Season 8 of Friends (NBC, 1994–2004) included an episode in which Monica and Chandler, en route to their honeymoon, are detained by TSA agents after Chandler mocks a TSA sign forbidding jokes about bombs. By the time the episode aired on October 11, 2001, however, the scene had been excised, its humor nullified in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. The scene’s later resurrection as bonus material for a DVD box set—and, inevitably, on video and social-media platforms—reflects the sort of time-sensitive relationship between comedy and context that Philip Scepanski explores in Tragedy Plus Time: National Trauma and Television Comedy.
Michael Boyce Gillespie leads a roundtable with scholars Jonathan W. Gray, Rebecca A. Wanzo, and Kristen Warner to discuss issues of medium, genre, fandom, and African American history in the highly regarded HBO series Watchmen. Characterizing the HBO series as a disobedient adaptation that modifies, extends, and redirects the world making of its source material, the famed twelve-issue comic-book series of the same name, written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons, Gillespie et al. explore the ways in which Watchmen remediates American history, starting with the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 that serves as the historical and ideological trigger that sets the series in motion. In a wide-ranging conversation that encompasses subjects including fan fiction, adaptation, cultural mythology, and black superheroes, the authors argue for Watchmen’s significance as some of the most consequential television of the century so far.
Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale (2017¬–) resonates strongly as an allegorical, science-fictional response to the Trump administration. The show refuses to accept the “new normal” as normal and acknowledges its audience’s simultaneous feelings of resistance and exhaustion. The program ultimately argues that, while hope alone is not enough to sustain anyone through the Trump years, it is the right place to start. Above all, the program points to the power of collective resistance. As Americans face down a fascist president, as they contend with babies torn from their mother’s bosoms at the border, as they confront a powerful resurgence in White Nationalist activism, the country has perhaps never felt more divided, or threatened. And yet the only way to defeat Trumpism is by standing together and collectively pushing back. The Handmaid’s Tale may not show viewers exactly how to do that, but it does show its audience exactly what it would feel like.
B. Ruby Rich From Film Quarterly Summer 2018, Volume 71, Number 4 Turning sixty is a landmark. No, not mine: it is Film Quarterly that this year marks its ripe old age and can reassert its claim as the oldest continuing film journal in the United States. Thanks to its dedicated contributors, staff, editorial boards, and, of course, the University of California Press, its publisher and steward, FQ remains young and vital even today, alive and kicking, and, I’d like to think, better than ever. Anniversary celebrations kicked off in Toronto in March, where the annual Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) conference offered an occasion for the FQ reception at SoHo House. The gathering was a wonderful mix of Toronto locals, FQ contributors and masthead notables, Criterion moguls, UC Press staff, and a kinship network of FQ friends and family. A slideshow of Film Quarterly through the ages was assembled and presented by FQ editorial assistant, Marc Francis. A first run of postcards drawn from four different editorial eras (Ernest Callenbach, Ann Martin, …
Gianfranco Rosi’s Intimate Stories
Slow Violence in Heli
Dissecting the Okja soundtrack
The Business of Exhibition at 100
Interviews: Kenya Bariss and Kevin Jerome Everson
Film Festivals: Yamagata and Thessaloniki
“Dimensions in Black: Perspectives on Black Film and Media.” The live launch of FQ 71.2 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center on December 5, 2017. This event featured the dossier authors and editor in conversation with each other and the audience.
Dimensions in Black:
Perspectives on Black Film and Media
Naeem Mohaiemen at documenta 14
Updating the Female Gaze
in I Love Dick, Glow, Insecure
Bologna, Locarno, and Toronto
To many men and women of color, as well as many white women, meaningful diversity occurs when the actual presence of different-looking bodies appear on screen. For them, this diversity serves as an indicator of progress as well as an aspirational frame for younger generations who are told that the visual signifiers they can identify with carry a great amount of symbolic weight. As a consequence, the degree of diversity became synonymous with the quantity of difference rather than with the dimensionality of those performances. Moreover, a paradoxical condition emerges whereby people of color have become more media savvy yet are still, if not more, reliant on overdetermined and overly reductive notions of so-called “positive” and “negative” representation. Such measures yield a set of dueling consequences: first, that any representation that includes a person of color is automatically a sign of success and progress; second, that such paltry gains generate an easy workaround for the executive suites whereby hiring racially diverse actors becomes an easy substitute for developing new complex characters. The results of such choices can feel—in an affective sense—artificial, or more to the point, like plastic.
This special dossier for Film Quarterly comprises a selection of essays that share the central idea that the work ahead for scholars in the current moment must be to appreciate what has been an ever-increasing complication of the idea of black film and media over the last ten years. This dossier considers significant trends, film and media objects, and clusters of work related to issues of blackness and questions of aesthetics, historiography, industrial practice, collectivity, politics, and culture. It is compelled by a shared belief that requires scholars to remain open to contemporary and future enactments while at the same time recognizing the momentum of the past.
Editor in Chief, B. Ruby Rich, weighs in on the latest in film and media culture. She recaps the recent Visible Evidence conference that took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina; reviews the content of the current issue, and introduces the important dossier on black film and media.