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UCL Mellon Programme: Interdisciplinary Seminar 2008-2009

Seminar: 7 November 2008 (Chair: Cüneyt Çakirlar, more ... )

A screening and discussion of [Safe] (dir. Todd Haynes, 1995) 119 mins


The film [Safe] focuses on an upper-middle class housewife, Carol White, living in Southern California, a white suburbia of the San Fernando Valley, who suddenly starts to suffer from environmental illness. Carol develops allergic bodily reactions to her environment. Haynes treats Carol’s illness as an undiagnosable and untreatable phenomenon of an immuno-deficient over-sensibility of the body towards its environment. He allegorizes it further as a failure of bodily agency. Thus, fixing the resistance of the protagonist’s body against medicalization or any kind of spiritual redemption, the whole story turns out to be Carol White’s experience of a process of disidentification and alienation through the institutions of knowledge in order to find a safe place within which to survive and equally a safe discourse in which she can achieve her self-realization through her illness, gets treated and healed. Haynes’s film is one of the most influential critiques of both genre and identity. Apart from its debatable status as a gay-conscious commentary on AIDS politics, [Safe] is a powerful cinematic experimentation which, in manipulating the visual genre-conventions such as melodrama and noir, challenges the viewer’s experience of identification with the ill body.

Suggested Readings:

Davis, Glyn. ‘Health and Safety in the Home: Todd Haynes’s Clinical White World’, Territories of Desire in Queer Culture: Refiguring Contemporary Boundaries, edited by David Alderson and Linda Anderson ( Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp. 183-201.

Doane, Mary Ann. ‘Pathos and Pathology: The Cinema of Todd Haynes’, Camera Obscura 57, 2004, pp. 1-20.

Muñoz, José Esteban. ‘Dead White: Notes on the Whiteness of the New Queer Cinema’, GLQ 4:1, 1998, pp. 127-38.

Naismith, Gaye. ‘Tales from the Crypt: Contamination and Quarantine in Todd Haynes’s [Safe]’, The Visible Woman: Imaging Technologies, Gender and Science, edited by Paula A. Treichler, Lisa Cartwright and Constance Penley (New York: NYU Press, 1998), pp. 360-87.

Pendleton, David. ‘Out of the Ghetto: Queerness, Homosexual Desire and the Time-Image’, Strategies: Journal of Theory, Culture and Politics 14:1, 2001, pp. 47-62.

This page last modified 26 September, 2012 by UCL Mellon Admin

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