Brandon Arroyo

Undergraduate Discipline

Film History

BA, Brooklyn College. MA, New York University. PhD, Concordia University. Co-editor (with Tom Waugh) of I Confess!: Constructing the Sexual Self in the Internet Age (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2019), as well as articles published in Porn Studies, Queer Studies in Media & Popular Culture, MedisCommons, Communication, Culture and Critique, ScreeningSex, Synoptique, and a chapter in Handbook of Adult Film and Media (Intellect Press, forthcoming). Primarily interested in theorizing about adult media, affect theory, queer theory, and new media. Currently working on a monograph about Cruising (1980) and teaching at Queens College. SLC, 2023–

Undergraduate Courses 2024-2025

Film History

Celebrity Studies

Open, Lecture—Spring

FLMH 2031

In his book, The Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama wrote this about himself: “I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views. As such, I am bound to disappoint some, if not all, of them.” In this rare moment of critical self-evaluation, Obama revealed a key to understanding celebrity culture—that our thoughts about celebrities have far less to do with the celebrity themselves and much more to do with how we project our own anxieties, joys, cultural condition, and economic position in society onto those we admire. In short, we often use celebrities to help us understand our own views on the world and how we’d prefer to move through that world. In examining the increasingly self-aware culture associated with celebrity, mass media, and Web 2.0, we will discuss the ways in which celebrity is conceived, constructed, performed, and discussed—as well as how it shapes notions of identity and has reconfigured concepts of work, class, consumption, intimacy, authenticity, and the “American dream.” A critical analysis of celebrity encompasses many aspects of culture, and we will draw connections between celebrity and a number of issues, including: scandals and yellow journalism; the erosion of privacy; aspirational fantasies of social mobility; notions of health, beauty, and success; celebrities as memes; how celebrities are used to advance political causes; and the ways in which individuals become commodities. With an emphasis on media’s relationship to celebrity, we cover a broad range of topics and modes of analysis. We will conduct a brief history of celebrity culture, from the heroes of the precinematic era and the cultivation of the larger-than-life Hollywood star to the intimate television personality and the even more personal social media microcelebrity. We will discuss the ways in which celebrity exceeds the boundaries of a given text; for example, how the viewer’s insights into a particular star may shape their interpretation or enjoyment of a text. We will analyze the ways in which social media such as X (formerly known as Twitter), YouTube, and Instagram foster new relationships between celebrities and fans and blur the boundaries between production and consumption. We will consider the social and cultural roles of gossip and scandal, as they often provide focal points around which cultures establish behavioral norms. Celebrity is also a “product” that is produced, regulated, and monetized; as such, we will address the ways in which people as images are owned and circulated in “the celebrity industry.”


Exploitation and Trash Cinema

Intermediate, Large seminar—Fall

FLMH 3410

Prerequisite: First-Year Studies: Hollywood From the Margins

The history of American cinema is often framed around films of great aesthetic merit, like Citizen Kane, Sunset Boulevard, The Godfather, 12 Years a Slave. But what happens when we examine this history from the vantage point of its bottom rungs: the lowly, the disreputable, the trashy, the ephemeral, and the sleazy? What do these films—less important as works of art, perhaps, but equally important as windows into various moments of cultural history—tell us about American society? This course utilizes exploitation films and various cinematic “trash” genres to interrogate this and related questions, situating these often forgotten or dismissed films in terms of historical conflicts over race, class, gender, sexuality, and more. Along the way, we will also contemplate matters of aesthetics, analyzing why these films are considered “trash.” And perhaps most importantly, exploitation cinema offers a unique opportunity for marginalized writers, directors, and actors who were historically shunned by the Hollywood studios to create a voice of their own via filmmaking. Marginal films give voice to marginalized races, genders, and sexualities that were excluded during a Hayes Code-dominated Hollywood “golden” era and remain excluded within the advertiser-friendly Hollywood of today. The only way to gain a complete understanding of Hollywood’s politics is to analyze the type of cinema and filmmakers that were actively excluded from the studio system. This class aims to give both a historical and cultural analysis of the crucial role that exploitation cinema has played in giving voices to the voiceless. Among the marginalized genres we will discuss are the “white slave” films of the 1910s, drug-panic films, social hygiene films, “sexploitation,” kung fu, gay/trans storylines, “Blaxploitation,” horror, and action films.


Previous Courses

Film History

Cultural History of Music Videos

Open, Lecture—Fall

This class explores how music videos, musical short films, and TikTok videos can be understood as a popular cultural object reflecting a multitude of political, social, and cultural trends from the 1930s through today. While many people think of music videos as being associated only with MTV, this class takes a more wholistic perspective by also considering musical short films—some examples include Len Lye (A Colour Box, 1935), Mary Ellen Bute (Synchromy No. 2, 1936), Normal McLaren (Five for Four, 1942), a multitude of Soundies starring African American performers from the 1940s, and Nam June Paik (Global Groove, 1973)—as a way to expand our understanding of the long historical impact that these shorts have had on global culture. Unlike the majority of music-video syllabi, this class prioritizes a cultural analysis approach to the medium, which allows students to utilize their textual analysis skills and apply them to pressing cultural issues. Some of the theory discussed in the class includes how to read closeups utilizing the work of theorist Béla Balázs; utilize the work of Richard Dyer to understand the role that disco music played in the gay rights movement in the 1970s; contextualize the postmodern aesthetic of MTV as a way to understand Ronald Reagan’s presidency; analyze the role that music/videos play in revolutionary politics—from the Carnation Revolution in Portugal to the fascist attack on Chilean democracy in 1973 to the role that music videos played in critiquing the politics of globalization in the 1990s; and the role that TikTok plays in the new Cold War between China and the United States. We also wrestle with issues of Black respectability politics within rap culture, as well as consider the Frankfurt School’s concept of the “cultural industry” within the framework of South Korean K-pop. Considering that there are far more music videos being made today—by both amateurs and professionals—than in MTV’s heyday, it becomes essential to consider how this media form reflects how musical images can be both a form of utopic escape from political conflict and a primary way in which our culture engages in political conflict.