Pleasure | Obvious | Queer: A conversation with Richard Dyer

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by Catherine Grant and Jaap Kooijman

How to introduce Richard Dyer? One could start by recognising that he is an academic star, as Su Holmes and Sean Redmond have done in their introduction to Framing Celebrity. Referring to Dyer’s 2006 SCMS keynote lecture, they write:

[h]is entrance was greeted with ecstatic applause and he delivered a paper that was full of witticisms, jokes and self-reflexive innuendo, all signifiers of the Richard Dyer star persona. We loved it, lapped it up and crowded around him afterwards – fans of an academic star who had just delivered a star performance.[1]

Similar to the way movie stars are introduced by naming the Oscars, Golden Globes, BAFTAs, and Césars they have won or have been nominated for, we should name the honours bestowed on Richard Dyer: 2007 Society for Cinema and Media Studies Honorary Life Membership; James Robert Brudner ’83 Memorial Prize; honorary doctorate from the University of Turku; 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award of the British Academy of Film, Television, and Screen Studies; membership in the British Academy. On 30 March 2016, SCMS paid tribute to Dyer in Atlanta with the event ‘Richard Dyer in the House of Cinema’.

However, academic stardom is not defined by fabulous keynotes or well-deserved honours but by the impact and endurance of the actual scholarly work. Richard Dyer has not made one but three major interventions in academic debates: first, his work on the representation of homosexuality in film and media, including initiating the first gay and lesbian film event at the London National Film Theatre in 1977, and his essays collected in Now You See It (1990) and The Matter of Images (1993); second, his books Stars (1979) and Heavenly Bodies (1986), which are now key texts in star studies and celebrity studies; third, White (1997), both the essay and the book, which forced us to recognise that whiteness is not innocent and neutral but a powerful ethnicity that through its invisibility maintains its racial and cultural hegemony. This is not to downplay the importance of his other books and essays, such as Only Entertainment (1992), The Culture of Queers (2002), Pastiche (2006), Nino Rota (2010), In the Space of a Song (2011), and Lethal Repetition (2015), also (our personal favourite) the essay ‘In Defence of Disco’ (1979). As Jeremy Gilbert has stated, ‘[‘In Defence of Disco’] is a remarkably prescient and concise statement of a theoretical and political position … which puts an analysis of the corporeal at the centre of experience without collapsing into aestheticism or romanticism’.[2] This quote is particularly relevant, as Dyer often says that he is not into ‘theory’. However, the strength of Dyer’s work is the way he combines the personal with the theoretical and the political. It is this combination that makes his work so inspirational to many of us. Whether he writes about the songs of Lena Horne, the porn performance of Ryan Idol, or the whiteness of Jane Fonda, just to give a few examples, Richard Dyer’s work always matters.

In 2015, Barbara Klinger interviewed Richard Dyer as part of the SCMS Fieldnotes project.[3] That interview gives an insightful career overview of Dyer’s work. Rather than going through his career chronologically we have selected three themes that run through Dyer’s work: pleasure, obvious, and queer. We are not implying that these are the most important themes but we do think they are quite productive in making connections between the different books and essays over a period of time. Moreover, we want to raise the question to what extent these themes remain relevant in film and media studies today. To introduce each theme we made three short videos in which we have taken quotations from Dyer out of context and combined them with footage from films and star performances discussed by Dyer in his essays, all in an attempt to connect the different texts and to prompt the discussion that follows. This conversation was held at King’s College London on 13 April 2016. It has been edited for publication. We thank the Film Studies department of King’s College, particularly Rosalind Galt and Lawrence Napper, for making this event possible.


Kooijman: We just had to include ‘Reach Out and Touch’ in the video. In 1982 you wrote: ‘I don’t say listening to Diana Ross and reaching out and touching at her shows would make anyone join a movement to change the world; but at least it vividly expresses the pleasures of a better world’.[4] This is very much in line with the argument you have made in ‘Entertainment and Utopia’ as well as in the disco essay: the significance of feeling and experiencing the pleasure of a better alternative that can be imagined or even realised. You made this argument at a time when entertainment was frowned upon from both the conservative right as well as the progressive left. You explicitly address the latter: disco cannot make the revolution but it definitely feels good; do not simply dismiss it as capitalist culture, but use it. Now almost four decades later, do you believe the attitudes towards entertainment have changed? To put it simply, is disco – or entertainment – still in need of defending today?

