Gay Men at the Movies (Book)

Film reception, cinema going and the history of a gay male community

Cinema has long played a major role in the formation of community among marginalised groups, and this book details that process for gay men in Sydney, Australia from the 1950s to the present. Scott McKinnon builds the book from a variety of sources, including film reviews, media reports, personal memoirs, oral histories and a striking range of films, all deployed to answer the question of understanding cinema-going as a moment of connection to community and identity – how the experience of seeing these films and being part of an audience helped to build a community among the gay men of Sydney in the period.  


Scott McKinnon is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Technology, Sydney. His thesis investigates the role of cinema and cinema-going in the emergence of gay male identity and community in Sydney in the years 1950–2010. Scott's research is particularly focussed on intersections between cinema and the themes of space and memory. He has also published work on Hollywood teen films and their place in 1950s Australian teen culture.

Part One: Friends of Dorothy in the Emerald City
Chapter 1 – The 1950s – Censored from view for all to see
Gay space, cinema-going and censorship in 1950s Sydney
Regular guys and ‘sister boys’: Tea and Sympathy
Friends of Tom Lee: Rebel without a Cause, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Some Like it Hot
Chapter 2 – The 1960s – Undeniable 
Gay space, cinema-going and censorship in 1960s Sydney
Poor unfortunate souls: Victim and Advise and Consent
The real lives of English youth: A Taste of Honey, The Leather Boys and If...
Chapter 3 – The 1970s – Strike up the band 
Gay space, cinema-going and censorship in 1970s Sydney
A memory of times gone by: The Boys in the Band
The thrill of the new: Sunday Bloody Sunday and A Very Natural Thing
Chapter 4 – The 1980s – Arriving at last, leaving too soon
Gay space, cinema-going and censorship in 1980s Sydney
The Hollywood gaze: Fame, Partners, Cruising and Making Love
An independent eye: Taxi Zum Klo
Chapter 5 – The 1990s – When we were cool 
Gay space, cinema-going and censorship in 1990s Sydney
Made for them or watched by us? The Sum of Us
To enlighten and remember: Philadelphia and Longtime Companion
Chapter 6 – The 2000s – In the shadow of the mountain
Gay space, cinema-going and censorship in 2000s Sydney
The film that got us good: Brokeback Mountain
Staying home or going to the festival: Another Gay Movie and Shelter
Part Two: Memories of Dorothy: Memories, Movies, Gay Men
Chapter 7 – Gay kids at the movies – Movie memory and queer childhoods
On-screen memories: Childhood
Remembering childhood cinema-going
Chapter 8 – Others like us – Movie memory and the search for community
Movie memories at the movies: Identity
Learning, reciting and refuting memory
Chapter 9 – We were there – Movie memory and the search for a queer past
Heroes and villains: Braveheart and Alexander
Creating ‘our’ history: Stonewall and Milk
Conclusion: Gay Men at the Movies

'The book is not a history of gay films or a history of gay men as film actors, writers, directors, or producers. McKinnon's focus is on gay men as film audiences rather than as filmmakers. The films considered here are popular cinema, meaning movies screened in commercial theaters and reviewed in the mainstream media. McKinnon is not interested in developing new insights or analyses of these films but rather in understanding "the historical processes of interpretation and meaning-making undertaken by audiences." At the movies, we engage not only with a film, but also with a space, with an audience, friends, and a neighborhood, so that going to movies is an act of social and cultural interaction and participation. Thus to understand how movies have shaped gay culture, identity, and community, we need to contemplate the place, context, and ongoing memories of film viewing that become part of our individual histories and a collective past. '

The Bay Area Reporter, Brian Bromberger
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