THIS YEAR marks the seventieth anniversary of Kenneth Anger’s Fireworks, widely considered the ur-film of American queer cinema. In the pages that follow, artist and film scholar Ara Osterweil reexamines the seminal short as a response to profound social tensions—racial, sexual, and nationalistic—that came to a head in the aftermath of World War II.

Kenneth Anger, Fireworks, 1947, 16 mm, black-and-white, sound, 15 minutes. United States Navy sailors.

THE INAUGURAL FILM of postwar queer cinema and a watershed event in the history of the American avant-garde, Kenneth Anger’s Fireworks of 1947 is an autobiographical account of the awakening of desire. Shot when the filmmaker was only seventeen years old,1 the film is the sadomasochistic fantasy of a young man, played by the teenage Anger, who dreams he is sexually assaulted by a gang of sailors. Like its young author, the film was precocious. Made in the immediate aftermath of World War II, just as the United States was entering the Cold War, in which it imagined itself to be the policeman of world democracy, Fireworks shocked its audiences with violent depictions of sexual brutality and gang rape by military personnel. Although the modern sexual revolution and the civil rights and gay rights movements were years if not decades away, Fireworks explored the pleasures and perils of same-sex desire and interracial identification in a culture in which homosexuals and racial minorities were demonized and persecuted. Seventy years later, the film feels just as prescient. In an America perpetually at war with enemies real and phantasmagoric, Anger’s subversive eroticization of politics confronts the sadism of imperial power with the masochism of the queer subject. It is arguably the most political wet dream ever filmed.

LIKE ALICE IN WONDERLAND and The Wizard of Oz, Fireworks pivots on a dream: An “innocent” young protagonist falls asleep and dreams up a world of desires too dangerous to be acknowledged in waking life. In most Hollywood dream films, viewers are immersed in the screen’s wonders until the end of the film, when they are yanked abruptly from its fantasy mode and assured that all they have witnessed was “just a dream.” With this return to reality, what might be called queer desire is once again repressed, along with the vital contradictions between public and private life that such dreams engender. Yet when Anger’s character awakens at the end of Fireworks, he discovers that evidentiary traces of his fantasy have permeated his waking life.

In the history of American cinema, dream structures serve a variety of purposes, whether as strategic attempts to avoid censorship or as ways of introducing surreal content into more standard narratives. Dreams often function as sites where characters and audiences alike can explore forbidden intimacies. These explorations can be deadly or ecstatic. In Kenneth Anger’s Fireworks, they are both.

Fireworks’ insistence on the actuality of homoerotic desire and sexual activity was a first in American cinema. Yet the sexual desires that animate the film did not ignite in a vacuum: They were part of an emerging gay culture in midcentury Los Angeles. They were also a response to the militarization of public life during the war and to the racial and ethnic tensions that convulsed Los Angeles in the immediate postwar period. In its brutal staging of sexual violation, Fireworks erotically transforms historical trauma into Anger’s own metaphorical birth and baptism.

Kenneth Anger, Fireworks, 1947, 16 mm, black-and-white, sound, 15 minutes. Kenneth Anger.


Born in Santa Monica and raised in Beverly Hills, Anger stitched his self-image from the dream stuff of Hollywood. It should thus come as no surprise that fact and fantasy bleed in his biography, as they do in his famously incendiary book of gossip, Hollywood Babylon (1959). Anger’s beloved grandmother was, according to the filmmaker, a costume mistress during the silent film era.2 Supposedly it was she, working with Max Reinhardt, who got young Kenneth a role in the famed Austrian-born theater director’s 1935 cinematic adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Anger claims to have appeared as the Changeling Prince. But while Hollywood was bursting with child actors in the 1930s—Anger danced with Shirley Temple at the Santa Monica Cotillion and went to high school with her stand-in, with whom he collaborated on an early film3—child auteurs were a far more singular breed.

