The Wild Party’s Sexual Kinesthetics
This chapter considers the sexuality effects of a film released on the cusp of the transition to sound and which redeploys the codes of a nearly exhausted genre, the flapper film. While several scholars have read The Wild Party (dir. Dorothy Arzner, Paramount Lasky, 1929) in terms of its lesbian subtext, a mode of interpretation shaped by a representational regime that postdates the film’s release, this chapter traces how the visual erotics mobilized across the entire film render such scenes sexually legible. “Mobilizing Genre” argues that the site through which lesbian possibilities are paradoxically screened—that is, both projected and hidden from view—is the sexualized and kinetic body of the feminine flapper. In failing to anchor same-sex desire definitively to any one sexual category, The Wild Party’s sexual kinesthetics demonstrate the centrality of same-sex desire to female spectatorship in Hollywood cinema, and its intimate and productive relation to new erotic discourses of both homo- and heterosexuality.
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