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Theorizing: Cliff Mak
"Sexy Beast: Animation and the Erotics of Indexicality"
Friday, April 8, 2016 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Williams Hall, Cherpack Lounge (room 543)

Presented by Theorizing:

Approaches to gender and sexuality in cartoons have largely taken animation’s more riotous aspects at face value, seeing in both its vibrant, plasmatic forms and subversive thematic elements something like a straightforward, positive queer politics. In the frequent case that such readings are centered on animated animal characters, animality becomes a way of naturalizing otherwise non-normative desires and practices. Yet as the longer history of representations of animal bodies in visual media suggests, it is precisely the seeming naturalness of animals that is always in question, their “natural” existence and essential qualities always resisting at some level the process of being reproduced in visual form. Something about the animal is always lost. This paper thus pushes back against regimes of naturalization, and explores instead the ability of animation as a moving visual medium to formally exploit a certain unnaturalness at the heart of animality. In the work of many animators, for example -- including Chuck Jones and Hayao Miyazaki -- there is less of a concern with the faithful reproduction of animal bodies than with taking advantage of the gap between animation and its animal referents. And it is in this gap, technically an effect of animation’s seeming failure to be as visually exacting as, say, film, that a more vital conceptualization of queer desires might actually be formulated. Here, in short, the animated animal assumes a mantle of eroticism—not out of any desire to naturalize the shadow of scandalous perversity it might be imagined to present, but rather to destabilize the logic of desire itself.