Anger began making films in 1937, when he was ten. He used his family’s 16-mm Kodak movie camera and the end scraps of their home-movie reels; the spring load on the camera allowed him to shoot for only thirty seconds at a time. By the time he made the fifteen-minute Fireworks, Anger had a Bell & Howell camera that operated at 24 fps.4 He shot the film in his family’s home in Beverly Hills over the course of three nights while his parents were away. His production materials were modest. Shooting on stock supposedly stolen from the US Navy,5 Anger transformed his family home into a hotbed of “inflammable desires” with the help of a large canvas depicting a saloon that he had lifted from the abandoned set of a western. A scene in which Anger appears nude on the floor of a public urinal was shot on location in the public men’s room of Olive Hill park while a friend kept watch outside.6


According to Alice L. Hutchison, Fireworks may have been shown in 1947 at a midnight screening at the Coronet Theatre,7 “a gay male social hub” in West Hollywood that had been established that year and which frequently screened “art films with queer overtones.”8 If this was the case, the screening was among the earliest at the theater, but it remains undocumented. Other scholars suggest that Fireworks may not have been shown publicly until the early 1950s.9 Either way, if you are to believe Anger’s anecdotes, there were more famous people in attendance at this legendary early screening in Los Angeles than you could cram into a clown car. Frankenstein’s director, James Whale, was there, as was pioneering sexologist Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey, whose best-selling 1948 book Sexual Behavior in the Human Male coincides nicely with the 1947 screening date. (According to Anger, Kinsey interviewed him about his sexual experiences, filmed him, and bought a copy of Fireworks—Anger’s first sale—for one hundred dollars.)10 When the movie screened again at the Coronet in 1957, the LAPD vice squad leveled an obscenity charge at theater operator Raymond Rohauer. The case went to trial, where the program of films was denounced as arousing lascivious thoughts among the young men in attendance. What was really at stake in the trial, however, was the very existence of the Coronet as a “site of gay community formation.”11 Although Rohauer was found guilty of showing obscene material, in a decision that collapsed the distinction between literal nudity and Fireworks’ evocative but nonexplicit phallic images, the verdict was soon reversed by the Los Angeles County Superior Court. Yet in spite of the legal disentangling of homosexuality from obscenity in this 1959 ruling, the assumption that queerness was inherently obscene persisted.12

Fireworks also screened alongside Curtis Harrington’s 1946 experimental film Fragment of Seeking at Rudolph and Pauline Schindler’s famous Kings Road house around 1948. John Cage and Merce Cunningham were in attendance, as were other radical artists and intellectuals. The screening did not go well: Cage apparently told Anger and Harrington that their films had “nothing to do with art.”13 According to Anger, Mrs. Schindler called the filmmakers a week later to tell them that they were both “very sick young men.”14

Not everyone was so discouraging. In 1949, Anger submitted Fireworks to the Festival du Film Maudit in Biarritz, and his filmmaker hero Jean Cocteau awarded it the Poetic Film Prize. Cocteau then wrote to the young director expressing his admiration for the work, which persuaded Anger to move to Paris. In 1950, he took Cocteau’s advice. He found a job at the Cinémathèque Française as an assistant to Henri Langlois and remained in France for a decade. While there, Fireworks was exhibited at several European festivals, where it was better received than it had been in the States. Of course, European audiences had not only experienced the war and its ravaging of innocence firsthand but had witnessed the transformation of the representation of adolescence in the various national cinemas that emerged from the rubble.

Roberto Rossellini, Paisà (Paisan), 1946, 35 mm, black-and-white, sound, 120 minutes. Joe (Dots Johnson) and Pasquale (Alfonsino Pasca).


