Corpses, Fools and Monsters: The History and Future of Transness in Cinema (Paperback)

Corpses, Fools and Monsters: The History and Future of Transness in Cinema By Willow Maclay, Caden Gardner Cover Image

Corpses, Fools and Monsters: The History and Future of Transness in Cinema (Paperback)


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A radical history of transness in cinema, and an exploration of the political possibilities of its future.

In the history of cinema, trans people are usually murdered, made into a joke, or viewed as threats to the normal order — relegated to a lost highway of corpses, fools, and monsters.

In this book, trans film critics Caden Mark Gardner and Willow Catelyn Maclay take the reader on a drive down this lost highway, exploring the way that trans people and transness have evolved on-screen.

Starting from the very earliest representations of transness in silent film, through to the multiplex-conquering Matrix franchise and on to the emergence of a true trans-authored cinema, Corpses, Fools and Monsters spans everything from musicals to body horror to avant garde experimental film to tell the story of the trans film image. In doing so, the authors investigate the wider history of trans representation — an exhilarating journey of compromise, recuperation, and potential liberation that they argue is only just the beginning.
Willow Catelyn Maclay is a freelance film essayist and critic. She has written for the Village Voice, MUBI, Vulture and Roger She contributed to the film anthologies Laura's Ghost: Women Speak About Twin Peaks and She Found it at the Movies: Women Writers on Sex, Desire and Cinema.
Caden Mark Gardner is a freelance trans film critic and researcher on trans film images. He has written for the Criterion Collection, MUBI, Film Comment, Reverse Shot, and other film outlets in the United States.
Product Details ISBN: 9781914420580
ISBN-10: 1914420586
Publisher: Repeater
Publication Date: July 9th, 2024
Pages: 340
Language: English
"A sorely-needed and comprehensive audit of twentieth-century trans film history... a deeply engrossing, thoughtful, and often recuperative examination of transness in film."
- Daniel Lavery, author of Something That May Shock and Discredit You

"A thoughtful, revelatory, and rewarding read from two of the most essential critics working today."
- Ashley Clark, Curatorial Director, Criterion Collection

"As timely as it is vigorous, brave, and intelligent... Gardner and Maclay have written one of the most important - and exciting - works of long-form film criticism of this century thus far."
- Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, author of 1,000 Women in Horror: 1895-2018

"Gardner and Maclay reach into the guts of the trans film image, into the disreputable world of mondo movies, into unfortunate prestige pictures and forgotten radical Cinéma vérité and bring all of it to a present moment teeming with possibilities. This is an untold history treated with wit and intelligence and a humane, searching tone."
- Scout Tafoya, director of Enjoy Your Trip to Hell and House of Little Deaths

"A superb work of film history... lively and thoroughly researched, a treasury of astute film criticism, and a portrayal of the highways and byways of trans (legal; medical; political) that is both engaged and dispassionate. A definitive treatment of the subject."
- Molly Haskell, author of From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies

"An invaluable tour through the history of trans images on film, ranging from international and underground landmarks, to Oscar winners and beyond. The perfect gift for your well-meaning cis cinephile friends who have a lot to learn."
- Karina Longworth, author of Seduction: Sex, Lies and Stardom in Howard Hughes's Hollywood

"An instant classic in the field of queer film studies... Gardner and Maclay illuminate the diverse and complex ways that the medium has charted the history of their community over the past century, carefully analyzing a wide range of Hollywood movies as well as films that deserve to be much more widely known."
- Andrew Chan, author of Why Mariah Carey Matters

"Traversing carnival sideshows, secret mountain communes, defunct medical facilities, lush European teahouses, and blockbuster cyberpunk simulations, Corpses, Fools, and Monsters is a crucial resource for the modern filmgoer, highlighting the importance of archival care and intergenerational dialogue in the trans community."
- Kamikaze Jones, Arts Editor for Wussy Magazine

"Well-researched and endlessly readable, Caden Mark Gardner and Willow Maclay have created something crucial for our times that will no doubt become one of the classic texts of cinema history and criticism."
- Millie DeChirico, co-author of TCM Underground: 50 Must-See Films from the Classic Cult and Late-Night Cinema

"A powerful intervention to the often fraught concept of representation, one that shines through its nuanced and thoughtful prose. Moving, invigorating, and readable. I devoured it with immense joy."
- Grace Byron, writer and poet 

"Corpses, Fools and Monsters is the work of passionate movie-lovers renegotiating their own bad romance."
- Adam Nayman, author of David Fincher: Mind Games

"A benchmark in queer cinematic writing. I left Corpses, Fools, and Monsters both enlightened and optimistic about the trans film image—and about the future of film criticism in general."
- Michael Koresky, co-founder of Reverse Shot and author of Films of Endearment: A Mother, a Son and the '80s Films That Defined Us

"Mixing tender and rigorous research into a largely hidden archive with lyrical and polemical close readings of everything from silents to slashers, this wonderful book excavates the history of the moving image to discover its potential future."
- Mark Asch, author of Close-Ups: New York Movies