chapter  6
18 Pages

Victim: hegemonic project

This is an approach to Victim in terms of its historical/cultural significance. It attracts my attention in the first place because of my involvement in the gay movement and because it was, in gay terms, a first – the first film to defend homosexuality as a cause in a mainstream context, the first to deal with gayness explicitly (earlier examples demand a good deal of ‘reading in’), the first to have a major star playing a gay character.1 In trying to work out the significance of Victim as a first, I have thought of it not as an expression of some vague Zeitgeist or cultural world-view, nor as a ‘stimulus’ which had a discernible ‘effect’ on the law, public attitudes or the daily lives of gay people, but rather as a way of intervening – a way characteristic of British cinema – in a social debate. I try to see the making and watching of Victim as social activities. In other words, I shall not be treating Victim as the sum of its influences (e.g. film conventions, the work of Relph, Dearden, Green and Bogarde), though I shall be discussing these; nor in terms of how people were influenced by it, though I shall be suggesting ways in which we can conceptualize this; but rather examining Victim as a particular characteristic organization of codes and conventions which gives warrant for certain kinds of reading on the part of its audience, that is, a particular set of encodings which makes possible particular decodings. Encoding and decoding are social practices. I try to keep in mind throughout the Marxist formula: ‘People (film-makers, audiences) make their own history (films), but not in circumstances of their own choosing’.