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Lecture: Fascist Era Masculinities in Italian Cinema

Wednesday, March 22, 2017
12:00pm – 1:30pm

Storrs Campus
Rainbow Center; Student Union 403

The Out to Lunch Gender, Sexuality, and Community is a weekly academic lecture and discussion series with guest scholars and community activists from various disciplines examining a variety of topics related to gender identity, gender expression, and sexuality. Each semester offers a broad sampling of the areas.

Today's lecture is entitled, "The Boxer’s Locker Room: Fascist Era Masculinities in Italian Cinema" and will be presented by Simone Puleo.

The presentation explores a cultural history of Italian Fascism, in which homosexuality is suppressed and often criminalized. Gay men “discovered” in Fascist Italy were often shunned, interned, or imprisoned, segregated from the general population, as was the case with the Isole Termiti (Termiti Islands). The public presence of gay men threatened the heteronormative image of virile masculinity that the Fascist regime so desperately wanted to project. However, film directors from the Fascist period, and others later, often include non-heteronormative representations of masculinity – at times, to show that homoeroticism and same-sex attraction persisted no matter how much Fascists tried to deny, suppress, or erase them, and to document how gay men (and all members of the LGBTQ+) were persecuted under the Fascist regime. For example, Lo Spagnolo or “the Spaniard,” a minor character in Luchino Visconti’s neorealist classic Ossessione (1943) is forced to lead the life of a vagabond because of his sexuality. Though Lo Spagnolo is shown to live on the margins of Fascist society, Visconti does not characterize him as “morally deviant”.

Non-heteronormative representations of masculinity take center stage in later films that return to the Fascist period such as Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist (1970) and Guliano Montaldo’s Gli occhiali d’oro or The Gold Rimmed Glasses (1987). The Conformist explores the life of a Fascist spy named Marcello Clerici. The film’s conflict arises from Clerici’s own repressions: though he works as a Fascist spy, he secretly harbors liberal, anti-Fascist political sentiments – and though he takes a wife, fathers a child, and conforms publicly to Fascist heternormative conceptions of masculinity, he is secretly a gay man. Furthermore, The Gold Rimmed Glasses takes place in 1938 and features an affluent doctor named Athos Fadigati. Set in the town of Ferrara, the film shows the state-mandated discrimination and persecution of Italian Jews after the passing of the Italian Racial Laws. With state-mandated, anti-Semitic discrimination in the background, Dr. Fadigati is discovered to be a gay man by community and is subsequently shunned. While the Italian Racial Laws did not have explicit provisions regarding gender or sexuality, these films show that very strong sentiments of hatred and disapproval existed in Italian society and were unofficially sponsored by the Fascist Regime. All these films are anti-fascist and arguably explore the lives of gay chara


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