Dyer: In some ways no, although that does depend on where you are. In some parts of the world, for instance among intellectuals in Italy, you do still feel the need to defend entertainment – where there is still a commitment to a certain traditional left realist project, or the ideas of Brecht or Godard and so on. But in Great Britain and North America and many parts of Europe, no, I don’t think there is a need. The question is: is there such a thing as entertainment anymore? That’s what I am not sure about. Entertainment is very much posited upon an idea of escape. When I started thinking about entertainment people would say things like ‘It takes you out of yourself’, or ‘It takes your mind off things’. And of course people still have problems, but there was very much the sense then that most of life was hard but you had entertainment to take you away from it for a bit. While now, because of all sorts of changes, you can listen to music anywhere you go all the time – and even choose the music, not just accept the music that is there. That sense of a gap between a bad life and something to escape into has disappeared or is greatly diminished. I don’t know whether that is a good or a bad thing but it changes the nature of entertainment. In that sense I would no longer know what I would then be defending. That despising of the popular, that despising of what is enjoyable, may still be there, but it is not a discourse that has so much weight anymore.

Kooijman: ‘In Defence of Disco’ was not written in defence of scholarly attention, although I am sure disco was frowned upon in academia at that time as well. I would like to turn to the notion of the pleasure academic scholars have in their objects of study. There seems to be a discrepancy between film studies, in which cinephilia is widely respected, and the study of other forms of popular culture, such as television and pop music, in which ‘fandom’ – note the difference in vocabulary – is very much contested. Both the benefits as well as the pitfalls of being invested in the object of study have been recognised – the distinction between being extremely knowledgeable of the object on the one hand and the danger of not having a critical distance on the other. What is missing in the debate is a point that you made regarding the choice of objects in White. In the SCMS Fieldnotes interview you explain that you did not want to write about the whiteness of objects that you despise, such as Nazi propaganda, as that would enable a position of moral superiority. Instead, selecting objects you liked forced you to be more rather than less critical.

Dyer: What I understood cultural studies to be was a critical engagement with popular culture, which meant you took it seriously, but did not mean you therefore said it is all wonderful or all bad. The point was that you were critically engaged and that included the political as well as the aesthetic. My dream was always to do things that showed that the aesthetic and political were not different. The article I wrote about Blaxploitation came the nearest to saying ‘actually the politics is in the aesthetic, not in the films’ overt politics’.[5] What is driving a project for me is always politics and pleasure, but sometimes it is more pleasure and sometimes it is more politics. So when it was about the pleasure, I had to think of the politics; when it was about the politics, I had to think about the pleasure. White was very much a political project. Most of what I wrote about in that was not what I particularly liked or disliked, but I thought I must do some case studies on things that I do really like. However, there is a difference between the two case studies. In the case of the white man’s muscles the fact is that I do not like those films – action films, pepla, Tarzan, Rambo – most of them bore me to tears. I just like muscle men. I feel there is something of the pleasure in the bodies that I do not really talk about in the essay. It is almost like the ideology still wins in that case. I loved The Jewel in the Crown (1984), although I was aware of the critique. That case study was more successful partly because it sees the politics in the form – the delaying, the pleasures of the sadness that is in that series – but also because it tries to identify what the pleasure is that is being offered about a certain spectacle of whiteness – its ideological implications, but also the pleasure of it.

I think it is really important when you write critical work to realise that you are not superior, you are no better than what you are writing about. It is important to maintain that. That goes back to what is an endemic problem with the classic left – and what is left of that – that sense of ‘we know better’ and ‘we are not contaminated by all those pleasures’. Yet, pleasure is available and we should engage with it – we must not be separated out from it. I am not trying to justify my pleasures. I am trying to use the pleasure I have as a way into understanding the hold of certain works, both the aesthetic and political hold, and sometimes that is the same thing. This is essential to a book I am most attached to, which is in some ways my most personal book, and which is probably the least read: Nino Rota (2010). The book’s central idea of ironic attachment is precisely about being attached – delighted, moved – but nonetheless with a kind of self-awareness and self-reflexivity. So you do not distance yourself but at the same time you are not so much inside of it that you do not have some sense of all the political, aesthetic, and formal organisations going on.

