Kip Jones

KIP JONES, an American by birth, has been studying and working in the UK for more than 19 years.
Under the umbrella term of 'arts-based research', his main efforts have involved developing tools
from the arts and humanities for use by social scientists in research and its impact on a wider
public or a Perfomative Social Science.

Jones is Reader in Performative Social Science and Director of the Centre for Qualitative Research
at Bournemouth University. Kip has produced films and written many articles for academic
journals and authored chapters for books on topics such as masculinity, ageing and rurality,
and older LGBT citizens. His ground-breaking use of qualitative methods, including
biography and auto-ethnography, and the use of tools from the arts in social science research and
dissemination are well-known.

Jones acted as Author and Executive Producer of
the award-winning short film,
RUFUS STONE, funded by Research Councils UK.
The film is now available for
free viewing on the Internet and has been
viewed by more than 13,000 people in 150
countries.

Areas of expertise
• Close relationships, culture and ethnicity
• Social psychology, sociology
• Ageing, self and identity
• Interpersonal processes, personality,
individual differences,
social networks, prejudice and stereotyping
• Sexuality and sexual orientation
• Creativity and the use of the
arts in Social Science

Media experience
His work has been reported widely
in the media, including:
BBC Radio 4,BBC TV news,Times
Higher Education, Sunday New
York Times, International
Herald-Tribune
and The Independent.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

"Peformative Social Science: What it is, What it isn't" Revisited

University academics and managerial types alike seem to be awash these days with ideas of 'creativity' as some new miracle tool, and play as a key component to engagement. They bring together academics and convince them that playing with toys, colouring in, and tickling their toes with mud will somehow produce what has been lacking in their scholarship. New buzz word are shared. Everyone goes home happy.

Wrong.  

What is sometimes called 'arts-based research' is none of these. If anything (and those who have really engaged with using tools from the arts to discover knowledge and to disseminate their findings are well aware), an approach using the arts in research takes about twice the time and effort.

Performative Social Science (PSS) is an arts-led approach that has been developed over more than ten years at Bournemouth University, It has been written about in journals and books, and demonstrated in a variety of examples such as online graphic publication, film production, and new fiction writing.  PSS in philosophically grounded in Relational Aesthetics and Relational Art which take into account the viewer/participant as key to its approach.  (I have written at length on the development of Performative Social Science.) 

What follows is a much earlier piece that was developed for a seminar at Bournemouth University. I was beginning to grapple at the time with both the joys and problems thrown up by my turn to the creative, the arts, and the fictive in representing social science research.  I present that essay here as a alternative to the buzz words and play dates becoming common place in academic circles these days.

“Performative Social Science: What it is, What it isn't”

Seminar script

Kip Jones

Seminar presented at Bournemouth University, 13 October, 2010

Publish or perish drives much of academic life. It has its origins in hard science
where the first to get an experiment, finding or theory into publication won the prize.
Other academic disciplines followed suit by imitating this system. This structure has
developed a style of academic writing and a vetting process that are both by now
antiquated and suspect.

We are all caught up in this bind from time to time, me included. Fortunately,
publishing is evolving and, more and more, supplementary multi-media are requested
as part of the publication procedure. Audience share and economics drives most of
these changes, but that doesn't mean that it isn't a good time to take advantage of this
expansion of the opportunities for academic outputs.

Qikipedia recently cautioned on Twitter: “About 200,000 academic journals are
published in English. The average number of readers per article is five. Funders are
now looking for outcomes from their investments that demonstrate how we will affect
change in the wider world, i.e., the world beyond the very few other academics who
happen to read a journal article. This climate of flux presents opportunities to get the
products of our alternative methods of dissemination of social science data to wider
audiences—to popularize research. This is why I now revisit one of my early cracks at
audio/visual script writing and production, “The One about Princess Margaret” here
today.

Why popularize research?

Personally, one result of the current academic climate is that I am less interested
in writing that does not communicate directly with an audience and include my “self”
in that narrative. Somewhat reluctantly at first, therefore, I began to explore auto-
ethnography and its potential for more personal communication with an audience and
the platforms that I might use in order to reach that audience. I realized that all I
really have to share with anyone else is my own experience. It may be flawed and/or
of little value to anyone else. For these reasons, I try to write and produce for various
media in a way that will be of some use to others in their own work. I attempt to
accomplish this with some skill and craft—to “popularize it” at the same time. The
natural follow-up for me was to revisit the arts and humanities for potential tools that
might enrich this transition.

