“Coming Together: The Cinematic Elaboration of Gay Male Life, 1945-1079 by Ryan Powell— The First M/M Films


Powell, Ryan. “Coming Together: The Cinematic Elaboration of Gay Male Life, 1945-1079, University of Chicago Press, 2019.

The First M/M Films

Amos Lassen

Ryan Powell’s “Coming Together” looks at c the social and political issues of the first wave of movies made by, for, and about male-loving and desiring men in the United States between World War II and the 1980s. He explores the  underground films of Kenneth Anger and the Gay Girls Riding Club as well as the gay liberation-era hardcore films and domestic dramas of Joe Gage and James Bidgood illuminating how central filmmaking and exhibition were part of  gay socializing and worldmaking. Powell has found films and film-related ephemera and shows how they unsettle popular histories that see Stonewall as a ground zero for gay liberation and visibility.  This  “generation of movie-making—which defiantly challenged legal and cultural norms around sexuality and gender—provided, and may still provide, meaningful models for living.”

 Covering over three decades of American history. Powell gives a fresh perspective, making experimental cinema, community-based spectacle, mainstream features, and hard core porn all become part of each-other as male-desiring worldmaking. Powell uncovers both utopias and contradictions onscreen and off. This is a “meticulously researched account of the development of the collective self-fashioning of gay men from the end of World War II to the late 1970s, and of the central role filmmaking and filmgoing played in that process.” It simultaneously urges us to examine key historiographic issues (what counts as part of film history beyond the films themselves; the role of film analysis in social history; and the idea that history may be understood in terms of sudden turning points [as Stonewall is so often perceived]). Powell explores the terms used by and about gay men; of being ‘underground’ and coming ‘out’; and the implications of ‘coming together’ as a “historical process, a social practice, and an erotic ideal.” Powell gives us an elaboration of gay male life owes to the storytelling power of all types of films.”

 Table of Contents


1 Picturing the Underground
2 The Cinematic Authoring of Gay Life
3 Toward a Gay Mainstream
4 Liberation Porn


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