Our culture continues to be preoccupied with difference. From the most
banal and everyday of practices to the most spectacular and extraordi-
nary of representations, differences mark our cultural production. For
some time, however, our contemporary investments have tended to eroti-
cize and aestheticize rather than to neutralize, deny, or smooth out differ-
ence. Popular representations have amplified these eroticizing impulses
by elaborating social differences as aesthetic or sensational effects. In the
movies, dedicated as they are to spectacle, then, it is not surprising to
find an intense focus on those differences that we are inclined to asso-
ciate with visibility-gender and race. So powerful is our cultural wish to
believe that differences give themselves to sight that the cinema is able
to capitalize, both ideologically and financially, on the fascination that
dazzling visual contrasts exercise upon us. At the same time, as films read
our social field, they may both mobilize and contain the conflict, uneasi-
ness, and overwrought affect that so often accompany the confrontation
of differences in everyday practices. Cinema seems to borrow and chan-
nel those energies through a volatile affective range, from terror, panic,
shock, and anxiety to titillation, thrills, excitement, fascination, plea-
sure, and comfort, while it proliferates representations of social difference
as a central or peripheral spectacle.
This book aims to analyze the interactions between racial and sexual
difference in contemporary popular films. These representations exercise
reciprocally structuring effects, as each difference helps to determine the
spaces that the other inhabits, the shapes it takes. This process works as
actively in
the context of the spectator positions and audience forma-
tions that popular films continually renegotiate, as it does in the repre-
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