Gus Van Sant, My Own Private Idaho, 1991

This chapter examines the white trashness of the new queer cinema of the 1990s. Little has been made of the cinematic confluence of queerness with white trash identity, despite the fact that new queer cinema abounds with white trash images. According to B. Ruby Rich, new queer cinema refers to the “flock of films that were doing something new, renegotiating subjectivities, annexing whole genres, revising histories in their image”. New queer cinema was acclaimed during the 1990s for the way it gave agency to queer subjectivity, recognizing queerness as characterized by a multiplicity of conflicting voices and visions. The category of white trash also renegotiates subjectivities, genres, and histories, specifically through the nexus of race and class. The representations of white trash in new queer cinema explicitly acknowledge how white trash identity is a rather queer thing.

Queer lends itself to white trash, and vice versa, because both categories decenter and destabilize, prompting constant flux. Queer’s conceptual ability to move or pass across things is comparable to the anchorlessness of many new queer characters; they keep moving across the landscape, forever passing through and between places, identities, things. A working definition of queer I often use is informed by queer theory figurehead, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. In Tendencies, Sedgwick frames queer as a movement, not only in the sense that it refers to a community, collective, or even a cinematic movement, but also because it moves in the literal sense: “The word ‘queer’ itself means across—it comes from the Indo-European root—twerkw, which also yields the German quer (traverse), Latin torquere (to twist), English athwart ... The immemorial current that queer represents is antiseparatist as it is antiassimilationist. Keenly, it is relational, and strange”. Sedgwick’s definition suggests that queer refers to being in flux, to be passing across sexualities, genders, desires, and practices. The benefit of queer is that it does not allude to the specificity of sex and gender, as gay and lesbian categories do. Queer refers to both the subject (whether individual or collective) and subjectivity (the practices and performances that may be queer).

Sedgwick’s emphasis on the relational character of queer is important to the way I conceive of the queer relationship between whiteness and white trash. The destabilization of whiteness as a privileged concept occurs when people are forced to examine the incongruity of its supposed supremacy and its ongoing nothingness. Whiteness is an unmarked category because it is both invisible and invincible. As Richard Dyer writes: "White power none the less reproduces itself regardless of intention, power differences and goodwill, and overwhelmingly because it is not seen as whiteness, but as normal. White people need to learn to see themselves as white, to see their particularity. In other words, whiteness needs to be made strange".

White trash dirties whiteness, making it strange, unstable, and decentered primarily because of the relational proximity of white trash to privileged whiteness in racial terms. In a sense, the nothingness of whiteness cannot exist if forced into a relation with white trash. Annalee Newitz and Matt Wray suggest that “white trash is, for whites, the most visible and clearly marked form of whiteness”. This useful definition identifies the way white trash is seen as radically different from those who are just white. When something white is marked, it loses its whiteness and can no longer call itself white—it must acknowledge its off-whiteness, its white trashness. To be both white and marked in this sense is to be dirtied, defiled, and decentered. Conversely, to be white is to occupy a neutral and unmarked position of normativity. Labeling people white trash then is to queer whiteness, rendering it relational and strange, by marking class-based shortcomings in racial terms. White trash makes whiteness visible. White trash is the film on whiteness. A kind of scum marking the naturalized claims of whiteness to cleanliness, virtue, luminosity, and privilege. I have conceived white trash as film primarily because my broader project is concerned with representations of white trash in film.

Using My Own Private Idaho, directed by Gus Van Sant; Postcards from America, directed by Steve McLean; and Boys Don’t Cry, directed by Kimberly Peirce, this chapter discusses the way new queer cinema frequently represents white trash drifters and hustlers who use the road to move across and through the romanticized and mythical American landscape. The ability to move and a resistance against standing still informs their thematic content. That predominant films of the new queer cinema are road movies featuring white trash hustlers is certainly not accidental—the persistence of the road motif demonstrates how these queer characters are restless identities that can not be anchored in any one place.

