Thursday, March 22, 2012

Interview with Jim Elledge, Author of Queers in American Popular Culture

Q: What prompted you to write Queers in American Popular Culture? What "message" do you want to communicate?

I’ve always been interested in the evolution of how U.S. culture in general perceives the GLBT community, and one of the best ways to track that (I believe) is through the larger culture’s depiction of GLBTs in the popular culture. Interestingly, LGBT persons have been portrayed in popular literature, popular art, and in the various forms of everyday media for many, many decades. That’s why I edited the 3-volume set, Queers in American Popular Culture.

Q: What was the highlight of your research? In the course of your research, what discovery surprised you the most? What surprises readers/others the most about your research?

One of the most interesting moments of gathering together the essays—and there’s a lot of them!—is discovering that the issue of same-sex “marriage” has been around since the 1950s. It was a hot topic among gay men and women in those days, although it was never an issue among members of the larger community until quite recently. Readers have commented to me about any number of essays in the book that explore very unexpected topics, among them: the man considered to be the father of body building, Eugen Sandow, had a boy friend; blaxploitation films of the 1970s depicted gay and lesbian characters; and over the years, a series of cookbooks aimed at lesbians have been published.

Q: How did your research change your outlook on queers and popular culture?

I’m not sure it changed my outlook per se. It certainly broadened my own perception of how the portrayals of the LGBT community have evolved from the 1880s or so until now.

Q: How have people reacted to your book and/or the ideas you set forth? Is it what you hoped for, or is there more work to be done?

There’s always more work to be done because the LBGT community evolves continually and, with it, how it’s depicted in popular culture. I believe Queers in American Popular Culture has done an excellent job accomplishing what I set out to do and in opening the doors for more work.

Q: What's next for you?

My next collection of poetry, entitled H, is due out June or July 2012 from Lethe Press, and I’m finishing up a biography, tentatively entitled Throw-Away Boy: A Life of Henry Darger, which I’ve been at work on for ten years. It’s forthcoming from Overlook Press probably in Fall 2014.

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