of these movies would by no means qualify as nerdy, they definitely put smart, powerful women at the center of the plot. And it took a long time to get to that point. But what about those Kay Scott characters? The modern Kay Scotts have evolved into Jessica Day’s. Jessica Day is smart and quirky. She is a high school principal and she loves to knit. Her best friend is a super model, putting her in the classic juxtaposition with the conventionally beautiful and revered. She even wears glasses. These Jessica Day’s have made progress from the Kay Scott’s, if progress is measured in terms of attention, plot influence, and screen time. Their lines are no longer ignored or dismissed. The TV series may even be named after her.

But Jessica Day is also attractive. She may be partially hidden behind her glasses and thick bangs, but on more than one occasion she is dressed up for a date or an event and she exudes almost every quality of conventional beauty. She is pursued by multiple men, including her 3 male roommates. She is more quirky and naïve than conservative or prude. Oftentimes, she is sexy. The hints of allure that surface rarely in Velma and Hermione are more frequent in Jessica Day. Her nerdy glasses have become chic with the times, and with that, so have her many of her quirky qualities. But more so than the changing of times, it is her physical attractiveness that allows her to exist as a nerd in the center of her own show.

How and why did Kay Scott have to change in order to become Jessica Day? Now that I have provided a more complete picture of how this archetype of the nerdy girl evolved, I will look into how smart women are represented onscreen today, especially in relation to how they got there.

VIS 369 Final Paper- Miss Representation






The Artificial Asian Female: Technologized/Racialized/Gendered Other

Click above image & click through slides to view full dossier of examples


The world of science fiction is in many ways limitless. The genre itself suggests futurity, innovation, and an imagining of a world beyond the one in which we live. Yet, speculative fiction seems to rely on the continuous repetition of several tropes, especially when it comes to envisioning racialized and gendered bodies in the future. This is particularly true of speculative fiction productions created and released from the late 1990s to the 2010s. This period of time, as I illustrate through my dossier, churns out many iterations of the artificial female body, whether in a cyborg/humanoid form or as disembodied voices/technologies. Most interestingly, many of these artificial female bodies are racialized as Asians. From sci-fi thriller Ex Machina’s Kyoko to Cloud Atlas’ Sonmi-451, the artificial Asian female body is represented as an object of desire, a docile servant, a clone, a hypermodern geisha, and so on. She/it also tends to fulfill the following roles: 1) domestic helper 2) sex slave/prostitute 3) villainous seductress/insurgent in rebellion.

My project attempts to examine the archetype of the artificial Asian female body and how this body is gendered and racialized, primarily in sci-fi/dystopian films and television shows. Additionally, I draw a connection between imagined artificial female bodies in speculative fiction and gendered technologies (sex dolls, digital home assistants) in real life. I also trace the ways in which the artificial Asian female body is a continuation of the hypersexual “fembot.” Using the frameworks of Orientalism/techno-Orientalism alongside feminist film theory, I analyze the ways in which the artificial Asian female body makes visible masculine mastery and control over technology and the female body, as well as the process of constituting a fetishized and eroticized “Other.”  The artificial Asian female body embodies both the Asian American history of exclusion/alienation and contemporary anxieties about the foreign, robot-like Asian body in the current age of global capitalism. Finally, I try to uncover what it would mean for Asian/Asian American artists/writers/filmmakers to reckon with these representations of the Asian body as robot body in projects of cultural production.

Link to Paper:  Final paper

Westworld Season 2 (2018), Sakura


Ex Machina (2015), Kyoko


Anomalis (2015), Vintage Japanese sex doll


Cloud Atlas (2012), Sonmi-451


Battlestar Galactica’s Cylon Number 8


Anne Hu’s Cake (2017): A possible method of responding to the hypersexualized artificial Asian female


Annotated Bibliography:

Haraway, Donna J. “A Cyborg Manifesto,” Manifestly Haraway, University of Minnesota Press, 2016.

Haraway’s text looks toward a feminist posthumanism in its discussion of science, technology, and feminism in the twentieth century. Haraway rejects the rigidity of binaries and instead proposes a hybridized, ambiguous model of the cyborg as a means of restructuring identity. This text will be foundational to my critique of modern-day gendered technologies and my analyses of how gender and sexuality relate to the archetype of the artificial Asian female.

Morley, David, and Kevin Robins. Spaces of Identity: Global Media, Electronic Landscapes and Cultural Boundaries. London: Routledge, 1995.

Morley and Robins’ book specifically addresses the way in which the formation and transmission of media shape cultural identities in the contemporary age of rapid globalization. The chapter “Techno-Orientalism: Japan Panic” explicates the tensions and anxieties that the West harbors in relation to the Far East and treats Orientalism as a conceptual framework in the context of countries moving rapidly toward modernity.

Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” Screen, Volume 16, Issue 3, 1 October 1975, Pages 6–18

Mulvey’s text is useful in supporting/nuancing my interpretation of the artificial female body and the racialized artificial female body. Mulvey’s text serves as a theoretical lens through which to examine the embodiment of masculine desire and pleasure through the construction of the artificial female body. I use Mulvey’s framework of the male gaze in conjunction with the emergence of the “white gaze” to which the artificial Asian body is also subjected to.

Roh, David S., Betsy Huang, and Greta A. Niu. Techno-Orientalism: Imagining Asia In Speculative Fiction, History, and Media.

This text lays out the different ways in which Asia and Asians are depicted as hypermodern and hypertechnological in various forms of media, with special emphasis on speculative fictions. I will mostly refer to the chapter, “Technologizing Orientalism” in order to define techno-orientalism and form the theoretical groundwork on which to build my analysis of the artificial Asian female body.

Said, Edward W. Orientalism. 1st Vintage Books ed. New York: Vintage Books, 1979.

Said’s Orientalism is fundamental to my project as the text explicates the concept of orientalism, underscoring the perceived dichotomy between the inferior (and homogenous) East and the superior West. Said’s work is canonical to many scholars studying imperialism, racism, and power. This text serves as the theoretical basis of my analysis of the artificial Asian female as exoticized and fetishized “other.” It is also the text that the theory of techno-orientalism draws upon.

Stam, Robert ., and Spence, Louise. “Colonialism, Racism and Representation,” Screen, Volume 24, Issue 2, 1 March 1983, Pages 2–20

Stam and Spence examines “filmic colonialism and racism” as a means of deconstructing racist visual representations. This text uses a textual and intertextual approach to analyze Western cinema’s treatment of “otherness.” I rely mostly on the section, “Imperialism and the Cinema” to contextualize the relationship between the archetype of the artificial Asian female body and the apparatus of power.

Final Project Dossier: “Sexy Witches” in the 1970s

The Wicked Witches of the Left:

Feminist Power and the “Sexy Witches” of the 1970s

Katie Duggan



There are a million different variations and sub-tropes of the witch, calling to mind everything from pointy hats, black cats, and broomsticks to old hags with warts and gray hair to enchanting women using their alluring powers for love. Not only are witches popular figures in Halloween costumes and films, they are also prominent presences in the feminist political sphere. From Wiccans and neopagans to the radical feminist group W.I.T.C.H. (Women’s International Terrorist Group from Hell), the name “witch” has been used to symbolize feminine power and rebellion against patriarchy. My project looks at real-life political and cinematic witches in the 1970s, mostly in the United States, and the diversity (or lack thereof) in conceptions of what being a witch mean. I call this trope the “sexy witch” due to the numerous sexploitation films and genre B-movies from the decade that depicted witches as attractive, sexualized, sexually adventures young women. The films I focus on from the decade are Mark of the Witch, Psyched by the 4D Witch (A Tale of Demonology), Season of the Witch, and Virgin Witch. All four of these films feature white, conventionally attractive women becoming witches. All of these narratives connect the attainment of sexual power with becoming more overtly sexualized and sexually active.

But while the witches in these films shared many similarities, actual witches did not always share the same definition of their identity; some saw it as a religious identity, some as a political one, some as an individual thing versus a community-based one. The identity crisis of what a “witch” looks like has historically been mobilized by groups of women who use it to unite diverse groups of women (like W.I.T.C.H.) and push for greater rights. In Drawing Down the Moon, a 1979 sociological study of pagans in the United States, American journalist and Wiccan Margot Adler explores the many different ideas of what a witch is, and writes that the very power of the witch identity lies in the name’s imprecision.  According to her interviews with self-identified witches, many feminists and practicing witches consider the witch as a being conceived in rebellion, an unstable category capable of transfiguration, a “changer of definitions and relationships.” In my paper, I analyze the connections of witchcraft to feminism and female networks of power, as well as the representations of fear of the sexuality of women, particularly women of color. Ultimately, I conceive of the witch as a figure in the center of fights for power between women and patriarchal forces of oppression, constantly shifting in response to the pressing issues of the time.


Main texts – 1970s witch films


Additional resources from self-identified witches

  • Manifesto of W.I.T.C.H. (Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell) // their current website
  • Guide to starting new chapters of W.I.T.C.H.:




1970s Witches final paper



Adler, Margot. Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans In America Today. New York: Viking Press, 1979.

Adler, a Neopagan herself, documents a history of the United States Neopagan movement from a sociological perspective. She attended ritual gatherings and interviewed self-identified witches across the United States as well as in Britain about their diverse cultural backgrounds and spiritual beliefs united under the term “witch.” This text is seen as a departure from other accounts that often equated witchcraft with Satanism, and was credited with popularizing interest in and scholarly attention to earth-based religions.