Audience: In your talk at the recent SCMS event you said almost in a kind of throwaway line that you remain a Marxist. That is not a statement you make all the time, even though it is implicit in your work.

Dyer: I suppose I don’t say I’m a Marxist very often – most Marxists wouldn’t think I was, probably. What does that mean? An early Marx quote has been like a mantra for me. It is usually translated as ‘people make their own history, but not in circumstances of their own choosing’. That to me is absolutely the model of cultural production which informs everything I have done. This means that people are active and that there is agency. People do things, and it is not inevitable what will be done. Also, it is about the importance of realising the circumstances, not just the particular technology that is at our disposal but also the language that we speak, the ideas we are brought up with, and the frames of understanding that are available to us. These circumstances limit what we can see but also make it possible for us to see anything at all. Rigid Marxists perhaps used to say the circumstances are the economy, but my understanding of the circumstances not of our own choosing is quite broad. I feel the need to keep the dialectic between agency and circumstances in play always.


Grant: We picked ‘obvious’ as a theme because of something I witnessed you saying in a Q&A session at a packed public event back in 1997 to mark the publication of White. You presented brilliantly on the central ideas of the book and afterwards a brave soul asked you, ‘Isn’t it all rather obvious?’ I cannot remember your exact reply but you affirmed the importance of the obvious. Looking back at your work, an engagement with obviousness is something that I see throughout. How important has the obvious been for you?

Dyer: I think, probably, you’re absolutely right. It is the most important. Most of my bigger projects have been about taking an obvious idea, or something that’s endlessly said and therefore is thought to be obvious. Rather than taking the usual academic route, which is to say, ‘well, it appears to be this, but really it’s that’, I ask, ‘well, what are the implications of this obviousness?’ With entertainment what does it mean that people keep saying ‘it’s only entertainment’? What’s that ‘only’? What is the implication of thinking of it in terms of escape? From what, to what, how? Let’s follow through on the obviousness rather than thinking it responds to some psychoanalytically-discovered thing that we cannot prove is even there, or whatever particular other paradigm it might be. Similarly with whiteness: why is it white? Why do you say white people? Why a colour and why that colour? And with serial killing: what’s the seriality? Even with pastiche, which is not such an obvious word in everyday circulation but is very commonly used in the writing of people with a lot of cultural capital. Again, what does it mean to use that word? For me, in the context of cultural studies the idea expressed by the Austrian philosopher Alfred Schütz was very formative, namely that theory builds upon what is common sense but also involves thinking about the common-sense, not to disprove or prove it but to think about its implications. Schütz called theory a second-order, common-sense construct. That was also very similar to what Richard Hoggart was doing in his work. So yes, I think obviousness is absolutely central.

I suppose another side of that has to do with Gay Liberation, in the sense that if you are gay heterosexuality is no longer obvious. Being gay makes you think about the non-inevitable, the non-natural, the non-unquestionable-ness of things, be it whiteness or heterosexuality, and so on. There is something very particular about the fact that it is perfectly possible to use all the languages of normality at the very point at which you know they are not your languages, and that does give a particular way into thinking about the construction of the obvious. It works in both directions – respecting the obvious and thinking it through, but also thinking that the obvious is not a given of nature but something that is culturally produced.

Grant: When you mentioned the obvious at the recent SCMS event someone in the audience backed this up by saying that there is no ‘Richard Dyer way’, no Richard Dyer paradigm. This surprised me, as the specificity of your work has spread so far and wide. For example, the set of paradigms in ‘Entertainment and Utopia’ has been portable and shareable. Maybe some people do not recognise them as the ‘Richard Dyer way’ because they are not mystifying. They don’t try to make themselves sound complicated. Would you say that this has been a conscious part of your ethos?