Gus Van Sant, My Own Private Idaho, 1991

The Taste of Roads

Dispossessed of home and family, the queer white trash marginality of Mike Waters (River Phoenix) is shaded by a melancholic longing. My Own Private Idaho lays bare how queer white trashness refuses the resolved narrative closure favored by much mainstream cinema. Inspired by the novels of William Burroughs, whose fragmented narratives are cutup and random, the film queers narrative logic and makes meaning at intersecting levels of consciousness. Oneiric in structure, My Own Private Idaho unfolds from Mike’s narcoleptic point of view. Mostly triggered when reminded of his long-absent mother, Mike’s narcoleptic seizures blur the edges of waking and sleeping states. In the opening sequence, Mike is asleep on an Idaho road. The scene abruptly cuts to a shot of Mike, a hustler by trade, being blown by a john. A title card interrupts, announcing Portland as the setting. As Mike reaches orgasm, a wooden barn falls from the sky, landing on one of the lost highways of his unconscious. Referencing the tornado that transports Dorothy home in The Wizard of Oz, the yellow brick road of Mike’s road-trip is wracked instead with looming heartbreak because the home of his fantasy does not exist.

The figure of a hustler rarely lends itself to narrative closure because of his drifting affinity with the road and the street, reinforcing queerness as a perpetual state of movement, longing, and searching. Zigzagging aimlessly around the streets of Portland, Seattle, rural Idaho, and (in a bizarre twist) Rome, Mike exists on the margins of society, outside of conventional employment, and beyond the social institutions of marriage and family. As the film is modeled on Shakespeare’s Henry IV, the Prince Hal figure, Scott Favor (Keanu Reeves) is Mike’s closest friend. Scott is coded as queer for cash, while Mike is queer white trash. Mike’s ultimate declaration of love for Scott is unrequited because for Scott, hustling is a temporary measure meant to upset his socially prominent father. Scott knows he will eventually abandon the street life, and his Falstaff-like father figure Bob Pigeon, and return to a life of privilege and unwavering heterosexuality when he inherits his dying father’s estate. Frequent references to Scott’s wealth buttress the divergent character of the film’s social sets, polarizing him along class lines from the street trash hustling world. When Scott finally returns home, he puts to bed a streak of adolescent rebellion. In contrast, Mike’s fantasy of home infantilizes him, rendering him liminal in that he oscillates between childhood reverie and the tough adult world of turning tricks.1 Dennis Cooper, in his obituary for River Phoenix, writes: “His best recent work found him playing overgrown kids who clung for [their] lives to youthful notions of a perfect romantic and/or familial love”. Mike’s quest for family takes him out on the open road: a key space used to represent queer white trashness in new queer cinema. The road is the perfect place for queerness to emerge because it is analogous to the always thwarted promise of freedom attending such expansive spaces. The rhetoric of post-Stonewall gay liberation can be paralleled to the road’s freedom and visibility because it is an antidote to the interior, restrictive, and demonized space of the closet.

It goes without saying that roads are used for movement, be it for a journey where one’s intentions are met, or a trip hindered. Queerness, likewise, stands for movement. In My Own Private Idaho, the road is a motif of queerness and white trash marginality. White trash is found on the road and on the run. In much of the new queer cinema, white trash characters move through the landscape, on roads leading nowhere. The road reinforces the placelessness of Mike’s queer white trash identity. Alluring in its promise of a destination and resolution, the road ultimately leads to a stretch of road already traveled. Mike uses his fingers to frame the road ahead, revealing its “fucked-up face”—its taunting ability to withhold resolution.

