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"Hixploitation" Cinema, Regional Drive-ins, and the Cultural Emergence of a Queer New Right


This essay crafts a theory of queer conservatism by tracing understudied links between sexual nonnormativity and the rise of the New Right via the genre of hillbilly exploitation (hixploitation) cinema. I first rehearse the genre's formal and political markers as it was popularized at regional drive-ins across the US Midwest. I next analyze one paradigmatic film—Bloody Mama (1970)—to substantiate its cultural operations for a largely white, working-class viewership, and then consider what hixploitation tells us about the intimate relationships between nascent conservative imaginaries and US sexual and racial politics that intensified during the 1970s and thereafter. Tracing how hixploitation functioned during a pivotal decade for LGBTQ activism, I contend that the queerness inherent within this cinema paradoxically aided emergent strains of social conservatism.

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