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2019 | Book | 1. edition


A Collection of Critical Essays

Editor: Pamela Demory

Publisher: Springer International Publishing

Book Series : Palgrave Studies in Adaptation and Visual Culture


About this book

This collection of essays illuminates the intersection of queer and adaptation. Both adaptation and queerness suffer from the stereotype of being secondary: to identify something as an adaptation is to recognize it in relation to something else that seems more original, more authentic. Similarly, to identify something as queer is to place it in relation to what is assumed to be “normal” or “straight.” This ground-breaking volume brings together fifteen original essays that critically challenge these assumptions about originality, authenticity, and value. The volume is organized in three parts: The essays in Part I examine what happens when an adaptation queers its source text and explore the role of the author/screenwriter/director in making those choices. The essays in Part II look at what happens when filmmakers push against boundaries of various kinds: time and space, texts and bodies, genres and formats. And the essays in Part III explore adaptations whose source texts cannot be easily pinned down, where there are multiple adaptations, and where the adaptation process itself is queer. The book includes discussion of a wide variety of texts, including opera, classic film, genre fiction, documentary, musicals, literary fiction, low-budget horror, camp classics, and experimental texts, providing a comprehensive and interdisciplinary introduction to the myriad ways in which queer and adaptation overlap.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Queer/Adaptation: An Introduction
This chapter introduces the concept of queer/adaptation: parallel theoretical constructs that can both orient the way we think about texts. To adapt is to transform, to make new; to queer is to make strange but also to turn or transform. To queer, then, may be to adapt; to adapt is to queer. Both adaptation and queerness suffer from the stereotype of being secondary: to identify something as an adaptation is to recognize it in relation to something else that seems more original, more authentic. Similarly, to identify something as queer is to place it in relation to what has been already established as “normal” or “straight.” Foundational to both queer studies and adaptation studies is a critical challenge to those assumptions about originality, authenticity, and value.
Pamela Demory

Adapting as Queering/Queering as Adapting

Chapter 2. Emancipating Madame Butterfly
This essay examines the writer’s own process of queering iconic heterosexual love stories, and specifically his screenplay adaptation of Puccini’s opera, Madama Butterfly (1904). Transforming what had been a novella, a play, an opera, and a musical into a screenplay and relocating it from nineteenth-century Nagasaki to twenty-first-century Bangkok triggered numerous changes. But most profound were those resulting from the queering process, which, with the lovers now two men, went way beyond simply their gender and sexual identity. This essay argues that with the flexibility inherent in a same-sex relationship, as well as the positioning of such relationships outside the traditional socioreligious heterosexual model, queering is a profoundly liberating kind of adaptation with a real power to enlarge and to enrich a text.
Nick Bamford
Chapter 3. Queering Dame Agatha Christie: Barry Sandler’s Camp Adaptation of The Mirror Crack’d (1980)
With his screenplay of Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d (novel 1962; film 1980), Barry Sandler transformed a standard Miss Marple mystery novel into a campy gem. Camp is chiefly theorized as a performative mode and one that a given performer envisions and controls, and so the challenge for screenplay writers is that their humorous ambitions must be achieved through the coordinated efforts of the directors, actors, and other professionals creatively contributing to the film’s production. As the film adaptation of The Mirror Crack’d illustrates, and as interviews with Sandler detail, camp serves as a defining principle of queer adaptation yet one that necessarily reframes camp as a collaborative endeavor, even when some of the participants might not realize the humor afoot.
Tison Pugh
Chapter 4. The Queer Aesthetics of Tom Ford’s Film Adaptations: A Single Man and Nocturnal Animals
This essay explores the queer aesthetics of Tom Ford’s A Single Man (2009), an adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s classic queer text (1964), and Nocturnal Animals (2016), an adaptation of Austin Wright’s heteronormative thriller Tony and Susan (1993). Neither film is a literal translation from one medium to another, but the essence of each novel is present in the respective adaptations. By examining Ford’s adaptation process, this chapter highlights how a gay-identified director uses cinematic grammar to create films that underscore both emotional connection and alienation—a queer aesthetic. Ford’s fascination with classic Hollywood cinema and his artistic sense as a queer filmmaker allow him to involve his audience in stories that speak to queer sensibilities but make them relevant to the general spectator.
Scott F. Stoddart
Chapter 5. Hannibal: Beginning to Bloom
This essay discusses Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal (2013–2015) in relation to the regressive representation of queerness in Thomas Harris’s series of novels. In both texts, Hannibal is a remorseless killer. However, Hannibal and Will’s tortured, queer relationship occupies the emotional and narrative center of Fuller’s series, a luxury not afforded to Buffalo Bill in Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs. Hannibal consistently refuses easy delineations of heroism and villainy, instead embracing its characters’ perverse complexities. Its ambiguity is embodied in its consistent reflection on transformation, or “becoming,” a process observable within the characters, the structure of the series, and in the adaptation itself. Fuller’s adaptation creates room for various permutations of queerness, within a narrative space that has previously marginalized or villainized queer figures.
Mat Daniel