For Mike, the road traps him in a perpetual circuit of searching for something that does not exist. Regardless of whether the road lives up to its promise of something more, the queer white trash characters of the new queer cinema resist being anchored by any one place. Whether it is urban streetscapes lined with queer hustlers or the cross-country highways symbolizing freedom and hope, the possibilities of the road are one of the most enduring representations of society’s margins. The road, however, is not always marginal because it frames, in much the same way that it passes through, the landscape. It can be central or distant, intersecting with other roads or none—a limitless romanticized passage or a frustrating series of dead ends. As Steven Cohan and Ina Hark write, although “the road has always functioned in movies as an alternative space where isolation from the mainstream permits various transformative experiences, the majority of road films made before the 1960s more successfully imagined an ultimate reintegration of road travelers into the dominant culture”. For the new queer cinema of the 1990s, the road functions as an alternative space and is potentially transformative, but its travelers never integrate into dominant social institutions, forging instead their own queer white trash models of family, marriage, and community.

In My Own Private Idaho, the immediacy of the open road and the urban inner-city street functions in opposition to Mike’s ideal of home. The closest Mike gets to being home is upon reuniting with his violent and alcoholic brother Richard. Sadly, Mike’s idealized notion of family is shattered when Richard reveals he is Mike’s brother and father—there is no home on the range.2 Richard shows Mike the last postcard their mother sent, revealing she stayed at a hotel called The Family Tree. A culturally familiar white trash trope, incest ruptures familial ideals, explaining in essentialist terms origins for white trash identity. For film critic Amy Taubin, Mike’s back-story of incest and abandonment is “just an extra Oedipal wrinkle in an already disenfranchised existence”. Spiked with potential danger, the road with its dark destinations ultimately represents a lesser threat than the contaminated fantasy of the home.3

The seamy urban streets of Portland and Seattle emphasize the homelessness and marginality of its queer white trash hustlers, contrasting with the expansive Idaho roads. In the final scene, Mike stands on a sun-bleached Idaho road and says, “I’m a connoisseur of roads. I’ve been tasting roads my whole life. This road will never end. It probably goes all around the world.” The road is certainly cyclical because it features in the opening and closing scenes, connecting Mike’s past memories and peripatetic present.

While Idaho is located in the northwest United States, it is represented less in real terms, and more as a symbol of home and family.4 Van Sant claims the location is “both the literal Idaho of his early years and the utopian Idaho of rooted love” (Lafrance). Idaho is the stuff of dreams and childhood for Mike, so it is unsurprising that Idaho triggers narcoleptic dreamscapes of vivid, romanticized imagery. Super 8 footage is used to signify memory, while Mike’s dream sequences often focus on the landscape in lush 35-mm, time-lapse cinematography. These techniques beautifully illustrate how wide open spaces cradle Mike, often at the expense of time, which is always evaporating.

Ultimately, a resolved happy ending is shirked because of its melancholic weight. A long shot, the final scene sees Mike asleep on the road, dreaming. He is picked up by a stranger and driven away. Ambiguously, a title card announces “Have a nice day.” Elizabeth Pincus claims: “Better to embrace marginality and its possibilities, harrowing and otherwise, for informing a cinema that resonates with more than just the facile palliative of happily-ever-after.” But as Robert Lang notes, the “queer road movies of the 1990s, more often than not, don’t have conventionally happy endings, but something has certainly changed, for they cannot be called unhappy endings either”. In a collection on new queer cinema, Michele Aaron writes: “No longer does popular culture have to seem to render queer configurations safe—through, for example, humour, homophobia (or other memos of heterosexuality) and, especially, closure”. It is because the melancholic desire of longing is emphasized over closure that it cannot be simplified in happy or unhappy terms; melancholy is neither sad nor happy. The fragmented, oneiric narrative of unfulfilled longing makes My Own Private Idaho a queer white trash affair, less interested in sealing identity than providing room for limitless, unresolvable meanings.