Dyer: Absolutely. I think that one should use plain language – as plain as possible. One should get one’s ideas across by example, through one’s practice. Often the way to be successful in academia is to have authority, and I think you have authority partly through a demeanour, but also through a rather terrifying language. That’s certainly how I experienced being on the edge of Screen in the 1970s – this terrifying language of authority. I didn’t do that, and of course it was a political choice not to do that. Just imagine how the queens in Gay Liberation would have responded to me. I’ve always had a life outside of academia and I think that is a very good thing. It gives you a reality check, to use a phrase that was often used back then.

Grant: Throughout your work you combine close attention to the film text and the historical context, with a philosophical grounding and an understanding of sociological structures. In recent years you have been privileging the role of textual analysis in everything that you do. Why did you feel a need to defend textual analysis?

Dyer: Partly just because I feel there is a drift within film studies, and even more in television studies, to what I think of as ‘film studies without films’ – always looking at fans, at production (although perhaps people don’t do that enough), at all sorts of discourses around the film, while actually not looking at the film itself. Obviously when you study film stars you do look beyond just the films, but why bother to look at fans if you don’t look at the films at all? The films are why the fandom is there in the first place. I do slightly regret what I said at the SCMS event in Atlanta, that I think textual analysis is just looking and listening. That is at the heart of it, but of course there is no such thing as unexamined looking and listening which does not already bring to bear frameworks of understanding, and one should reflect upon them. When you do that you are into epistemology and into theory and so on. Also you have to do the contextual work in order to be a kind of corrective to any idiosyncratic subjective point of view. But when the reason we study a phenomenon is because of the films, then we must study the films.

Kooijman: In the video we quote from your essay on stereotypes, in which you write, ‘The role of stereotypes is to make visible the invisible so that there is no danger of it creeping up on us unawares; and to make fast, firm and separate what is in reality fluid and much closer to the norm than the dominant value system cares to admit’.[6] Could we say then that stereotyping is used to make things obvious?

Dyer: A particular function of stereotyping is to make things simple. So in a way it makes something obvious that might not be true. To call something a stereotype is to be critical of it, thus we tend to only be critical of stereotypes that we see as stereotypes. In the case of gay and lesbian stereotypes we all know that there is a huge range of ways of inhabiting sexuality and degrees of feeling impulses towards the same sex and towards the opposite sex. It is messy and complicated. Stereotypes make it seem like there’s this or there’s that, and that’s part of their function. But stereotypes are also quite hard to get away from. I have tried to make a distinction between stereotypes and the more positive social type, the latter being a social category that could be seen to belong to society. This was linked to Gay Liberation, which was about advocacy on behalf of gay and lesbian people. First of all you have to constitute gay and lesbian people as a category who could be represented. Many of the critiques of this said that gayness was an invention. Yes, but if we hadn’t said there was a category of people called gay we couldn’t have fought on their/our behalf. What case could we have made, on what grounds? That was the form it had to take, as we were invisible and some kind of typification is actually useful. I won’t say I defended stereotypes but I did worry about the question how one can speak on behalf of a social group which is in fact not visible. There is a famous early feminist book called Hidden from History – which does not mean that no one could see women but that they were hidden from accounts.[7] Yet gays and lesbians were not only hidden but literally invisible. Even when they were in full view you would not necessarily know that they were there. So there was a very particular concern with how do you represent a group that is not immediately obvious, except in the case of those who are ‘obvious’ in a stereotypical way.


Kooijman: When one reads the video’s first quotation – ‘I remember being a queer and have never been entirely convinced that I ever became gay’ – out of context, one might interpret it as a form of nostalgia, in the sense that with gay and lesbian visibility and even acceptance in mainstream culture something was ‘lost’ in the process. However, the quotation is part of your introduction to The Culture of Queers (2002), in which you explicitly argue against romanticising oppression and celebrating negativity. You do not deny that there was ‘subversion, play, passion or irony’, but as you write ‘they may either mask the reality of the oppressiveness of the category queer or accept too high a price in the name of intensity of feeling and refinement of expression’.[8] I would like you to reflect on this double-sidedness, on the ‘secret’ pleasure of queer culture in times of oppression.

