Date of Award

Spring 5-13-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program




Major Professor

Dr. Elizabeth Steeby

Second Advisor

Dr. Earl Bryant

Third Advisor

Dr. Doreen Piano


I will focus on the resistance to white heteronormative depictions of the American family occurring within two contemporary films directed by gay black men—The Skinny, directed by Patrik-Ian Polk, and The Happy Sad, directed by Rodney Evans. These movies complicate understandings of black gay male relationships by humanizing the characters and providing clarity about the motivations behind the decisions these characters make. As opposed to simply associating their queerness and immorality, the directors of these films explore what brings people to the various social positions they occupy. In this way, these directors resist the tendency to pathologize either blackness or queerness (and blackness/queerness at the expense of one another). The films I use do not structure family through the heteronormative model of relationships. Of there is no sight or mention of actual biological family members. Despite these factors, the groups of people presented in these films display their love and affection for each other in ways that resist monolithic narratives about queer kinship. Additionally, I will argue that these narratives regarding black homosexuality are not attempting to fit inside the mold of the racialized patriarchal determinants of the family.


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