Bodies, Time, and Space

Chapter 6. Moonlight, Adaptation, and Queer Time
Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight (2016), based on an unpublished play by Tarell Alvin McCraney (and on both writers’ lives growing up in a rough Miami neighborhood), illustrates the queer potential of adaptation. Although the film received an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, this essay demonstrates the value of reading the film as an adaptation. Doing so helps us to see the film’s essential queerness, which has to do not just with its focus on a gay character but with its construction of time and space, its resistance to—and revision of—conventional narrative patterns. The analysis also suggests a strategy for approaching other adaptations—not as a contest between two competing works to see which one is more authentic, but as a collaboration among artists, readers, commentators, spectators.
Pamela Demory
Chapter 7. Adaptation as Queer Touching in The Safety of Objects: Transgressing the Boundaries of Bodies and Texts
This essay elucidates “queer touching” as a nonhierarchical exchange between self and others that disrupts notions of the autonomous individual and configures the boundaries of identity as permeable and shifting. Building on psychoanalytic, queer, and trans theories of embodiment, Pellegrini argues that queer touching can serve as a method for adaptation studies as it challenges the bounded isolation of texts and reads them as interdependent and mutually constitutive. The method is demonstrated through an analysis of A. M. Homes’ short story collection The Safety of Objects and its film adaptation by Rose Troche, read as one heterogeneous text, focusing especially on characters as they are constituted intertextually and become sources of queer tension between self and other, inside and outside, part and whole.
Chiara Pellegrini
Chapter 8. Fuck-Scripting: Becoming-Queer in Interior. Leather Bar
This chapter focuses on James Franco’s and Travis Mathews’ Interior. Leather Bar. (2013), which purportedly adapts a sequence from William Friedkin’s 1980 film, Cruising. This queer adaptation is an experimental docu-fiction that uses “fuck-scripting” to blur boundaries between documentary and fiction and between performance and identity. The film relies on the queer sensibilities of filmmakers and cast to reify “becoming-queer,” a term connoting queerness not as a particular fixed sexuality but as a transformational state where citizens adapt to something strange and unfamiliar through watching and reading queerness. This chapter examines the role of Interior’s scripts in connection with shifting norms of queer visibility, arguing that explicit queer sex is not only a useful storytelling tool, but also a tool for increasing queerness horizontally across cultures.
Queer J. Thomas
Chapter 9. Adapting Queer Shorts to Feature Films: Does Size Really Matter?
This chapter examines four critically acclaimed films that have been adapted from earlier shorts—Were the World Mine (Tom Gustafson, 2008), Dare (Adam Salky, 2009), Pariah (Dee Rees, 2011), and The Way He Looks (Daniel Ribeiro, 2014)—to pose key questions for queer adaptation studies: How does this process of adaptation impact the representation of LGBTQ/queer lives and identities on screen? What are the implications of elongating the queer short film into the more conventional feature-length format? While it might be tempting to argue that feature films are longer and therefore more complex, or queerer, we aim to highlight the queer potential of each form. The cases studied here suggest one conclusion: it’s not the size that matters, it’s what you do with it.
Whitney Monaghan, Stuart Richards
Chapter 10. Transnational Slash: Korean Drama Formats, Boys’ Love Fanfic, and the Place of Queerness in East Asian Media Flows
In contrast to scholarship emphasizing the social and sexual conservativism of South Korean and East Asian popular culture relative to Western media, Lessard makes the case that queer cultural forms and online fandoms should be seen as a driving force in East Asian media flows. Focusing on the queer-themed Korean drama, You’re Beautiful, and its subsequent formatting for Japanese and Taiwanese markets, Lessard traces the transnational, queer circuitries of adaptation underlying You’re Beautiful’s courtship of both traditional broadcast markets and diverse online viewerships. Lessard argues that transnational queer fandoms, including yaoi and BL (Boys’ Love) fanfic communities, have played an important, yet often overlooked, role in the regional as well as global successes of East Asia’s creative industries.
John Lessard