Steve McLean, Postcards from America, 1994

The Disintegrating Outside

The opening shot of My Own Private Idaho focuses on an illuminated dictionary definition of “narcolepsy.” Steve McLean appropriates this shot when, fifteen minutes into Postcards from America, a dictionary definition of “fag” is depicted, similarly framed by a shaft of light. An intertextual road links both films, analogous to the way actual roads connect their various characters and narrative fragments. Like Van Sant, McLean employs a nonlinear, cutup narrative to heighten its themes of alienation, loss, and fragmentation. In this sense, the narrative style reflects the fragmented biographical remains of David Wojnarowicz, the artist and writer on whom the movie is based.5 Wojnarowicz is remembered particularly for the way his work always commented directly on his own life.6 When he was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988, Wojnarowicz’s work became increasingly political, fusing shards of his own biography with an ongoing commentary of rage directed at government and religious structures that silence marginal identities. Postcards from America evades portraying Wojnarowicz as an artist and activist, representing instead his existential road-trips across the southwestern American desert. Depicted as an alienating and empty wasteland, the vast landscape is a perfect match for a figure whose all-consuming emptiness produces his inevitable disintegration. McLean constructs a stylized version of real events, though importantly, Wojnarowicz’s surname is never uttered, transforming the historical figure of David Wojnarowicz into an anonymous queer white trash archetype.

Narrative fragmentation is achieved as three stages of the protagonist’s life are interweaved, using three different actors to play each role. In the first, young David (Olmo Tighe) is an overweight boy, growing up in an abusive New Jersey home during the early 1960s. Secondly, teenage David (Michael Tighe) is a petty thief and hustler, living in New York City during the 1970s. Lastly, adult David (James Lyons) is HIV positive and adrift in the American desert during the late 1980s. Both My Own Private Idaho and Postcards from America are bookended by scenes where their protagonists inhabit roads that intersect expansive landscapes, reinforcing queer white trash as alienated, homeless, and searching for things located more in memory than in physical reality.

As in the case of Mike—whose narcolepsy is signified through My Own Private Idaho’s oneiric structure—dreams, fantasies, and memories punctuate David’s identity. Childhood reminiscences signify the tenuous link between beauty and pain through the melancholic nostalgia of country music. At one point in the film, a Connie Francis song extradiegetically bridges childhood and teen memories. In the former (childhood) scene, having escaped the confines of his oppressive house, David is swimming alone in a lake. The song continues into the next scene, where David is a teenager, hustling in Times Square. One line from the chorus, “I find a broken heart among my souvenirs,” adds pathos and suggests that David is a tourist in his own life, collecting experiences like souvenirs. The film’s title also implies that his experiences are postcards enclosing information narrated in the past tense of memory. As I argue elsewhere, filmmakers often rely on country music to aurally signify white trashness.7 In Postcards from America, David’s white trash upbringing is remembered with a degree of bittersweet affection when framed by the songs of Connie Francis.8

Despite this use of music, it is the road that most closely aligns it with a white trash aesthetic. The open road is often represented in road movies as a space for marginal identities because it appeals to the myth that one can exist outside of culture. To be outside of something, however, inevitably invokes that which lies inside. Diana Fuss challenges this dichotomy and its relation to the hetero/homo binary in Inside/Out. Fuss argues that homosexuality is always figured as the outside term because it is excluded or marginalized by heterosexuality. The supposed outsider status generated by being queer white trash does not then guarantee radicality because it is perhaps impossible to fully inhabit the excluded domain of outsiderness.

David is represented in Postcards from America as an outsider, in keeping with the way the real David Wojnarowicz’s work was paradigmatic of an outsider aesthetic. In McLean’s film, it is not necessarily queer white trashness that guarantees outsider status. Instead, it is David’s engagement with the road that renders him exterior to the dominant culture. The very act of passing or speeding through the landscape becomes the key metaphor for his attempts for a sexually charged transcendence. Narrated in the opening scene’s voice-over, David says: “Speeding: It’s the only emotion that makes the heart unravel. I don’t like highways very much but I love to speed. It makes me think of men’s bodies, and driving, and drifting; the sway; the dance of sex; like a dream.” What follows is an image of David standing in the desert landscape, screaming. The camera pirouettes around him, gaining speed and painting the landscape a dizzy blur. Speeding, driving, drifting, swaying, dancing, and fucking help him transcend the disintegrating interiority of his body. Of course, the body is utilized in the acts described, but it is through speed-induced abandon, emphasized by the swirling movement of the camera, that David comes to exist outside of himself. Disembodiment is also suggested when David’s anonymous sexual encounters trigger painful childhood memories.

