Hidden in Plain Sight: The Queer Lens in Lesbian Period Dramas Open Access

Pomahac, Anna (Spring 2024)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/8w32r7147?locale=en


At the height of the second feminist wave movement, Laura Mulvey developed the concept of the male gaze that revealed the sexist and objectifying ways of looking in traditional Hollywood cinema. While strides in academia and popular culture empowered women with a female gaze, research on looking relations for queer individuals remains minimal. Given my background in filmmaking, I became interested in analyzing queer looking relations from a film analytical perspective using a “lens,” as opposed to a philosophical standpoint using a “gaze,” as Mulvey did. This thesis explores the function and importance of the queer lens as a critical tool for analyzing filmmaking techniques that contribute to the tensions and desires between queer protagonists in queer romance films. Specifically, it focuses on the manifestations of these tensions and desires in aspects such as looks, point-of-view shots, medium or closer shot framing, and pacing. Through the examination of three lesbian period dramas, Carol (Haynes 2015), Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Sciamma 2019), and Ammonite (Lee 2020), this study serves both as a case study for the application of the queer lens and an exploration of the filmmaking techniques that depict queer love stories set in traditional, heteronormative, and patriarchal settings. This is particularly intriguing given the increased acceptance of queerness in contemporary society. Drawing on theories of looking from scholars like bell hooks and Michel Foucault, the queer lens provides a framework that empowers queer characters by offering them agency and facilitating the deconstruction of power relations. Furthermore, it offers valuable insights into recognizing queer tension and desire within the constraints of oppressive time periods depicted in period dramas, highlighting the versatility and significance of the queer lens in film analysis.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

           Theoretical Background: Gaze Theories 12

           Theoretical Background: What Makes a Love “Forbidden”? 15

           Theoretical Background: A Brief History of “Queer” 17

Chapter 1: The Queer Lens in Inciting Incidents 24

Chapter 2: The Queer Lens in Midpoints 42

Chapter 3: Queer Lens and Queer Temporalities 74

Conclusion 87

Bibliography 93

Table and Figure

Table 1 The Facets of the Queer Lens 7

Figure 1 Typical Narrative Structure of Screenplays 11

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