Yale Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Volume 3, Issue 1
fall 2012
Editor, Geetanjali Singh Chanda
Managing Editors, Linda Hase & Craig Canfield
Layout Design, Nick Appleby

Finding Myself at the Movies

by Ron Gregg

Photo by George Chauncey

Like many queer boys in the ‘60s and ‘70s, I fell in love with film in part because of the isolation I felt as a teenager.  I was raised in Dexter, Missouri, a small, rural, all-white working class community in the southeast corner of the state near the birthplace of Rush Limbaugh.  In a pre-internet era, my only way to escape this world was to go to the movies, and it was there that I found myself.

It was a remarkable time to go to the movies, given the number of politically engaged, sexually daring, and creatively groundbreaking films being produced then by Hollywood and art cinema.  And it’s even more remarkable that so many of these films were programmed by the small one-screen “El Theater” in Dexter.  I have always wondered what the background of the owners was!  Many of these films were rated R and X, when an X rating meant a serious adult film rather than pornography.   I saw almost every film the theater screened, from Bob Hope comedies to both good and bad Hollywood adult films, including Midnight Cowboy and the successful, but largely forgotten Three in the Attic, to European art films such as Luchino Visconti’s The Damned. Since I was under age, I borrowed my mother’s eyebrow pencil and carefully drew a mustache above my upper lip.  The owners must have seen through my disguise, but humored me as one of their most devoted customers.

My introduction to cinema was both lowbrow and highbrow, Hollywood and European. I lived in a queer postmodern collage, which has affected my teaching to this day.  My courses explore film, ranging from Hollywood blockbusters to art house and experimental film to queer cinema.  My scholarship ranges equally widely, as I have published on queer images in Hollywood, gay fans of Brad Pitt on the Internet, the postwar queer American Avant-garde, and the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder.  I continue to love all film, good and bad, but especially films with aesthetic excess and those that engage with gender and sexuality.

I came to Yale from the University of Chicago in 2006 and am now the Director of Film Programming at the Whitney Humanities Center and Senior Lecturer in Film Studies, American Studies, and LGBT Studies.  I teach courses on queer cinema (both Hollywood and avant-garde), classical Hollywood, and the impact of globalization and digital technology on blockbuster cinema.  For these courses, I draw upon historical, theoretical, and aesthetic works to construct new interdisciplinary analytical frameworks.
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