More than simply traversing three stages of David’s life, Postcards from America intersects three identity categories: sexuality, class, and race. In writings on new queer films, little attention is paid to how issues of class and race (and a related term such as white trash) function in relation to the constitution of its predominating queerness. While Wojnarowicz’s confessional memoirs detailed the politics and poetics of his queerness, these experiences are grounded in an upbringing of working class struggle that led to his life as a homeless teenage hustler on the streets of New York City. In her essay on Dorothy Allison’s queer white trash stories, Jillian Sandell argues that confessional storytelling is a popular and sometimes powerful tool in contemporary culture because these stories, “when told, are presumed to enable and foster the creation of social and political communities”. While a proliferation of confessional stories continues to emerge, Sandell notes that “there are still certain stories which cannot be told—either because we have no language with which to articulate them or because there is no interpretive community to hear and understand them”. One story that cannot be told, for Sandell, is the story of class struggle in white American culture. The existence of white trashness through representations or lived realities does not always entail an awareness of complex class issues. These white trash tropes often flourish within the fabric of American cultural consciousness as a stereotype lacking autonomy and subjectivity (this occurs when white trash is sexualized as raw, uncivilized, and uncultivated). Conversely, depictions of white trash are often exoticized for their outsiderness, and accordingly commodified on romantic and mystified terms.

Representations of whiteness rarely acknowledge or challenge the privileged meanings embedded in the very constitution of white identity. Yet white trash cannot exist without forever acknowledging its class status as trash. When white trash is categorized as a collective cultural experience, through the accumulation of representations and stories, it risks being rendered an empty commodity. Sandell writes, “issues of economic marginality can be tolerated and articulated within the logic of liberal pluralism, so long as they can be circulated as cultural, rather than economic issues”. When the markers of identity become cultural signs, they are inevitably commodified. Class narratives are sidelined because other identity markers better lend themselves to commodification. Paradoxical as it seems, considering that queer resists categorization, new queer cinema is culturally intelligible because of its convenient categorization and commodification as queer pop culture. White trash stories are similarly commodified, but often with lashings of cynical humor or grotesquery, making it difficult to contemplate the complexity of white trash narratives, however fractured and displaced they appear in My Own Private Idaho and Postcards from America.

Kimberly Peirce, Boys Don't Cry, 1999

The Dustless Dream

A key aspect of this chapter has been identifying the alignment of queer white trash with the road. The internal contradictions of white trash—being a marked form of whiteness—parallel the contradictions of the road. Roads signify freedom and escape because they offer (although they can withhold) self-transformation. Conversely, alienation and danger emerge when its ongoing cycle of transformation traps the white trash subject in an inescapable loop. Boys Don’t Cry shows, like My Own Private Idaho and Postcards from America, that Brandon Teena’s attempts at transformation and longing for love always beget dangerous situations. Importantly, all three films establish the road as a key motif by featuring memorable images of the road in the opening scenes.

Xan Brooks notes that Boys Don’t Cry “filters its true crime material through the prism of New Queer Cinema.” It is the film’s representation of crime—invited by comparisons to films such as Badlands, In Cold Blood, and The Executioner’s Song that are about white trash criminals—that makes it a white trash text. Like these films (but unlike My Own Private Idaho and Postcards from America), Boys Don’t Cry employs conventional narrative structure to detail how Brandon (Hilary Swank) meets a tragic death because the real crime committed, in the eyes of “his” peers, was a crime of performance: the crime of passing as male. While Boys Don’t Cry is based on a true crime account of Brandon Teena, who was brutally raped and shot dead after “his” female anatomy was exposed on December 31, 1993 in Falls City, Nebraska, I am more concerned here with Peirce’s screen depiction of Brandon than with the complex ruminations that unravel around the real-life case. For a reading of the ethics of “biographical temporality” see Jack Halberstam’s lucid analysis of the voluminous media “archive” circulating around the figure of Brandon Teena.