Berger, Helen A. “Witchcraft and Neopaganism.” In Witchcraft and Magic: Contemporary North America, edited by Helen A. Berger. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005.

I analyzed selections from this book by Helen A. Berger and Wendy Griffin on Witchcraft and Neopaganism and Feminist Spiritualities, respectively. This book traces the New Age and Neopagan religious movements, and examines more radical feminist groups drawing upon spiritual sources, including feminist action group W.I.T.C.H (Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell). This source argues for the irrevocable link between second-wave feminism and the symbol of the witch—witches symbolize opposition to patriarchal forces, and allow for the assertion that the personal is spiritual.


Grant, Barry Keith. “Taking Back the Night of the Living Dead: George Romero, Feminism, and the Horror Film.” In Zombie Theory: A Reader  edited by Sara Juliet Lauro, 212-22. Minneapolis; London: University of Minnesota Press, 2017.

Quotes Season of the Witch director George Romero as envisioning his film as a feminist one, as the protagonist Joan feels trapped by her domestic life and abusive husband.


Kelly, Casey Ryan. “Sexploitation in Abstinence Satires.” Abstinence Cinema: Virginity and the Rhetoric of Sexual Purity in Contemporary Film. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2016, pp. 108–127. JSTOR.

This piece, on contemporary “abstinence satire” comedies, questions the resurgence in virgin characters and discussions of virginity in teen sex comedies. Casey Ryan Kelly writes of the abstinence satire” genre that these kinds of films exploit both sex and abstinence within the same text, and I use this as a framework for examining Virgin Witch and other sexploitation films of the period that simultaneously depict anxieties over female sexuality and desires to see it onscreen.


Langone, Alix. “Brooklyn Witches Plan to Put a Hex on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.” TIME, October 14, 2018.

This piece from October is a news article covering a group of witches from Catland books, an occult bookstore in Brooklyn, who gathered to put a hex on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh after he was confirmed despite facing allegations of sexual assault. This news example is illustrative of the frequent reappearances of the “witch,” particularly in response to moments of feminist crisis.


Lara, Irene. “Bruja Positionalities: Toward a Chicana/Latina Spiritual Activism.” Chicana/Latina Studies 4, no. 2, 2005.

Lara explores the construction of the identity of “la Bruja”—a witch, or a female practitioner of spiritual, sexual, and healing knowledges—in the literature and popular culture of the Americas. She argues that the oppression of the bruja was often in response to fears over her power and knowledge, especially as her power often operated outside patriarchal networks.


Layne, Jodie. “How To Use Tarot In Your Self-Care Routine.” BUST Magazine. Accessed January 06, 2019.

One example of contemporary interest in tarot as a self-care ritual, particularly in queer communities.


Lorde, Audre. “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power.” Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press, 2007.

Lorde writes that women have been historically made to distrust their knowledge, and the power within themselves; the possibility of a power within relates clearly to the idea that any woman can be a witch. Lorde’s work connects the spiritual dimensions of the witch identity and its political uses, as she argues that the “dichotomy between the spiritual and the political is also false, resulting from an incomplete attention to our erotic knowledge.” I use this to understand the erotic power of the 1970s sexy witch, and the function of her sexuality and sexualization. Through this lens, the eroticism of the witch is her power, and she represents women accessing their erotic knowledge.


Mark of the Witch. Directed by Tom Moore. By Mary Davis and Martha Peters. United States: Lone Star Productions, 1970.

This American film is from a screenplay by two female co-writers, and is an example of the many cheaply made witch genre films of the 1970s. A female college student unwillingly summons and becomes possessed by a 300-year-old witch. Her transformation in personality after becoming possessed, manifesting in a more outwardly expressed sexuality, is representative of the close relationship between witchcraft and discovering or acting upon sexual desires.


Moseley, Rachel. “Glamorous Witchcraft: Gender and Magic in Teen Film and Television.” Screen43, no. 4 (2002): 403-22.

Moseley examines makeovers, beauty transformations, and witchcraft in teen films and works like Bewitched, with a focus on the concept of “glamour.” She studies the relationship between feminism and femininity, arguing that magical femininity was often tied up in conceptions of charm, physical beauty, and glamourous allure. In addition, moments of physical transformation for these young women were often prompted by the attainment of adult sexuality or reaching puberty.


Psyched by the 4D Witch (A Tale of Demonology). Directed by Victor Luminera. United States: New Art Films, 1973.

Psyched by the 4D Witch features no synchronous sound, and the picture is overlaid with voiceovers of the young, virginal Cindy relating the story of her encounters with an ancient witch, Abigail, all accompanied by psychedelic music. Abigail teaches Cindy the rituals of sexual witchcraft, which supposedly will enable her to enact her sexual fantasies on the astral plane while remaining a virgin.