Dyer: One of the chapters in The Culture of Queers is about representations of gay men in heritage cinema.[9] Those films are paradoxical, because they are nostalgic films, but they are nostalgic for a time in which you could be murdered or certainly sent to prison for being gay. But I love those kinds of films. Even in the periods they depict you could wear nice clothes, even then there was something. It is never just something to be nostalgic about, because there was a price to pay. But there never was just a price to pay either. For about a hundred years up until the beginning of Gay Liberation queer obviously was a very negative thing to be called and there were anti-gays laws and such. Gay was an affirmative turn and Gay Liberation has been a very successful movement, but there has always been a looking back at that period. Oscar Wilde is a good example. People say, ‘Look at Oscar Wilde. How brilliant. How witty. Maybe he could not have had the insights about paradoxes of pastiche, and such… he could not have done that if he had not been gay’. Yes, but look what happened to him. There is a price to be paid. You need to always keep those two sides in play. I did grow up to cherish the sad young man – ‘Isn’t he gorgeous? I wish I could be like him!’ – but at the same time he is a sad young man. It is ambivalent, though that’s a funny word to use in a way. Yes, we survived it and we did all sorts of things that need to be cherished, but it was at a cost and for probably most gay men the cost was too high. The cost was suicide, the cost was loveless marriages. Most men weren’t Oscar Wilde or even queens screaming in nightclubs on King’s Road in Chelsea, where I had my first gay experience – that was not the experience of most gay men, leaving aside the question of the experience of lesbians.

I tried to capture this in the context of two kinds of discourse. One was the idea ‘Oh, what a pity we had Gay Liberation, as it has taken away all the indirection, that wonderful source of wit, brilliance, nuance, innuendo and all of that’. You couldn’t have had Julian and Sandy, this outrageous comic duo on the radio in the 1960s, as that was nothing but innuendo. And there is an interesting argument to say that Gay Liberation, by making us visible, made us targets for oppression. I believe nonetheless that we achieved a good moment for many, and things have changed. Second, The Culture of Queers was also a reaction to – not a reaction against but a recognition that it was different than – Queer with a capital Q, which is all about ‘it is playful’, ‘it is complex’, ‘it is brilliant’. All of those imply having established gayness. Once you accept gayness as something positive and unquestionable then you can start being witty. Queer in the old sense meant you had to be witty in the need to survive. Queer in the new sense is posited on the assumption that things are basically much better. On a more personal level, until I was twenty-one or twenty-two, I didn’t think I was evil, but I thought I was an emotionally and sexually inadequate person, yet I would just do the best I could do. I don’t think I ever got rid of that. In a way that is good, as it made me never forget the price to be paid.

Kooijman: The Culture of Queers also includes a chapter on Rock Hudson, which is one of the few essays in which you explicitly write about AIDS. Obviously, AIDS has had a devastating impact on real lives, but also a major impact on the representation of homosexuality, giving Gay Liberation an even stronger political urgency. Referring to your earlier work on the representation of homosexuality the negative stereotypes that were oppressive in the 1970s became fatal with the coming of the AIDS epidemic. As you conclude in the Rock Hudson essay, ‘If Rock’s death brought attention to AIDS, boosted fundraising, made people realise that “nice people” get AIDS, it was also used to reinforce venerable myths about queers’.[10] Therefore, the relative absence of AIDS in your work is surprising, as it would seem a logical continuation of your earlier discussion of these ‘myths’ as part of the representation of homosexuality and its stereotypes. I hesitate to ask this question, as I prefer to focus on what you have written about, but in this particular case I genuinely wonder why.

