Resisting homonormativity in queer filmmaking practice

  • Kevin Gaffney

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


While homonormativity is frequently critiqued within Queer Film Studies, this research aims to contribute to knowledge by envisioning what an anti-homonormative form of queer cinema would look like. The research question asks how can queer filmmaking practice critique and challenge the politics and cinematic representations of homonormativity? In response, following a practice-led research methodology, two film works were created. The first, Expulsion (30minutes, 2020), depicts a fictional queer nation state, with archival footage of Queer Nation’s Joan Jett Blakk interspersed. The second, Retelling: Dr James Miranda Barry and John Joseph Danson (3minutes 30 seconds, 2020), reflects on the historical figure’s trans identity.

The research findings identify strategies that confront and critique homonormativity—at a scriptwriting level and in on-screen performances—that can be used as a framework to generate anti-homonormative films. The first research finding is that by situating environmental concerns at the centre of queer politics on screen, the ‘respectable’ image of homonormativity is complicated. Discussions about the destructive consumerism of neoliberalism can further critique homonormativity. The second research finding is that by focusing on the process of self-acceptance as a catalyst for character growth instead of external approval storylines (i.e. the ‘coming out’ story), a LGBTQ+ character can find happiness outside of a paradigm weighted towards straight characters’ actions. The research findings also define three techniques that present time differently in order to challenge the forward-momentum of neoliberal homonormative cinema: an editing technique that creates connections with LGBTQ+ history through the intercutting of archival footage; the embedding of queer history at a scriptwriting level within the film’s narrative; and the re-claiming of queer history from mainstream narrative framings.
Date of AwardMay 2022
Original languageEnglish
SponsorsVice Chancellors Research Scholarship
SupervisorVictoria Mc Collum (Supervisor) & Murat Akser (Supervisor)


  • Practice-led research
  • Anti-homonormative cinema
  • Experimental film

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