Kathryn Bond Stockton has argued that the child of the twentieth century was queered by innocence, color, money, and Freud.15 To this damning catalogue, let us add war. Images of devastated childhood are among the most memorable in war’s distended photographic archive: A doomed boy, arms upraised, stands with other Warsaw Ghetto Jews under the watch of an armed German soldier. One is certain that this child, as Roland Barthes muses about another boy elsewhere, is both dead and going to die.16 In another searing image, a naked Vietnamese girl, her body scorched by napalm, runs down a road screaming. The silent frame, vibrating from her howl of pain, can barely contain her agony. These are the nightmare visions from which postwar conceptions of childhood cannot awake.

Decimating the myth of childhood innocence, war transforms children into witnesses, participants, and casualties. In the twentieth century, war also fundamentally changed the representation of children in visual culture. Simultaneously the most vulnerable locus of war’s treachery and the last hope for the future, the child is everywhere in the Italian Neorealist cinema of the 1940s. In answer to the “representational problems that arise from the surrender of the heroic male protagonist,”17 the male child parallels and highlights the limitations of adult male characters. Gendered male, Neorealism’s child is a wanderer, an urchin, an orphan, a miniature partisan, and a mimic of adult atrocity. Queered, we can find him in Neorealism’s alternate cast of cripples, masochists, suicides, thieves, and murderers. These queer children refuse the paltry forms of reparation and futurity that they are offered. Whenever we meet them, we discover that normal conceptions of time and place have been razed.

Emerging simultaneously in the immediate aftermath of World War II, both Fireworks and Italian Neorealism reimagine adolescence through a dark glass, rendering lingering notions of juvenile innocence obsolete. The children in these films are not passive figures but knowing subjects whose keen understanding emerges from the circumstances of their precarity. Squired by war, Neorealism’s queer children have complex political agency, perverse desires, sadomasochistic proclivities, and a penchant for navigating the broken world through what Stockton calls “sideways” forms of growth.18 They also, like Anger’s alter ego in Fireworks, tend to mediate encounters between national identity and ethnic and racial otherness.

Interracial, intergenerational encounters figure prominently in Neorealist cinema. In Paisan (1946), the second film in Roberto Rossellini’s wartime trilogy, a drunken African American soldier named Joe meets Pasquale, a young Neapolitan urchin. When we first see him, Joe longs to go home, only to recall, suddenly and bitterly, that the home to which he wishes to return is racially segregated America. Throughout Paisan, the characters speak different languages and thus fail to understand one another. Nonetheless, Pasquale recognizes (though does not fully comprehend) the social implications of Joe’s blackness. He takes advantage of Joe’s inebriated state, “buying” him from fellow street kids. Later, when Joe falls asleep, Pasquale steals his boots. Apprehending the child thief on a subsequent day, Joe demands the return of his boots and takes the child “home” to retrieve them. Yet when Joe witnesses the squalid cave in which the orphaned child dwells with dozens of other homeless Neapolitans, he leaves without his boots and without any further retributive justice. Despite their ethnic and racial differences, Joe and Pasquale come to recognize each other as kindred. Such cross-cultural identifications became the basis for many of the intergenerational intimacies in postwar cinema.

Wandering a devastated world in which the normative structures of civilization are overturned, Neo-realism’s children are often confronted with erotic energies that have run rampant. In the third film of Rossellini’s trilogy, Germany Year Zero (1948), the shattering of a young boy’s innocence serves as a metaphor for the ruined topos of bombed-out Berlin. Wandering around the city hustling for money, Edmund and his environment are posed as phenomenological equivalents. Edmund succumbs to the pedophilic seductions of a former teacher, a Nazi whose musings on survival of the fittest are taken literally by the boy, who then begins plotting his aging father’s death. After being rebuffed and abandoned by his exploiter, the boy is broken, and his undoing proves fatal. Edmund has been so tragically queered by money, war, and Nazism that he relinquishes the future he has been denied, and throws himself off a building. Nearly simultaneously, but worlds away, an (allegedly) teenage Kenneth Anger embraces the erasure of his own future by celebrating his ecstatic submission to violence. Whereas Edmund’s suicide is an act of desperation so melancholic that it is hard to imagine the future of childhood in its wake, Anger eroticizes his own nullification, fashioning a queer mode of survival. What might these queer boys have to say to each other across the ocean of their desires?