Filmmaker, Jean Luc Godard is often credited with having once said, "It's not
where you take things from—it's where you take them to” (BoingBoing 2010). In my
best auto-ethnography, I am actually a minor character and/or a conduit to a time,
place and other people. I become fictionalized through writing. I am the sorcerer who
reminds audiences of their selves. In terms of visual representation of such stories, I
become a keen observer of lives, allowing cultural images to become private and
iconic. These remembered images twist and turn and eventually morph in various
ways to be included as my own graphic memories. These visual ‘mash-ups’ are truly
Ethno-Graphic. Indeed, our visual memories can become imbued with both intense
cultural and personal meaning. This is the visual auto-ethnography that I hope to
represent in my work.

Along with exploring visualizations of research data over the past ten years or
so, I have also experimented with writing performatively, or rather, representing in
text what I am trying to accomplish imaginatively. Several examples include the
results of an interview with Mary Gergen; the script for an audio/visual production
about Klaus Riegel and Kenneth Gergen; a very early piece about Akira Kurosawa
and Gerotranscendence; and, of course, the script for “The One about Princess
Margaret”.

I think it is important to revisit the initial motivations behind these early efforts
and even try to recapture a bit of their naïveté and my initial enthusiasm for finding
innovative ways of expressing my scholarship. As I labor to become more
sophisticated and skillful in my productions, it is important for me not to forget the
initial struggles and uncertainties that are documented by those earlier attempts. This
is the reason behind another screening of “The One about Princess Margaret” here
today.

Why was this particular medium chosen?

“The One about Princess Margaret”, like many of my early pieces, involved
being presented with a particular puzzle or challenge and then finding the tools from
the arts to respond to such questions. In the case of “The One about Princess
Margaret”, it is important to recall that the production was built in PowerPoint—
testing the software’s potential to its limits, then converted to video. My initial query
was: How can humor be used to capture time/place and culture and how will the
results measure up to scrutiny as auto-ethnography? Thus my personal leap into
auto-ethnography and the development of Performative Social Science (PSS) began
with a research question.

I did not suddenly decide to transform into a graphic illustrator, scriptwriter or
filmmaker. I remain a social scientist with a particular story to tell or message to get
across by exploring which media will best help me to accomplish that. I don't worry
about whether I am exceptionally good at the use of a specific medium but rather,
wonder if that means will serve the purpose at hand. I then begin the struggle with the
specific new means of communicating. This process itself holds many of the joys and
frustrations of each project, but also the opportunities to really explore the creative
process.

I believe that, on the whole, the writing up of our projects should be ancillary to
this new performative work; the text should never be the main output. For me, more
interesting as documents are the scripts themselves, the notes or the diagrammatic
evidence that our projects leave behind as a kind of trail, trace or map. When we do
publish, these sorts of records certainly hold more relevance for me. I am more and
more convinced these days that any academic written texts reporting our efforts at
popularizing research should be supporting ancillary documents to our productions,
not the other way round and certainly not the final results or raison d’êtres of our
investigative efforts.

Many who have turned to PSS have shifted to the arts for both inspiration and
practical assistance in answer to our own frustrations with more standard research
4practices. Perhaps typical qualitative academic methods have become shop worn
(routinely slotting vast amounts of data into themes and then banging on about “rigor”
comes to mind as an example)? Possibly the problem lies within our diffusion of
data? Do we write too routinely about the “evocative” without knowing what it is that
is being evoked and how or, better yet, what our work might provoke instead? Yes,
we turn elsewhere, aptly so. The arts encourage us to be at the forefront of change and
innovation in academia, challenging the status quo and moving our fields forward—
the rightful place of scholarship.

What is Performative Social Science?

Is Performative Social Science art or social science? It isn’t either. It is a fusion
of both, creating a new model where tools from the arts and humanities are explored
for their utility in enriching the ways in which we research social science subjects
and/or disseminate or present our research to our audiences. This does not mean that
we simply put on a play or make a film (and I need to constantly be wary of that
pitfall myself these days in lieu of the increasing amount of my own cinematic
output).

It certainly isn’t taking interview transcriptions, leaving out a line or two here
and there, rearranging it on the page in stanza format mimicking poetry, and then
passing it off as poetic inquiry. (Even worse: then calling ourselves poets.) It isn’t
thinking that our lives are so precious and unique (the “snowflake” phenomenon) that
surely the world wants us to dramatize them—too often through embarrassingly
intimate performances of over-cooked angst. Typically to a captured conference
audience, academics present these hysterics by crawling around the floor for half an
hour and calling it dance or by producing a monologue that seems never to have a
narrative arc or conclusion. As audience members, we often wish we had chosen the
parallel book launch with complimentary sherry instead.

