Queer Film Theory 101 Unearths Not-So-Straight Movies

Alamo Drafthouse offers more heartfelt LGBTQ perspectives

Movies aren’t born into vacuums where they retain their initial shape. Instead, these celluloid visions fall into the hot little hands of humanity who mold them in their own image, particularly the queer community, who rarely gets representation that doesn’t need a little tweaking.

Even the most normative cinematic offering will become beautiful homosexual propaganda when pressed into shape by a warm, powerful queer palm. That is what Queer Film Theory 101 is all about – taking into one’s own two gay mitts the heteronormative behemoth of Hollywood and shaking it until it sings a song that sounds like home.

Originally created by Michael Foulk, Queer Film Theory 101 was made to be the cinematic sibling to Austin’s beloved storytelling event Greetings From Queer Mountain. Partnering with Alamo Drafthouse, he secured a spot at the Mueller location’s Barrel O’ Fun where the event continues to take place. Foulk eventually passed the show on to Michael Graupmann after moving to Brooklyn. When offered the opportunity to take over, Graupmann “jumped at the chance” and says, “I love organizing and hosting storytelling events and getting to build queer community spaces in Austin, so getting to do so at the Alamo is a dream come true.”

In the past year, the format of the show shifted to allow for more performers, more movies, and more wonderful, heartfelt perspectives. Previously, three performers or, as they are oft called, professors, would discuss two films each. The current iteration, which began in 2019, has five professors per show who present their queer interpretation of a single film within an overall theme, such as Queer Magic, First Loves, Kinky, and Transformations. Graupmann says the themes are to “help our presenters and our audience members think of movies they love.”

“My co-producer Lesley Clayton and I tried to think of broad enough topics that would get people’s movie juices flowing,” Graupmann recalled when asked about the show’s chosen themes. “We knew we wanted to have a Queer Horror theme for October and a Yuletide Gay theme for December. The rest were all built around whatever movies we wanted to talk about each month!”

Many of the presenters in Queer Film Theory chose to unearth movies from their youth that helped to usher in their identities with a tenderness that seemed unreachable in real life, all because the world expected heterosexuality without fail. Dilla, a previous professor and upcoming performer at Queer Film Theory’s “Sexy Rebels” show on Wednesday, June 5, explains her process for selecting a movie to present as reaching back to childhood favorites. “At the time I couldn't explain why I liked these movies so much,” she says, “but looking back, I can see how I was trying to understand and come to terms with my identities that I didn't have words for and couldn't define.”

She also says that a childhood desire to see more representation influenced her film choice for the Sexy Rebels theme. “Just like queers were invisible in all the movies I had access to as a child, strong female characters that defied societal expectations for what ‘being a woman’ were also incredibly rare,” explains Dilla. “Sexy rebels, to me, means characters that embrace their authentic selves, especially when it deviates from the mainstream and especially when it actively works and conspires against patriarchy.”

While Hollywood studios put toes into the water with queer representation (although the whole foot would be too much, wouldn’t it, Mr. Unnamed Gay Extra from Avengers: Endgame?), the qmmunity sees opportunity in movies that might otherwise get tossed in the hetero-cis bin. And Queer Film Theory 101 provides any previously unspoken desire for cinematic selfhood a platform for vocalization. Graupmann explains Queer Film Theory’s allure thusly: “Being able to open up and share that secret … often shame-filled, childhood process now, with a community that understands that desire and that need to be seen because they did it too, is really cathartic.”

Make Wed., June 5, a night for queer catharsis and cinema at Barrel O’ Fun (1911 Aldrich Ste. 120-B) for Queer Film Theory 101’s “Sexy Rebels” show, 8-10pm. It’s the sexy, rebellious thing to do, after all, and it's free.

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Queer Film theory 101, Greetings From Queer Mountain, Michael Graupmann, Michael Foulk, Lesley Clayton, Summer of Pride

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