Thesis Title: HIV Positive/HIV Negative: Ethical Representation in Contemporary HIV Film
My thesis proposal regards the prescription of responsibility in onscreen representations of AIDS. The research questions through which I will shape my thesis directly respond to a research imperative, the critical interrogation of the cinematic representation of those living with AIDS all over the world. The chosen questions enable me to situate the characters not only in their own socio-political, historical and cultural contexts, but on a cosmopolitan and/or global scale as well. Indeed, my research will cover a scope of films, both those that are specifically about AIDS, and also those in which its effects and affects are felt by HIV positive characters or those living in their world. I intend to survey recent and contemporary World Cinema as well as key television programmes and series. One of the primary objectives of this thesis is to examine filmic representations of HIV and AIDS in their negotiation and subversion of prescribed attributes, stereotypes and inherited trauma, and to demonstrate how more responsible representation might (and hopefully will) lead to constructive or progressive changes in social attitudes or public policy. Another objective of this thesis is to look at ideas of compound marginalisation, where onscreen figures may belong to two or more oppressed groups, and ways in which films about HIV and AIDS might empower a global community of people with AIDS. My methodological choices are those most closely aligned with queer and feminist theorists, which will enable me to infuse my work with a sense of its critical social and political potentiality. I aim to weaponize representation and demonstrate how it can be used to actively fight against cultural misconceptions of AIDS, as an invisibility cloak or a “gay plague”, through the reconciliation of prescribed, conscribed and preferred identifications of those with HIV and AIDS in film. I have moved from using the term "AIDS film", which really only applies for films focusing on the period between the advent of AIDS and the introduction of antiretrovirals, to "HIV film". Though AIDS is obviously still a huge issue worldwide, its mutability and its stigmatisation as a term, and "HIV film" is more appropriate.