Wednesday, August 15, 2018

David R. Coon's "Turning the Page"

David R. Coon is an associate professor of media studies at the University of Washington Tacoma. He is the author of Look Closer: Suburban Narratives and American Values in Film and Television.

Coon applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Turning the Page: Storytelling as Activism in Queer Film and Media, and reported the following:
From page 99:
While many spy stories feature a heteronormative relationship to provide romantic tension and ultimate closure, D.E.B.S. foregrounds a lesbian relationship, placing lesbians at the center of a genre where they have traditionally been excluded. Meanwhile, heterosexual men, usually the drivers of this genre, are relegated to the roles of expendable henchmen, emphasizing the film’s effort to rewrite the frequently exclusionary espionage narrative so as to open up possibilities for a more inclusive genre.
Turning the Page examines the work of LGBTQ storytellers in film and television over the past couple decades, paying particular attention to how these acts of storytelling advance the social justice efforts of various LGBTQ communities. Early sections of the book talk about the harmful narratives that have oppressed queer people for generations and how counter-storytelling is an important step toward combating the damage done by the myths and lies that have long portrayed queer people as sick, deviant criminals. Page 99 is about midway through chapter 3, which focuses on POWER UP, a nonprofit educational organization and media production company dedicated to training women and queer filmmakers while producing high quality LGBTQ-oriented content. Using POWER UP as an example, the chapter considers the importance of various kinds of education, including training people in a field that has traditionally excluded them and challenging what audiences think they know by offering new narratives that reimagine possibilities for queer people.

Page 99 is part of a discussion of two short films produced by POWER UP – D.E.B.S. and Little Black Boot. These films provide new takes on familiar genres by incorporating queer characters and relationships into a comedic spy thriller and a modern spin on the fairy tale Cinderella. The page includes a still image from D.E.B.S., featuring a young woman named Max, played by out lesbian actress Tammy Lynn Michaels, with a gun in each hand, shooting at her enemies while working to rescue a fellow spy who has been kidnapped.

The image and discussion on this page feed into the book’s larger arguments by providing examples of films that reimagine possibilities for queer people by rewriting familiar narratives in more inclusive ways. Like many of the films and organizations discussed throughout the book, those covered on page 99 engage in counter-storytelling as a way of challenging the restrictive narratives that have long supported the oppression of LGBTQ people.
Learn more about Turning the Page at the Rutgers University Press website.

Writers Read: David R. Coon.

--Marshal Zeringue