Boys Don’t Cry demonstrates that gender and sex are forever unstable, inauthentic, disruptive, and capable of generating social division. Such division is represented through the metaphor of the wall. Most of its characters are wall people: bored white trash kids who congregate at night against the Qwik Stop convenience store wall. Based on a real-life subculture in Falls City, Nebraska, wall people hung out together in such locations because they could consume alcohol and get high on glue and aerosol cans stolen from the convenience store. The sense of small town entrapment is underlined by the wall people and especially evident in Lana (Chloë Sevigny), a disaffected factory worker who, once smitten by Brandon’s charms, abandons the wall.9 Halberstam argues: “While Brandon continues to romanticize small-town life, his girlfriend, Lana, sees him as a symbol of a much-desire elsewhere”.

When Brandon arrives in town, he represents freedom and potential escape from small town entrapment, symbolized by the wall. Brandon adopts an exaggerated cowboy masculinity that is assertive and fearless, sensitive and romantic. One of Brandon’s killers, Tom, sees through Brandon’s cowboy visage, claiming he rode into town on a “pussy-whipped faggot horse.” Represented as white trash, but possessing the qualities of “a little movie star” from “some place beautiful,” Brandon’s overstated masculinity becomes aligned with the Western genre where cowboys proliferate. Westerns mainly consist of white, rural characters whose sense of the landscape defines their identity. Brandon is very much represented as a cowboy traveling throughout a heartland setting of the American West: “a place of renewal and reinvention, a land where pioneers could throw off the shackles of the past and live the life they always dreamed of ” (Brooks). Brandon blends cowboy and frontiersman archetypes because such figures embody the performance and, by implication, passing of maleness. For Brandon, this passing is about movement between places as much as it is about passing (or the failure to pass) as a man invested in cowboy signifiers. Aaron argues, “in the spectator’s constant awareness of Brandon’s ambiguous identity—in the simultaneity of he and she—passing is failing: the reassuring distance between these ‘events’ (and the spectator’s experience of them) dissolves” (Aaron, “Queer Spectator”). Ang Lee’s more recent Brokeback Mountain—which also contains white trash tropes—shows how such heightened constructions of masculinity inevitably engender failed performances of heterosexuality because of barely contained queer investments in those very signifiers of masculinity.

Lana is more identifiable as a white trash archetype. When Brandon returns to Lincoln for a court appearance, he tells cousin Lonny that he will be returning to Falls City because of a girl. Brandishing a photo of Lana, Brandon remarks, “Isn’t she beautiful,” to which Lonny replies, “If you like white trash.” Brandon offers Lana the dream of a future together in a trailer: “The thing about the trailer park is we’ll have picnic tables, people playing music... And best of all, we’ll have our own Airstream.” When Brandon’s “airstream” is severed in death, Lana leaves Falls City, following Brandon’s fantasy of freedom. In these final scenes, the road is reflected on Lana’s face, suggesting she now recognizes the road’s limitless possibilities. When, earlier in the film, Brandon and his peers drive recklessly across the “dustless highway,” the enveloping and dreamlike experiences of the road contain an element of danger and risk:

The dustless highway is a real place in Falls City where the kids go; it’s a stretch of highway where, if you turn off the main road, this huge cloud of dust rolls up behind you, hides you and you just disappear... It’s like driving into a dream, and that’s exactly what the experience of going to Falls City was like for Brandon.

