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Alexander Cho
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Remembering Alex Doty

Posted By Alexander Cho, Thursday, March 7, 2013

One highlight of my conference thus far was last night’s celebration of Alex Doty’s life and work. The event was poignant and the reception organized by IU afterwards was equal parts joyous and bittersweet. Like many people there, though I had never met Alex in person, his work has been absolutely crucial to my own—I can’t imagine there being a queer media studies without him, and I can’t imagine being able to do my own research without his.

I had never met him in person, but I did have the opportunity to meet and work with him "virtually”—I was his editor for the series of three columns he wrote for a few years ago. In even this fleeting and disembodied interaction with him, he left a big impression on me. I’ve been thinking about this since yesterday’s event, especially since I was not expecting those short pieces to come up in the various remembrances, but they did. I’ve been thinking about what I learned from him.

Editors of Flow approach academics to write three columns on any topic they chose over the span of about four months. Contributors are not paid, and it is not a traditional print journal, so it is a labor of love. Most often, we get a polite, "No thank you, I’m too busy,” and sometimes we just get no response. Annie Petersen, the outgoing editor, suggested I approach Alex for our new issue, as he had expressed interest to her at some point in the past, but I thought it was a long shot. He was, after all, perhaps the most visible and significant queer media academic we had ever approached. To my surprise (though I expect, after last night’s remembrances, this may not have surprised those who knew him) he responded right away with a cheery and enthusiastic, "Yes.” I was floored.

His first column came in right on time. It was an editor’s dream: perfectly written, formatted, and with carefully-selected images. It was an introduction of sorts, and he went into detail about his TV viewing practices as a kid and adolescent. As I read through it, though, I was worried. As an editor, I worried that he revealed too much – he confessed to his crushes (Pernell Roberts on Bonanza) and his identification with Lambchop and Captain Kangaroo. Was this TMI? Would this resonate with readers? Was it too casual?

Silly me. I should have known. My insecurities, not his. Alex was someone who lived the "personal is political,” who spent his career showing us how he saw things, "taking us along for the ride with him” in the words of one of last night’s speakers. This is what his work was all about. This is what he opened up for us. He was fearless in this sense, and that is why his work has so much power and duration.

I’ve realized in retrospect it was all perfectly planned on his part. He knew exactly what he was doing – he introduced his queer youth viewing practices in his first column, he wrote about his current pleasure in viewing Hot in Cleveland for his second column, and he finished off with a brilliantly written third piece that critically read the opening sequence to the 2010 Emmys as an anthem to homonorativity, though he elegantly avoided aca-hipster jargon. He covered all bases; I’m sure he had this three-piece arc structured in some fashion from the get-go.

And his writing! Clear, accessible, precise, concise. It is so much harder to write this way than to rely on buzzwords and obfuscation.

After thinking about last night’s speeches and remembering this interaction with him, I’ve realized what inspires me about Alex was his intense courage to be himself, to write things the way he saw them, and do it well, with no apology. This, coupled with the courage to be kind, warm, and open. How amazing is that? It is a rare combination, made even more rare by his passing.  

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Greetings, and Panel Picks

Posted By Alexander Cho, Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Hi there,

My name is Alex Cho and I'm a PhD candidate at UT-Austin in the Department of Radio-TV-Film. I'm looking forward to sharing thoughts and observations in this space. I research race and lgbtq culture as it plays out over social media, which might give you an idea of the sorts of panels I'll be attending and writing about here.

Side note: I've been sitting here in a coffee shop watching the snow come down...and down... and down... but it seems like Chicagoans have a bit of pride in being able to carry on in this midst of a snowstorm!

I've been scanning the program, and here are some panels I'm excited about seeing:

A19 Film Music: Gender, Sexuality, and Taste Formations
B11 Multiculturalism and/in South Korea
C15 Pink Narcissus, Mildred Pierce, and Kaboom
E6 Serious Diversions
E15 Affect/Identification/Phenomenology
F11 New/Media/Archaeologies
G23 Marlon Riggs's Tongues Untied at 25 (with my fellow blogger Racquel Gates)
H1 Post-cinematic Affect
H19 Porn Comes Home
H23 Spreadable Media

What panels are you excited about? Post in the comments here or on the main blog!

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