In its place, let us return to what we already know quite well: academic research.
I recall the standard rule-of-thumb suggestion that we make to postgraduate students
all of the time: “Find a research method that best fits the research question(s).” This
imperative applies to PSS as well. Within the vast richness of the arts and humanities,
which lens, device, technique or tradition might deepen our research process or
expand our dissemination plan? Is it a good fit (to the question[s])? Do we
automatically put on a play or make a film from our research data because we are so
many frustrated actors or film directors, without ever asking which art form best fits
the research question or the data that it has produced?

What lessons have been learned so far?

Funders are currently encouraging researchers to find ways to reach wider
audiences with their findings (“impact factor”) and, because of this, we are beginning
to look beyond academic journals or narrow academic subject groups (e.g., delegates
at specialists’ conferences—or “preaching to the choir”). Funders now want to know
the benefits of our research to society and how it might affect the social order–the
potential outcomes of our efforts.

Performative Social Science, when it is at its best and humming along, is a
synthesis that provides answers to many of these very requirements. Ideally, our
audiences should be almost unaware of the seams where we have cobbled together indepth,
substantial scholarship with artistic endeavor. In my estimation, part of doing
PSS is not only in the breaking down of the old boundaries, but also in discarding the
old expectations and frameworks of what research is supposed to resemble after it is
finished.

Nonetheless, we are researchers. We are not actors, directors, filmmakers,
dancers or poets. There are many opportunities and outlets (and frustrations and
roadblocks) for those who wish to pursue those professions. We can learn a great deal
from these folks who often find it necessary to wait tables and do other menial jobs in
order to pursue their dream profession. They may help us look at our own field
through new lenses, but let’s not insult them by falsely assuming their hard-earned
mantles.

In return, a word of caution to artists who might be drawn to working with
researchers: the world of academia is not simply a new venue for you to put on a play,
dance a dance or publish a poem. There are both constraints and opportunities in the
academic world as well, which we are happy to share with you through our
collaborations.


Through interfaces with both practitioners and practices from the arts and
humanities, opportunities are presented to work with social science material and
expand its means of production and popularization to novel and creative levels. This
requires the fusion mentioned earlier. This necessitates cooperation and collaboration.
Communication and common ground are central to successful partnership and union.
The intuitive aspects of shared culture, coupled with a more universal response
to life’s tribulations and injustices (and, therefore, artistic expressions of these
emotive components), compete for resolution with the more rigid academic ethical
frameworks and methodological constraints under discussion. By developing a trust in
instinct and intuition and the naturally expressive and moral potential of these
personal resources, social science research can become richer and more human, if we
only are willing to jettison some of the baggage of the old academic rigor and dry
procedural ethics.

A few closing words of caution: Some academics would rather incorporate the
language of what we are doing into their own outputs without ever challenging either
their own thinking or outputs. They subsume the language of PSS, but never really reexamine their own routine techniques or dissemination methods. Our developing
terminology is, in this way, incorporated within standard academic journal texts rather
than through any meaningful reinvention of research methods or diffusion.
Most of all, however, let’s be careful not to implode PSS through an overblown
sense of what we are about. In our enthusiasm, let’s not be too quick to anoint
ourselves as poets, actors, dancers or magicians. If we do eventually earn those titles,
I am sure that others more qualified to judge will be sure to let us know.

 



Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Lisbon Folly

Lisbon Folly


 His name was Pedro, a 6' 2" surfer with grey/green eyes from Cascais living in my favorite Lisbon neighbourhood now. He drove me hard in his TukTuk to the top of the hill with gorgeous views of the city.
We said good-bye in front of the train station like in a movie.


The end.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Recent Writing Available on the Internet


“Kyle’s photo-montage of black and white clippings, mostly from fashion magazines, Bailey and Avedon, etc., glued to the walls surrounding his bed”. 
 Kip Jones is pleased to announce that the tripartite story, “True confessions: why I left a traditional liberal arts college for the sins of the big city”, first published in Qualitative Research Journal, is available on Academia.edu.  Jones is particularly pleased that what is now called ‘auto-fiction’ has been accepted for publication by such a major qualitative journal. The three stories in the article conclude with a scene from Jones’ ongoing development of the feature film script for “Copacetica”. All three stories portray aspects of the sexual fumbling and romantic insecurities typical in youth.
-->
"Dirty Frank's" bar, Philadelphia, where the main 
characters of “Copacetica” frequently meet.
The second piece of writing consists of the bar scene for “Copacetica”. This is the scene in which all the major characters are introduced and the story sets up the conundrum that the main character will face in the film.