The American dream for the white trash characters of much new queer cinema similarly acts like a car-induced dust storm that “rolls up behind you,” erasing the white trash subject. Such a dream is linked to a desire to be in places that are forever held at arm’s length and inevitably short-circuited by the road. Marginality renders white trash incapable of experiencing the transformative characteristics of the great American road trip. Queerness, with its relational stress on movement, ensures that passing (or the failure to pass) is enacted along literal and metaphoric lines. It is their white trashness that often lures them out onto the road in search of that elusive something more. Whiteness, then, is always at the risk of being trashed when visibly marked by queerness and class, and once marked, it can no longer claim to be white. Queer white trash remains marginal because the drive to be transformed above and beyond one’s class origins is not a central concern. The key characters discussed inhabit and traverse the road, but the things that they long for remain unresolved, open-ended, and removed from the dominant culture. If anything, their queer white trash marginality is reinforced by the concluding moments of these films. That is, if they make it out alive.

The author dedicates this chapter to the memory of his friend and doctoral supervisor, Dr. Phillip Kent, who died from an AIDS-related illness in June 2003.

  1. Coming to terms with childhood experience and its impact on a queer hustler’s adulthood is the theme of Mysterious Skin, where new queer director Gregg Araki stages the experiences of pedophilia within a queer white trash milieu. Like Van Sant who uses road movie tropes to draw out its white trashness, Araki’s earlier film The Living End satirizes the romance of the American road trip. In one scene, a hitchhiking character played by Mary Woronov exclaims: “Oh my, a nomadic drifter, a lonesome cowboy hitching across the country like Jack Kerouac. How romantic. Isn’t that just fucking romantic.”
  2. An instrumental arrangement of the iconic song “Home on the Range” appears throughout. In an ironic turn, the phrase “Homo on the Range” appears early in the film as a caption on a porn magazine cover showing a photo of Scott wearing a cowboy hat.
  3. Oedipal queer white trash drama is also played out in Tarnation, directed by Caouette, an experimental documentary exploring the relationship of the filmmaker to his mother.
  4. Idaho has been represented in popular music before as a symbol of home. Van Sant was inspired by The B-52s Private Idaho, a song whose lyrics speak of a menacing Idaho: “You’re out of control/The rivers that roll/You fell into the water and down to Idaho/Get out of that state you’re in.” In white trash country music classic Nashville, directed by Altman, Ronee Blakely sings My Idaho Home, a song containing the line, “I still love mom and dad best, my Idaho.”
  5. It is based on Wojnarowicz’s biographical books Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration and Memories that Smell like Gasoline.
  6. See Kuspit “David Wojnarowicz” and Guattari “David Wojnarowicz.”
  7. See Daniel Mudie Cunningham “Authenticating White Trash.”
  8. On 11 March 2002, eight years after the film was released, Connie Francis filed a $40-million lawsuit against Universal Music Corporation, who licensed her songs for allegedly pornographic films. “She particularly objected to the use of four of her songs in the unrated film Postcards from America ... Francis describe [sic] it as a ‘vile, pornographic’ movie in her lawsuit. Francis’s attorney said that when she learned of the use of her songs in such films, she became particularly distressed given her fragile mental health resulting from a 1974 incident in which she was raped and tortured in a hotel room.”
