Gay TV and Film Classics

In two new titles, the film Maurice is examined for the historical and significant role it played in gay cinema, and the TV sitcom Will & Grace gets some much deserved recognition.

Greven, David. Maurice. McGill-Queen’s Univ. (Queer Film Classics). Sept. 2023. 208p. ISBN 9780228018780. pap. $21.95. FILM

When the Merchant Ivory film Maurice was released in 1987, it received mixed reviews. Greven (English, Univ. of South Carolina; The Bionic Woman and Feminist Ethics) succeeds in restoring it to an honored place among significant movies that feature a gay protagonist. The book begins by noting the impact the film had on the author as a young man. But this is more than a personal reflection; Greven carefully situates Maurice in multiple contexts, including its historical significance in gay cinema of the 1980s. This book compares how the film closely followed E.M. Forster’s posthumous novel of the same name, but it also made some notable departures. The book points out how several deleted scenes, only available on special-edition DVDs, might have made the movie stronger. The concluding chapter, theoretically strong and informed by queer theory and film studies, is sophisticated yet accessible to a broad audience. Greven writes with a clarity that will likely appeal to general audiences and film scholars alike. A more complete bibliography of criticism of the film would have made a nice addition. VERDICT Highly recommended for fans of Maurice and general film buffs, who will likely enjoy and learn from Greven’s detailed and historical perspective.—David Azzolina

Pugh, Tison. Will & Grace. Wayne State Univ. (TV Milestones Series). Sept. 2023. 123p. ISBN 9780814349069. pap. $19.99. TV

Pugh’s (English, Univ. of Central Florida; Queer Oz: L. Frank Baum’s Trans Tales) succinct book on the groundbreaking sitcom Will & Grace gives it some much-needed recognition. Within four brief but comprehensive chapters, the book examines how the show subverted the traditional sitcom format over eight seasons (1998–2006) by centering queer characters and humor. Pugh does an excellent job of charting how Will & Grace helped make portrayals of LGBTQIA+ characters a part of “must-see TV” for mainstream audiences. The book indicates that the show relied heavily on stereotypes and tropes, but many also viewed the show as a light-hearted balm during a fraught time for LGBTQIA+ rights. Pugh documents how viewers laughed along with the fictional foibles of Will and Grace and their friends, Jack and Karen, as landmark legal cases such as Lawrence v. Texas established a new era of queer rights in real life. Will & Grace returned to NBC in 2017 and ran until 2020. VERDICT The author persuasively proves that Will & Grace deserves its reputation as a classic sitcom and a milestone for LGBTQIA+ representation.—Claire Sewell

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