Date Thesis Awarded

5-2019

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)

Department

Film Studies

Advisor

Jennifer Taylor

Committee Members

Jennifer Taylor

Richard Lowry

Arthur Knight

Abstract

Despite the fact that Luca Guadagnino’s 2017 romance film Call Me By Your Name centers on a same-sex romance in the 1980s, it does not explicitly mention AIDS, homophobia, or even the very notion of homosexuality. Its protagonists are also Jewish, yet anti-Semitism is mostly swept under the rug. There is only one line of dialogue about the socialist politics of then-Prime Minister Bettino Craxi, yet the word “socialism” is not used. Why does Call Me take place in a utopia where all politics are simply erased, and why do we, as audiences—perhaps especially as young, left-leaning people who came of age in the Obama years—generally support (or ignore) this erasure? In this thesis, I attempt to answer this question using several strategies. First, I outline how Call Me expunges politics in favor of a perfect world. I then look to the opinions of critics and everyday audiences about why the film’s utopia is or is not appealing. Then, I suggest understanding Call Me as a text that is engaged with what Freud termed “acting out” as opposed to his notion of “working through” a trauma. As Eric Santner and Dominick LaCapra re-articulate Freud’s ideas in their work on trauma and German history, “working through” can be understood as a productive and difficult coming to terms with past trauma, while “acting out” describes a very unproductive process of ignoring, erasing, rewriting or fetishizing that trauma in order to avoid it. Thus I reference the works of Eric Santner and Dominick LaCapra, as well as Cathy Caruth and Jo Labanyi, who also work on trauma and representation. Furthermore, I support this reading using Sander Gilman’s analysis of the Italian film Life is Beautiful (1997) as a fetishized narrative about Italian history during World War II. I also compare Call Me to Brokeback Mountain (2005) and Angels in America (2003), two films depicting gay male relationships that fully expose the sort of utopia that Call Me maintains as dangerous omission. I end my paper by ruminating on the cultural context that led to the success of Call Me, asking, what is it about 2017 that makes us crave such a fairytale?

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