  9. Another transgender film of the period, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, directed by Mitchell, represents social and sexual division through the figure of the wall. Hedwig’s divided sense of self draws out a search for “her” other half. The division metaphor begins by comparing Hedwig’s fractured gender identity to the Berlin Wall, which was still intact, oppressively dividing East and West Germany.
  • Michele Aaron, ed. New Queer Cinema: A Critical Reader. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2004.
  • Michele Aaron, “New Queer Cinema: An Introduction.” Aaron, 2–14.
  • Michele Aaron, “The New Queer Spectator.” Aaron, 187–200.
  • The B-52s. Private Idaho from Wild Planet. Reprise, 1980.
  • Badlands. Dir. Terrence Malick. Warner Brothers, 1973.
  • Boys Don’t Cry. Dir. Kimberly Peirce. Fox Searchlight Pictures, 1999.
  • Brokeback Mountain. Dir. Ang Lee. Focus Features, 2005.
  • Xan Brooks, Review of Boys Don’t Cry, dir. Kimberly Peirce. Sight and Sound Apr. 2000. 9 Feb. 2006.
  • Steven Cohan and Ina Rae Hark, “Introduction.” The Road Movie Book. Ed. Steven Cohan and Ina Rae Hark. New York: Routledge, 1997. 1–14.
  • “Connie Francis Sues Universal Music Over Movie Licenses.” Internet Movie Database. 12 Mar. 2002. 3 Mar. 2006.
  • Dennis Cooper, “Beauty and Sadness.” All Ears: Cultural Criticism, Essays and Obituaries. Ed. Cooper. New York: Soft Skull, 1999. 129–31.
  • Daniel Mudie Cunningham, “Authenticating White Trash: The Performance of Country Music in O Brother, Where Art Thou?Refractory: A Journal of Entertainment Media 4 (2003). 12 Mar. 2006.
  • Richard Dyer, White. New York: Routledge, 1997.
  • The Executioner’s Song. Dir. Lawrence Schiller. NBC. 1982.
  • Diana Fuss, ed. Inside/Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories. New York: Routledge, 1994.
  • Félix Guattari, “David Wojnarowicz.” GlobeE Online Journal. 12 Mar. 2006
  • Jack Halberstam, In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives. New York: New York UP, 2005.
  • Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Dir. John Cameron Mitchell. Fine Line, 2001.
  • In Cold Blood. Dir. Richard Brooks. Columbia, 1967.
  • David Kuspit, “David Wojnarowicz: The Last Rimbaud.” Queer Cultural Center Online. 18 Mar. 2006.
  • J.D. Lafrance, “Fringes of Society.” My Own Private Idaho. 4 Mar. 2006. 9 Feb. 2006.
  • Robert Lang, “My Own Private Idaho and the New Queer Road Movies.” The Road Movie Book. Cohan and Hark, 330–48.
  • Living End. Dir. Gregg Araki. October Films, 1992.
  • My Own Private Idaho. Dir. Gus Van Sant. New Line Cinema, 1991.
  • Mysterious Skin. Dir. Gregg Araki. Independent Artists, 2004.
  • Nashville. Dir. Robert Altman. Paramount, 1975.
  • Annalee Newitz and Matt Wray, White Trash: Race and Class in America. New York: Routledge, 1997.
  • Elizabeth Pincus, Review of My Own Private Idaho, dir. Gus Van Sant. Popcorn Q Movies. 9 Feb. 2006.
  • Postcards from America. Dir. Steve McLean. Strand Releasing, 1994.
  • B. Ruby Rich, “New Queer Cinema.” Aaron, 15–22.
  • Jillian Sandell, “Telling Stories of ‘Queer White Trash’: Race, Class, and Sexuality in the Work of Dorothy Allison.” Newitz and Wray, 211–30.
  • Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Tendencies. Durham: Duke UP, 1993.
  • “Synopsis.” Fox Searchlight Boys Don’t Cry Official Site. 1999. 9 Feb. 2006. 
  • Tarnation. Dir. Jonathan Caouette. Wellspring Media, 2003.
  • Amy Taubin, “Objects of Desire” American Independent Cinema: A Sight and Sound Reader. Ed. Jim Hillier. London: British Film Institute, 2001. 79–86.
  • Wizard of Oz. Dir. Victor Fleming. MGM, 1939.
  • David Wojnarowicz, Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration. New York: Vintage, 1991.
  • David Wojnarowicz, Memories That Smell Like Gasoline. New York: Artspace, 1992.

Peer reviewed book chapter for the anthology Queer Popular Culture: Literature, Media, Film, and Television, edited by Thomas Peele.

Published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2007.