Dyer: I’m glad you ask this question, although I don’t really know what the answer is. A partial answer is that a lot of other people already were doing great work on that, Simon Watney in particular. I got interested in history and on questions of representation before that, and also on things other than just explicit queer representations. But at the same time, yes, you are right. Even in that Rock Hudson article it is actually the smaller part of the article. I guess it was almost opportunistic of me to attach it to that, as Hudson had just died. In a way I was more interested in the question of now that everyone knew he was gay, how then to look back on the films, what difference would that make? Somehow it was an interesting exercise, although one with all sorts of problems. Also, I knew lots of people who died. For example, Jack Babuscio and Dave Sargent, who were two of my peers in terms of writing about queer cinema. Then eventually Vito Russo, although that was a bit later. Also closer to home, friends and so on.

I think there is something about it that evoked disgust in me. I remember a long time ago at a meeting in this group Gay Left, of which I was briefly a member, one of the people in that group had been arrested for what was called cottaging – I don’t know if that term is still used, but anyway, picking up a man in a public toilet. At the meeting he said, ‘None of you contacted me. We are supposed to be in this group and you weren’t supportive’. We went around the room, in the way you did in those days to deal with such things. I don’t remember what the other people said but I remember saying that cottaging disgusted me. Going to the toilet doesn’t exactly thrill me. I hate public toilets. In a way cottaging appalled me as an activity, so something inhibited me. I think there is some deep disgust in me around sex and around bodily functions. I don’t know where that comes from. I had sweet, relaxed parents, and I don’t think I should feel it, but I do. There was probably something about AIDS, even though we shouldn’t think of it as a price of sin or a price of having sex. But the fact is that at that time it so completely reinforced that feeling of a connection between sex and illness and disgust that I guess I just couldn’t bring myself to face it.

Grant: This begs a question about the role of disgust in your work, including your recent book Lethal Repetition (2015). When I attended one of your talks on this topic I was really shocked, as this was not the Richard Dyer I thought I knew. But then there always seems to have been an interest in disgust in your work.

Dyer: Maybe that is true. I always have liked that kind of stuff. Lethal Repetition deals with disgust most explicitly, as does the vampire article, in which I see vampirism as a kind of metaphor for queerness – although I really pushed that towards the melancholic, romantic version of the sad young man.[11] Yet even part of Bram Stoker’s Dracula is actually about the thrilling disgustingness of the act of vampirism. In Lethal Repetition I did a whole section on the pleasure of disgust, including a discussion of one of the most disgusting films, Lucker the Necrophagous (Johan Vandewoestijne, 1986), which is about someone who likes to have sex with dead bodies. He leaves them to putrefy for days and days and then licks them all over. Why would you enjoy being disgusted? It did take me back to potty training. I had a brief relationship when I was a student in France with someone who was a psychoanalyst and he always used to reprimand me when I took a book with me when I went to have a shit. He would say, ‘You are trying to deny yourself one of the pleasures of life’. I thought that was nonsense, but actually he was right. That’s what potty training does – all those fascinating smells, the relief of it, the warmth of it, the funny shapes, how fascinating shit is, and then, ‘Stop! You mustn’t look at it. Naughty boy!’ Such a combination is very much what goes on in the pleasure that is offered in films that really foreground disgust. This is all very personal, but it does come down to the ambivalent and even conflicting relation between disgust and pleasure. Actually, now I want to write a book about niceness, as I really want the world to be nice. Even though I’m fully aware that it is a problematic concept. Niceness has been such an important guiding principle for me in my life.

Audience: Your work clearly is informed by your experience as a gay man, but you have also written about lesbian cinema. I wonder whether and how lesbian women have influenced your work.