Germany Year Zero is the closest that Italian Neorealism came to reckoning with the psychic life of children. Made at the same time, Fireworks meditates on the generative possibilities of psychic and sexual shattering. In so many ways, Fireworks anticipates the explosion of the queer underground cinema that blossomed in the United States in the ’60s and in which Anger’s later film Scorpio Rising (1963) played a central role. Yet Fireworks is also a product of its own “queer time and place.”19

In a famous quip, Anger described Fireworks as all he had “to say about being 17, The United States Navy, American Christmas and The Fourth of July.”20 When the film begins, we see his body draped, pietà-like, in a sailor’s arms. The film cuts to a close-up of Anger’s face as he sleeps, followed by shots of his nude torso, hands, and what appears to be a massive erection, but which turns out, in Eisensteinian fashion, to be a phallic African totem. A plaster cast of a hand with missing fingers inaugurates the film’s fascination with besieged corporeality. As in most dream narratives, we suspect that the dreamer has merely imagined himself in the sailor’s arms. However, when the young man awakes, he is surrounded by photographic evidence of this illicit encounter. Confounded by these uncanny traces, the protagonist discovers further evidence in his pocket of the forbidden intimacy in a book of matches emblazoned with the words UNITED STATES NAVY. In this way, the film both invokes and refuses the dream logic, for these intrusions of the real insist on the film’s relation to the world beyond its frame. This slipperiness persists as the protagonist walks through a door marked GENTS into another dream topography that merges nighttime images of the Cahuenga Pass with images of a bar and the entrance to a men’s toilet. As Juan Suárez notes, “These references open the film up to the almost clandestine world of bars, gyms, physique magazines, and cruising areas to which the postwar homosexual culture was mostly confined.”21

On the other side of the door, Anger’s double meets a contemptuous muscle queen who taunts him by assuming a variety of poses that might have been lifted from the pages of Vim or Your Physique. Rebuffed for asking for a light, Anger is slapped silly and then offered, in one of the film’s visual puns, a bundle of blazing sticks. It’s a lame joke, but one that would have resonated with any viewer who had ever been called a faggot.

After a momentary respite, the young man turns around only to encounter a menacing group of sailors swinging chains and clubs. Again, reality punctures fiction: The gang members were played by authentic American sailors who were studying to be cameramen at the University of Southern California.22 They approach and attack him. Blood erupts from the young man’s nose as he is beaten mercilessly. Upside-down close-ups of his face show the man in an agony easily mistaken for ecstasy. In one of the film’s many unsubtle references to ejaculation, a bottle of milk shatters beside him. The young man’s chest is pierced with broken glass and we see gruesome shots of the man’s eviscerated chest cavity. We glimpse a wavering electrometer buried in the mess. Refusing to provide a sentimental image of a dead queer child, Anger provides an image of an eviscerated body that is actually a machine. Erotically charged by his own annihilation, he supplants the hypocrisy of the American dream with this vision of nihilistic ecstasy.

The climax of the film is signified by the liquefaction of the dreamer’s body in milky ejaculate. Poured from above, cream flows over the man’s mouth, throat, and chest. We see a quick shot of Anger lying nude on the floor of a public urinal and then another image of the door marked GENTS. A lone sailor with a bulging erection cuts a heroic figure, but when he lights the phallus protruding from his fly, it turns out to be a Roman candle that showers fireworks. Anger’s character reemerges, wearing a gilded Christmas tree on his head, awkwardly positioned for penetration. As the tree is consumed by fire, photos of the earlier pietà scene ignite, destroying the dream’s archive of queerness. The distinction between fantasy and reality bends as we see Anger, sleeping again in his room, alongside a shirtless man whose visage is erased in an explosion of painted white rays intended to obscure the actor’s identity. The film ends with a false image of reparation, as the severed fingers of the plaster hand are reattached only to bid a fond “fuck you” to the audience.