“Copacetica” tells the tale of a gullible youth on a roller coaster ride of loss of innocence and coming out in the flux and instability of 1960s hippy America. Often seen as a period of revolution in social norms, Copacetica’s themes include being different, the celebration of being an outsider, seeing oneself from outside of the “norm”, and the interior conflicts of “coming out” within a continuum as a (gay) male in a straight world. These observations are set within the flux and instability of a period of great social change, but which are often viewed in retrospect as consistent and definable. Being straight or being gay can also be viewed in a similar way within the wider culture’s need to set up a sexual binary and force sexual “choice” decision-making for the benefit of the majority culture, or ‘heteronormativity’.  Through the device of the fleeting moment, the story interrogates the certainties and uncertainties of the “norms” of modernity.
In the later gallery scene, a minor character explains the meaning of the word, “copacetic”:
VISITOR TWO
What d’he say?
VISTOR ONE
“Everything’s copacetic”! (Beat) What does that mean, anyway?
VISITOR THREE
Everything’s cool. Everything’s okay. Or “Groovy” as they like to say.
Asked what he enjoyed about writing the script for this film, Jones said, “Definitely revisiting the slang used by youth of the 1960s! It’s virtually its own language. And writing the sex scenes. Exciting and very tiring. Almost like the real thing”.

You can read the opening scene planned for the film on KIPWORLD: "Copacetica" Scene 1. EXT SUBURBAN HOUSE POOL NIGHT



Monday, 17 April 2017

KIPWORLD reaches 250,000 views

KIPWORLD, the personal weblog of Bournemouth University academic, Kip Jones, reached a milestone this week, measuring 250,000 page views in the all-time history of the blog. 

Begun in 2009, the blog averages about one article a month of around 1,000 words in length. These are definitely not the perhaps more typical ‘off-the-cuff’ or ‘stream of consciousness’ blogs, however. Jones pores over and reworks these pieces, sometimes for days, even weeks.  He says that he tends to painstakingly write and rewrite anyway, so putting something out frequently was never going to work for him. One great things about on-line publishing is that you can continue to edit once an article is published, however.

Jones also writes for other blogs from time to time (LSE Impact blog, LSE Review of Books, Discover Society, Sociological Imagination, Creative Quarter, The Creativity Post, Bournemouth University Research Blog) as well.

As Jones reported earlier, 
KIPWORLD is my personal blog where I write about projects that I am working on, but I also use it to develop my writing. A good example is a piece entitled, “How Breakthroughs Come: Tenacity and Perseverance”. First written for the blog, it was then reworked to  include some reader responses to the earlier version. Through a Twitter connection, it was then published for a third time on the Social Research Hub, a site particularly aimed at PhD students in the Social Sciences.
Interestingly, the vast majority of the traffic to the site comes from Facebook where Jones moderates several special interest groups.The audience for KIPWORLD is predominantly in the USA, but the blog is viewed widely throughout the world.

The all-time top article on KIPWORLD is A summer holiday, three books and a story  has received 17,499 views so far. The format is an exercise in creative autofiction, book review and a short story. This contribution to the site was written on holiday and is very much a personal reflection. A similar formula of tripartite creative writing developed by Jones recently made it to the pages of the academic journal, Qualitative Research Journal. (Interestingly, this 'blog style' article in an academic journal has been downloaded 30 times since publication in January 2017).

What might be called "How to" articles (such as What is a Systematic Review? or A Brief Outline for Organising/Writing the PhD Thesis) are also extremely popular.

Jones' advice on blog writing to others:

 
Find your own voice, even your own subject material. Use your blog to develop your writing and your personal style. Don’t just assume that it has to look and sound like a blog to be one. Include at least one picture with every blog article. Let people know about the blog through social media—don’t expect an audience to just find it on its own. Promote it. 

If the most important thing in your life IS to write about your cat, write about it as creatively as you possibly can. Enjoy the experience!

 

 

Re-posted from Bournemouth University Research Blog, April 2017



















































































Friday, 7 April 2017

Three tales of sexual intrigue: A story, a reminiscence, and a filmscript


Kip Jones, (2017) (final draft) “True confessions: why I left a traditional liberal arts college for the sins of the Big City", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. 17 Iss: 1, pp. xx-43-51. 