Dyer: I always thought, ‘Who am I to write about lesbians?’ At the time of Gay Liberation I was very committed to equal consideration. In Gays and Film (1977) not only did we manage, with quite some difficulty actually, to find someone to write a section on lesbians and film, Caroline Sheldon, but also I made sure that my chapter (there were only three chapters) was half about lesbian film.[12] And similarly, with the season at the National Film Theatre we absolutely made sure it was half-and-half. But your question is more interesting than that, relating to gender. I do think it is different to be brought up a man or to be brought up a woman. There is an alliance between lesbians and gays, as well as bisexuals and transsexuals, because we are all brought up at odds with conventional definitions of gender, but all the same differently. I certainly think lesbian writing made me aware of that, such as Jackie Stacey’s ‘Desperately Seeking Difference’ (1987), which also loosened up the idea that you are either gay or you are not.[13] The push to recognise, intellectually, that there is a wide range rather than a strict boundary between gay and straight came very much from lesbian writing. It is thinking about gender. Mary McIntosh, who was involved in Gay Liberation as well as the Women’s Movement, wrote a brilliant article in a time when the focus was on sexuality rather than gender, and she said no, there is no sexuality separate from gender.[14] You cannot separate the two. Femininity is often being dumped on, even within a certain kind of lesbian style, such as the rights of the femme to be recognised as lesbian, which is an interesting struggle. And equally, if you look at objects of desire in male culture they are not on the whole sissies. They are hunks. Not in the 19th century but in the 20th century it is masculinity all over the place that has been valued at the price of femininity. Of course femininity is a construct and there is very much to say against it, but there is also a lot to be lost when we no longer cherish femininity.



Catherine Grant teaches and researches film studies at the University of Sussex (UK). She has published widely on theories and practices of film authorship and intertextuality and has edited volumes on world cinema, Latin American cinema, digital film and media studies, and the audiovisual essay. She is founding co-editor of [in]Transition: Journal of Videographic Film and Moving Image Studies, which was awarded the Society for Cinema and Media Studies Anne Friedberg Innovative Scholarship Award of Distinction for 2015.

Jaap Kooijman is Associate Professor of Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam. He is also a founding editor of NECSUS.


Dyer, R. Gays and film. London: British Film Institute, 1977.

_____. ‘Diana Ross’, Marxism Today, June 1982: 36-37 (available online:

_____. The matter of images: Essays on representation. London-New York: Routledge, 1993.

_____. The culture of queers. London-New York: Routledge, 2002.

_____. In the space of a song: The uses of song in film. London-New York: Routledge, 2012.

Gilbert, J. ‘In Defence of “In Defense of Disco”’, New Formations, 58, Summer 2006: 99-100.

Holmes, S. and Redmond, S (eds). Framing celebrity: New directions in celebrity culture. London-New York: Routledge, 2006.

Kooijman, J. ‘Turn the Beat Around: Richard Dyer’s “In Defence of Disco” Revisited’, European Journal of Cultural Studies, 8:2, 2005: 257-266.

_____. ‘Success: Richard Dyer on Diana Ross [and Beyond]’, [in]Transition: Journal of Videographic Film & Moving Images Studies, 2:4, 2016:

McIntosh, M.  ‘Queer Theory and the War of the Sexes’ in Activating theory: Lesbian, gay, bisexual politics, edited by J. Bristow and A. Wilson.  London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1993: 30-52.

Rowbotham, S. Hidden from history: 300 years of women’s oppression and the fight against it. London: Pluto Press, 1973.

Stacey, J. ‘Desperately Seeking Difference’, Screen, 28:1, 1987: 48-61.


[1] Holmes & Redmond 2006, p. 5.

[2] Gilbert 2006, p. 99. See also Kooijman 2005.

[3] SCMS. ‘Fieldnotes: Richard Dyer interviewed by Barbara Klinger’ (2015):

[4] Dyer 1982, p. 37. See also Kooijman 2016.

[5] ‘Music and Presence in Blaxploitation Cinema’ in Dyer 2012, pp. 156-174.

[6] Dyer 1993, p. 16.

[7] Rowbotham 1973.

[8] Dyer 2002, p. 7.

[9] ‘Homosexuality and Heritage’ in Dyer 2002, pp. 204-228.

[10] Dyer 2002, p. 173.

[11] ‘It’s in his Kiss!: Vampirism as Homosexuality, Homosexuality as Vampirism’ in Dyer 2002, pp. 70-89.

[12] Dyer 1977. It was in fact Angela Martin who discovered Sheldon. Gays and Film contains three essays: ‘Lesbians and Film: Some Thoughts’ by Caroline Sheldon, ‘Stereotyping’ by Richard Dyer, and ‘Camp and the Gay Sensibility’ by Jack Babuscio.

[13] Stacey 1987.

[14] McIntosh 1993.