My knowledge of Peeping Tom will forever be incomplete.  For some reason, my disc freezes and refuses to play from about the 75-minute mark to the 85-minute mark.  (From what I understand, I miss two crucial scenes:  Mrs. Stevens’ confrontation with Mark and the psychologist’s explanation of scopophilia.)  And now that Criterion’s version is out-of-print, I can’t easily go out and buy a new one.  I looked to see if the disc was scratched, but no:  all I could see was my horrified reflection staring back at me, screaming No, no!

Even with the commentary track switched on, no go.  Shortly after Laura Mulvey says, “It was Andre Bazin who first pointed out the relationship between photography and death,” she cuts out entirely.  Even stranger:  when I went to check out Visual and Other Pleasures from the University of Delaware library today, it was listed as ‘missing.’

The world conspires to keep me ignorant.

I know just enough film theory to pontificate convincingly, but not enough to do it with conviction.  My lack of conviction, however, wasn’t enough to keep me from presenting a paper at the 8th Annual Lambda Rising Queer Studies Conference at the University of Colorado, Boulder.  (I don’t believe that a 9th Annual Conference ever took place.)  This was in the spring of 2000, after I’d already decided to attend the University of Houston for my MFA in fiction writing.  I don’t recall ever taking a formalized class in film as an undergraduate; most of what I knew was self-taught.  I was a dilettante.  Still, I thought, it would be fun.

So the Saturday morning of the conference, Matthew and I made our way up to Boulder.  I’d practiced my presentation — a running commentary on the film Sleepaway Camp — with the ease of a man trying to pass off a cubic zirconia as a diamond.  And I wonder if my nervousness that day was akin to the nervousness I feel the first day of classes every semester:  all those faces, waiting for you to feed them knowledge.

My presentation, admittedly, was an unholy mish-mash of Laura Mulvey, Carol Clover and Harry Benshoff — not to mention that Sleepaway Camp hardly merits critical attention.  But as I lectured, I could almost believe my own theories:  the camera as not just a male gaze, but a homosexual male gaze; watch how it travels beneath the partition of the bathroom to peek at the occupant, how it lingers on the bodies of the male skinny-dippers.  Oh, Camille Paglia would have my head on a platter, but theory is nothing if it isn’t a way to look at the world, and while I spoke, I understood the world of Camp Arawak, and the foothills sunshine of the city outside me, and the audience that sat before me, who gasped as that curling iron really went you-know-where.

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