Queerer and Queerer: Promiscuity and Multiplicity

Chapter 11. Queer Many Ways: Ulrike Ottinger’s Dorian Gray im Spiegel der Boulevardpresse (1984)
There are many ways an adaptation can be queer and/or adapt texts queerly. This cinematic case study, Dorian Gray im Spiegel der Boulevardpresse (Ulrike Ottinger, 1984), known in English as Dorian Gray in the Mirror of the Yellow Press, combines Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray with the three Dr. Mabuse films of 1922, 1933, and 1960 (director Fritz Lang) and makes references to even more texts and histories. It includes multiple approaches to queer adaptation: it queers straight texts, reaches out to a queer viewer, expresses queer sensibilities and experiences, and constructs queer temporalities. Ottinger’s Dorian Gray demonstrates that queer adaptation is not one thing—it is multifaceted and can even be contradictory.
Shannon Brownlee
Chapter 12. Blood Doubles: A Renegotiation of Sheridan le Fanu’s Carmilla on Film
Sheridan le Fanu’s 1872 lesbian vampire novella Carmilla has attracted so much scholarly attention that it comes as something of a surprise that the numerous film adaptations of the tale have received little to none. This essay analyzes the international archive of Carmilla adaptations, in particular those belonging to the genre of Euro horror, as a recuperation of the very themes and characteristics that negate their scholarly value: violence, sexually explicit content, low production budgets, and their supposed pandering to the male gaze and attack on lesbian subjectivity. As texts that queer traditional cinematic narrative, these films are revived as sites for a feminist recuperation of the horror film genre.
Shelby Wilson
Chapter 13. Hitchcock Goes to Italy and Spain: Euro Horror and Queer Adaptation
This chapter explores L’orribile segreto del Dr. Hichcock (Riccardo Freda, 1962) and El techo de cristal (Eloy de la Iglesia, 1971) as films that adapt the work of auteur Alfred Hitchcock. These Euro horror films are significant in two ways: first, both productions rewrite themes and motifs haunting Hitchcock’s oeuvre, thus “downgrading” auterism to exploitation while blurring any boundary dividing high art from lowbrow entertainment. And by moving away from heteronormative narrative tropes to focus on female subjectivity and deviant sex, these two films invite a queer reading in which heterosexuality itself is strange. Second, these films rewrite Hitchcock from the perspective of different nationalities (Italy and Spain), and draw on a wide and fluid net of signifiers, producing a decentering of originality and auterism.
Fernando Gabriel Pagnoni Berns
Chapter 14. Dazzle, Gradually: A “Tru” Account of Adapting Capote’s In Cold Blood
There’s a case to be made for Douglas McGrath’s Infamous (2006) as the best film adaptation of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, even as it is not, strictly, a direct adaptation. What drives this continuing interest in the event, the source material, and its adaptations? To explain why Infamous not only continues to inform but thrill as unnerving entertainment, this chapter considers how the film relates to previous adaptations and how it reveals the cost of Capote’s nonfiction experiment. Infamous exposes the sparkling infamy of being out, being suppressed, daring to love, and the brutal effects of homophobia for being the deadly standard that it was, and still is.
Michael V. Perez
Chapter 15. Willful Infidelities: Camping Camille
This essay examines one cinematic and one theatrical adaptation of the Alexandre Dumas fils novel La dame aux camélias (1848), which appeared in the years of the sexual revolution as camp was emerging as a more visible and pervasive representational trend. The first is Radley Metzger’s Camille 2000 (1969), a film that helped secure Metzger’s reputation as an auteur of “highbrow” erotica for mixed-sex audiences. The second is the Ridiculous Theatrical Company’s Camille (1973) by Charles Ludlam, who also starred as the title character. Individually and together these texts complicate the artificial binary between notions of adaptive faithfulness versus infidelity. Considering both as camp adaptations renders such a distinction inoperable and instead opens critical space for a queerer understanding of textual relationships to take hold.
Jamie Hook
Pamela Demory
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