Kelly Hankin, "The Girls in the Back Room: Looking at the Lesbian Bar"
University of Minnesota Press | 2002-05 | ISBN: 0816639299 | 202 pages | PDF | 1,3 MB
The lesbian bar has long been seen as a mysterious place, steeped in mythologies of clandestine meetings and sexuality that is alluring because it is wayward and sinful. In The Girls in the Back Room, Kelly Hankin focuses on the lesbian bar, looking at the way it is portrayed in such films as Foxy Brown, The Killing of Sister George, Basic Instinct, Bound, and Chasing Amy; in television series like The Simpsons, Xena: Warrior Princess, Roseanne, Ellen, and Sex and the City; and in independent, lesbian-produced documentaries.
Hankin examines the lesbian bar through a consideration of the ways its representation in popular culture both oppresses and nourishes lesbian cultures. In popular commercial entertainment, she finds, the view of the lesbian bar as a private space for those who practice aberrant sexuality implicitly reinforces heterosexual spatial and social privilege. Through her in-depth history of the production of 1968's The Killing of Sister George and the deception involved in director Robert Aldrich's use of a real lesbian bar and its patrons, for example, Hankin uncovers the heterosexist preconceptions in evidence on both sides of the camera. She argues that lesbian-produced works effectively challenge this paradigm, articulating and confirming positive visions of lesbian public life and identity. The Girls in the Back Room provides an engaging historical and theoretical analysis of the visual lesbian bar as a revelatory intersection of gender, sexuality, and space.
Kelly Hankin is an assistant professor of English at Old Dominion University.
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