Kenneth Anger, Fireworks, 1947, 16 mm, black-and-white, sound, 15 minutes. Kenneth Anger and Gordon Gray.


The tensions that charged midcentury Los Angeles profoundly shaped Anger’s ecstatic vision of besieged sexuality. For Anger, who had grown up in Santa Monica—well known for its gay beaches and nightlife—LA was a city of desire and oppression. While gay populations had thrived in the City of Angels since the turn of the century, wartime brought an upsurge of police entrapment. It also solidified the growing identification of queer desire with aspects of military and physique culture, especially sailor iconography.

Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Los Angeles saw itself as on the front lines of the war in the Pacific. Civilian patrols were established throughout the city, and beaches were fortified with antiaircraft guns. With LA functioning as a “major training and transit point for military personnel,”23 up to fifty thousand servicemen could be found there on any given weekend. Members of the armed services frequented the local cruising grounds. During the war, diarist Donald Vining wrote of cruising downtown Pershing Square for soldiers on leave, as gay men commonly did.24

The militarization of Los Angeles was a response to the fear of external threats. But these fears were also internalized. America’s relation to its own racial, ethnic, and sexual others grew increasingly paranoiac. Prejudicial violence was directed most explicitly against Asian Americans, Latinos, and African Americans. But, as Anger experienced personally, it was also directed against gays and lesbians.

Beginning in 1942, Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps scattered across the West Coast and Middle America. Overall, 120,000 people were incarcerated, more than 60 percent of whom were American citizens. The internments exacerbated a labor shortage brought about by the induction of millions of American workers into the armed forces. This vacuum drew a mass influx of Mexicans to Southern California; as nationalist sentiments escalated, Angelenos of Mexican descent encountered increased hostility.

Tensions erupted in Los Angeles in the summer of 1943. For a week in June, riots tore through the city. Claiming retribution for supposed attacks by Mexican youths against servicemen, white sailors and marines rampaged around town, violently assaulting young Chicanos in public places. Fueled by the anti-Mexican sentiment that had crystallized a year earlier during the Sleepy Lagoon murder case, these “zoot suit” riots revealed significant polarizations in wartime American society.25 Named for the distinctive garb that Mexican youths had appropriated from African American hipsters of ’30s Harlem, the melees pivoted on the sexualization of ethnic and racial difference. Hunting down young Chicano and African American teens and men in bars, in movie theaters, and on streetcars, mobs of servicemen stripped and beat their victims simply for the crime of not being white. Although some victims were as young as twelve or thirteen, the press responded to the crisis by demonizing the Chicano victims and celebrating the uniformed perpetrators. In a slew of racist, inflammatory “reports,” the Los Angeles Times applauded the sailors for teaching the so-called zoot suiters a valuable “moral lesson.”26 Journalists even described the riots as having a cleansing effect. One LA paper gave instructions on how to “de-zoot” a zoot suiter: “Grab a zooter. Take off his pants and frock coat and tear them up or burn them.”27 The night the article appeared, June 7, a crowd of five thousand rioters gathered downtown. But this time the mob was no longer made up only of sailors stationed in LA but of civilians and servicemen from other installations, some from as far away as Las Vegas. Part of the mob headed south for the predominantly African American section of Watts. Another group headed for the Mexican neighborhood of East Los Angeles.

In a matter of days, the Los Angeles City Council criminalized the wearing of zoot suits. After an official commission investigated the riots, the mayor proclaimed that racial prejudice had not been an issue. Yet within weeks of the Los Angeles violence, attacks against Latinos and African Americans swept across the country, inciting race riots in Chicago, San Diego, Oakland, Detroit, Philadelphia, New York, and elsewhere.

