The Road Movie Book

By Steven Cohan; Ina Rae Hark | Go to book overview

14

REVITALIZING THE ROAD GENRE

The Living End as an AIDS road film

Katie Mills

If we find nothing else unanimous about adventure road films, we might agree that they appeal to that darker side of people's psyches where rebellion thrives, wild and free. Hence, the outlaw outlook of the road film The Living End (1992) engages fans of this genre, but it also deviates from our expectations in significant ways. Most viewers who sympathize with the outcast in road films are also pretty good at respecting, even if unconsciously, the rules about outlaw narratives. We come to count on the tried and true pleasures of genre, and take satisfaction in pegging the bad guys early on, noticing subtle variations on the motives that put people on the run, or second-guessing the next move in a chase scene. The question that interests me in The Living End is not how the rogues break the law, since they inevitably will do so, but how the film breaks the laws of stories about outlaws. The Living End, Gregg Araki's independent film about two HIV-positive gay lovers on the lam, rebels against the road genre itself in its aim to revitalize the power of cinematic story-telling in an AIDS era.

My study of The Living End is part of a larger project of theorizing how the road story offers marginalized communities a ready narratological structure to represent rebellion and collective transformation. Such groups then challenge the genre with their own embodied differences of gender, sexual orientation, or race. An earlier generation of alternative film-makers - the French New Wave and American avant-garde - developed an aesthetic which was intent on destroying traditional film techniques in order to disrupt the semiotics of capitalist society. Today, the return to genre and popular narrative forms by non-dominant film-makers reveals a new strategy for constructing a rebel viewing position. By analyzing the road genre in this larger sense, as a repository of images of marginality and autonomy, we can better understand how popular narrative provides a performative space for imaginative revisions of identity and society.

-307-

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The Road Movie Book
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Plates ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Works Cited 14
  • Part I - Mapping Boundaries 15
  • 1 - “hitler Can't Keep 'Em That Long” 17
  • 2 - Western Meets Eastwood 45
  • 3 - Mad Love, Mobile Homes, and Dysfunctional Dicks 70
  • Notes 86
  • Works Cited 89
  • 4 - On the Run and on the Road 90
  • Works Cited 107
  • Part II - American Roads 111
  • 5 - Almost like Being at Home 113
  • 6 - Wanderlust and Wire Wheels 143
  • 7 - Exposing Intimacy in Russ Meyer's Motorpsycho! and Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! 165
  • 8 - The Road to Dystopia 179
  • Works Cited 202
  • 9 - Fear of Flying 204
  • Notes 227
  • Works Cited 228
  • Part III - Alternative Routes 231
  • 10 - The Nation, the Body, and the Autostrada 233
  • 11 - “we Don't Need to Know the Way Home” 249
  • 12 - Hom E and Away 271
  • 13 - Race on the Road 287
  • 14 - Revitalizing the Road Genre 307
  • 15 - My Own Private Idaho and the New Queer Road Movies 330
  • 16 - Disassociated Masculinities and Geographies of the Road 349
  • Index of Films 371
  • General Index 375
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