Season of the Witch. Directed by George A. Romero. United States: Jack H. Harris Enterprises, Inc., 1972-1973.

This work by famed zombie filmmaker George A. Romero is perhaps the most explicitly feminist of the 70s witch films studied in this analysis (Romero defined his goals in making the film as depicting feminist issues). It centers on a suburban housewife trapped in an abusive marriage, who becomes involved in witchcraft. The look and marketing of the film made it out to be similar to a softcore pornographic film, although little actual nudity is depicted.


Virgin Witch. Directed by Ray Austin. United Kingdom: Tigon Film Distributors Ltd., 1971.

A British horror exploitation film about an aspiring model, Christine, and her sister Betty, who are lured into joining a coven. Sybil, the coven’s high priestess, is depicted as having a predatory sexual interest in Christine, and tries to have the virginal Betty initiated into the coven. All the women involved are frequently placed in sexualized situations and nude scenes, with the initiation into the coven involving a sex ritual with a male authority figure.


Wagner, Marsden. “Hunting Witches: Midwifery in America.” Born in the USA: How a Broken Maternity System Must Be Fixed to Put Women and Children First. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006, pp. 99–125. JSTOR.

This article explores the history of midwifery and female communities of reproductive knowledge, and the midwife’s historical place as center of the woman’s world. It examines the efforts of the healthcare industry and government authorities to restrict who could practice medicine and reduce the role of the midwife, as well as the history of midwives being tried in court for witchcraft. Wagner argues that midwives, like witches, threatened patriarchal systems of power and knowledge and thus had to be controlled.


Zuras, Matthew. “We Asked Salem’s Official Witch What to Eat at a Pagan Sabbat.” Munchies, VICE. October 31, 2015. Accessed January 06, 2019.

Interview with Laurie Cabot, a witch who was given the title of “Salem’s Official Witch” by former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis in the 1970s. Cabot gives advice on recipes for Samhain, the Celtic harvest festival, and tells her favorite recipes and herbs and plants to use.



Music Video Compilation

I remember hearing about Beyoncé’s Lemonade being released and anxiously waiting for it to come out, and I remember being pissed when they decided to only release it on Jay-Z’s new music platform, Tidal. Besides the obvious fact that Beyonce is an all-star singer, dancer, style-icon and performer in general, a lot of the hype around the album was centered around this rumor that Jay-Z had cheated on Beyoncé and that this was her revenge album. The description of the other woman, “Becky with the good hair” preceded the album itself as fans supposed who this could be. Out of pure curiosity and interest, I purchased the entire album on iTunes, and my entire team watched it on the bus to a tournament at Harvard.

Ignorantly, I watched the entire album through the lens of Lemonade as “Beyoncé’s revenge album”. I felt empowered watching her take the high road and express her roller coaster of emotions that only come with that sort of intimate betrayal. I was jealous of her iconic outfits and creative flair that pervaded each song’s video. I was team- Beyoncé all the way. But I missed 75% of the point of the album. Watching the entire album now, I feel especially ignorant. How could I have thought this album was about Beyoncés revenge when it was about so much more? Looking back, it makes sense though. While Lemonade speaks to race relations, police brutality, and feminism. Beyoncé explores what she believes feminism to be. Further, she is exploring what it means to be a black woman from the South. This album is the intersection of so many social issues that are difficult to speak about, but Beyoncé tackles them through her music (and even more directly and creatively, through her music videos.

I thought it was mere ignorance that accounted for why I was so blind to the other social points that this album touched on. Watching Lemonade all the way through for the second time, I realize that Beyoncé capitalizes on one of the most relatable commodities she possesses as a woman, her pain in wake of a man’s betrayal. Whether it is the same exact circumstance as her or just heartbreak in general, the emotions and messages Beyonce communicates through Lemonade resonate with almost all women. It is upon this platform that Beyoncé creates the intersection between her conversation with female empowerment and uses her influence as a feminist icon in order to shed light on more controversial conversations, like racist infrastructure in the south (Ex: the depiction of the police car sinking in the floods of Hurricane Katrina. The rescue and recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina are noted to be inherently less helpful to black victims) or police brutality (Ex: where the child is innocently dancing in front of a harsh line of SWAT team members). Beyonce’s album creates a platform for these conversations to gain agency and life. Of course, Beyoncé is in a unique position to do so. Uniquely, she can highlight these necessary conversations in a creative and abstract way. In this way, it allows commentary into the space of these conversations while still providing distance between her and her political stance through the creativity involved. It almost acts as a barrier. Another point that acts as a barrier is her intense fame. She is, amazingly, famous enough to bring these tough conversations into popular culture. Her previous work, statements, and demeanor have given her a aura of grace and respect that allowed her to do so with little to no backlash.