Sexual tensions played a significant role in the riots. Sailors were in direct competition with the local zoot suiters for the attention of young women.28 Yet the effort to repress an eroticized, racialized youth culture ended up transforming interracial, same-sex sadomasochism into a public spectacle.

This eruption of violent, sexualized conflict between dominant and marginalized forms of masculinity had a profound impact on Anger. As he has acknowledged, the zoot-suit riots served as an artistic and sexual awakening. Not only did these disturbances spark “his fascination with the image of the sailor,”29 they helped to forge an erotic, masochistic identification with America’s racialized others. Although the racial dynamics that inspired the film are nowhere in evidence in its whitewashed cast of characters, Fireworks uses a fantasy of being beaten to dramatize the radical implications of Anger’s growing sense of identification with those Mexicans and African Americans who were beaten in the streets and vilified by the media. For Anger, the zoot-suit riots served as a primal scene for the emergence of a sexual identity in opposition to heteronormative conceptions of masculinity.

The articulation of postwar queer identity was, as Fireworks suggests, inextricable from the prohibitions against it. Victimized in an incident of police entrapment,30 Anger recognized the kindred plight of the oppressed zoot suiters while simultaneously perceiving shadows of his own desires in the rioters’ mutual attraction and hostility. Putting his own body in the place of the abjected Mexicans and African Americans, Anger fantasizes his violation by a gang of sailors. Inviting punishment and then exhibiting his own metaphoric castration by the sailors, the filmmaker offered his adolescent body up as a sacrifice to a social order that was as inimical to queers as it was to Americans of color. Yet by staging his own surrender to the crushing forces of homophobia in what is essentially his coming-out film, Anger constructed an image of his selfhood in the very terms of its destruction.

Such masochistic self-fashioning can be dangerous business. For as the fear of punishment gives way to the wish for it, eroticism threatens to lead the subject to his own annihilation. We must only remember Rossellini’s cautionary tale of what happens to queer boys when they allow themselves to be fucked by Fascists to know that Anger was treading on perilous ground.

Imaging himself queered by war, Anger reanimates Germany Year Zero’s dead child by ushering him away from death toward a different, potentially radicalizing form of shattering. Anger’s ecstasy, like Edmund’s plight, is a psychic and erotic rendering of historical crisis. By luxuriating in the “pleasures of harm”31 that precocious adolescents are sometimes keen to cultivate, Anger’s alter ego finds “sexual fulfillment through a masochistic surrender to gay bashing.”32 Yet as Leo Bersani argues in a famous essay written in response to the aids crisis, “The rectum need not be a grave.” Powerlessness and inequality in sex can be valuable not only as sensual pleasures but, as Bersani suggests, for their ability to catalyze the “radical disintegration and humiliation of the self” that is the “precondition for the very establishment of a relation to others.”33 By fetishizing the sailors’ brutality, Anger not only instrumentalizes the men for his own pleasure but also affirms a cross-cultural identification with, and libidinal investment in, an imagined community of others. Figured as nourishment and purification, Anger’s ejaculatory ecstasy baptizes deviant sexuality while deluging America’s holy trinity of religion, patriarchy, and racism. When confronted with domestic fascism, Anger imagines masochistic self-destruction as a form of queer birthing. Torn asunder and covered in cum, Anger invites us to imagine new forms of erotic citizenship. Welcome to America Year Zero.

Ara Osterweil is a painter, a film scholar, and an associate professor of cultural studies at McGill University in Montreal. She is the author of Flesh Cinema: The Corporeal Turn in American Avant-Garde Film (Manchester University Press, 2014).


1. Anger has always claimed that he was seventeen at the time. Other sources, including biographer Bill Landis, suggest he may have been older. In his Anger: The Unauthorized Biography of Kenneth Anger (New York: HarperCollins, 1995), Landis gives Anger’s birthday as February 3, 1927, which would have made the filmmaker twenty when Fireworks was completed.

2. Landis disputes this fact, insisting that it was Anger’s grandmother’s same-sex partner, rather than his actual grandmother, who did costumes for Hollywood. Landis, Anger, 7–9.

3. Ibid., 11, 17.

4. Kenneth Anger in conversation with Kate Haug, Wide Angle 18, no. 4 (October 1996): 90.

5. Tony Rayns, “Lucifer: A Kenneth Anger Kompendium,” Cinema, no. 4 (October 1969): 23.

6. Kenneth Anger, audio commentary, Fireworks (1947), from The Films of Kenneth Anger, vol. 1 (San Francisco: Fantoma, 2007), DVD.

7. Alice L. Hutchison, Kenneth Anger: A Demonic Visionary (London: Black Dog Publishing, 2011), 31.

8. Whitney Strub, Perversion for Profit: The Politics of Pornography and the Rise of the New Right (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), 38.

9. According to Scott MacDonald, Fireworks was shown twice at Cinema 16 in New York, in 1952 and 1953. See his Cinema 16: Documents Toward a History of the Film Society (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002), 171, 195. Also see David E. James and Adam Hyman, eds., Alternative Projections: Experimental Film in Los Angeles, 1945–1980 (London: John Libbey, 2015), 132.

10. Mick Brown, “Kenneth Anger: Where the Bodies Are Buried,” Esquire, January 3, 2014, Anger also mentions this in the audio commentary for Fireworks on the Films of Kenneth Anger DVD, although he doesn’t give a year for the Coronet screening.

11. Strub, Perversion for Profit, 38.

12. Ibid., 38–40.

13. Hutchison, Kenneth Anger, 35.

14. Curtis Harrington, oral-history interview with Kenneth Anger and Larry Jordan, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, November 8, 2003.

15. Kathryn Bond Stockton, The Queer Child, or Growing Sideways in the Twentieth Century (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009), 8. According to Stockton, these forces work violence on the concept of childhood by imposing a fetishistic fantasy of privileged, presumably white, innocence over the actual queerness of children.

16. Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Hill and Wang, 1982), 95.

17. Jaimey Fisher, “On the Ruins of Masculinity: The Figure of the Child in Italian Neorealism and the German Rubble-Film,” in Italian Neorealism and Global Cinema, ed. Laura E. Ruberto and Kristi M. Wilson (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2007), 28.

18. Stockton theorizes the queer child’s propensity for growing astray, or “sideways,” rather than straight, in order to avoid achieving heteronormative benchmarks of adulthood.

19. This phrase is borrowed from Judith Halberstam’s In a Queer Time & Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives (New York: New York University Press, 2005).

20. Hutchison, Kenneth Anger, 222.

21. Juan A. Suárez, Bike Boys, Drag Queens, and Superstars: Avant-Garde, Mass Culture, and Gay Identities in the 1960s Underground Cinema (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996), 129.

22. Anger, audio commentary, Fireworks.

23. Hutchison, Kenneth Anger, 33.

24. Donald Vining, A Gay Diary 1933–1946 (New York: Pepys Press, 1979), 324–25, 344–45.

25. Eduardo Obregón Pagán, Murder at the Sleepy Lagoon: Zoot Suits, Race, & Riot in Wartime L.A. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003).

26. “Zoot Suiters Learn Lesson in Fights with Servicemen: Gangs Stay Off Streets After Dark,” Los Angeles Times, June 7, 1943, A1.

27. “People & Events: The Zoot Suit Riots of 1943,” PBS, accessed December 5, 2016,

28. Hutchison, Kenneth Anger, 33–35.

29. Ibid., 33.

30. Landis, Anger, 37. According to Landis, Anger was the victim of police entrapment in or near the camera obscura in Palisades Park.

31. Stockton, Queer Child, 61.

32. Tony Rayns, “Inflammable Desires,” Sight & Sound 19, no. 7 (July 2009): 34.

33. Leo Bersani, Is the Rectum a Grave? and Other Essays (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010), 24.

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