Essay
"True Confessions:
Why I left a traditional liberal arts college 
for the sins of the Big City"


“At the end of that summer, I went off to a bucolic country college—to please my father more than me. But then, I mysteriously left it all behind for the sins of the big city”.


Back at college after a Christmas break, I got together with one of my fraternity brothers, Freddie, for a drinking session in the fraternity president’s bedroom. Freddie was the house “bad boy”, but also its youngest member, a baby-faced ne’er-do-well, and a teenage rebel, by all accounts. (I must start by admitting that this rap sheet amounts to an attractiveness that still never misses my attention.)

After several hours of drinking, smoking, joking around, we literally landed on the bed, laughing.  Shortly thereafter, in complete silence, fumbles, then fondles, began. Then, with a certain amount of misplaced aggressiveness, we got each other off. We zipped up and sheepishly went our separate ways, neither of us saying a thing.

For the next few days I remained riddled with guilt. This was a fraternity brother. Would others find out?  It wasn’t an act that I was likely to repeat surely, but still I needed a way to be certain that, for both if us, it was just a drunken folly.  I finally asked Freddie if we could meet up for a chat. He said, “Sure. Let’s go for a drive in my car tonight”. 

We got together that evening and got into the old coupe banger that he had brought to college from home in Philadelphia. He drove us outside this small central Pennsylvania college town to a country lane shimmering in twilight. Then, at a crook in the road, Freddie pulled the car over into a lay-by, a few bushes and scrubs separating us from the road.  He turned off the motor.

Just about to begin my awkward speech about ‘What a mistake that was/It should never have happened/We were so drunk!/It will certainly never happen again”, Freddie reached over and started rubbing my cock through my jeans. My head shot backwards, and I said nothing at all, just a short, sharp moan emanated from my throat.

Within seconds, all of my misgivings and guilt evaporated. We began, once again, our mutually beneficial physical release. It was over quickly, as these things often are for young men just entering maturity. Freddie said nothing, just started the car. The fact that he ground the gears transferring power to the crankshaft did say to me that he was also somewhat unhinged by the strange turn our relationship was taking.

A silent bargain was made between us that night. If it remained unsaid, it didn’t happen. If we spoke about it, we would break the spell, admitting to the self-loathing engendered by our encounters. Breaching this strange vow would mean the impossible task of justifying our actions in a very restrictive heterosexual world, the only world either of us knew. This world had taught us this response, this disgust, in a subtle manner, but obviously, had educated us very well. The silence itself from the very outset became the contract between the two of us. This was Brokeback Mountain before it ever existed as a reference point. Ironically, it happened in the very same era of that tragic story. The only word for what we were experiencing was found in medical books and considered a mental illness. Disgust and longing, nonetheless, became our personally intertwined dissonance.


Nothing stays the same. Nothing, except our expectations.

I had always wanted to go to art school, not “real” college, but my parents insisted. Was going to an art college in the city now a way of getting away from that small town college and the impossible situation with Freddie at the same time? Was this move meant to resolve the conflict that our relationship created in my diminutive world?  Perhaps I was yearning to go to the big city to pursue my creative instincts at last?  Or was I really just headed to a 'den of iniquity' hoping to “discover” my sexuality somehow, all the while pretending that the relocation was for all those other reasons?  Over that summer at home, I convinced my father finally that art school was the only education for me. He eventually agreed and off I went to the big city.

Another summer came, the one following my first year at Art College. As it turned out, I wasn’t very good at it, art school. The other students were so talented, so sophisticated and me, a hopeless country bumpkin.  At least I had started growing my hair so that I would look more like an art student. Or at least I thought so.

Through the school, I met Albert, another student and a local guy with much more artistic talent than me.  We rented an apartment together and began a lifelong friendship.  That summer, I didn’t particularly want to return to my country home and family, and when he said, “I am going to stay with friends in the outskirts of the city for a week or two, wanna come along?” I said, “Yes”. I didn’t know at the time that I would end up staying for the whole summer at this house of the parents of two of his friends.

1964 was a summer of love whose soundtrack was Bossa Nova by Morgana King. [i] I slept that summer in an attic room just under the widow’s watch of this large grey Victorian house. A veranda wrapped itself around the ground floor like an embrace. A large standard poodle bounced freely in and out of the veranda’s floor to ceiling open windows with their tattered curtains. The family’s “open-door” relaxed style made the house a gathering spot for local youth of social standing, mostly in their late teens and early twenties.

I t was during this time that I became overwhelmingly attracted to a sixteen-year-old boy who lived nearby. We swam together daily in the overgrown garden’s pool behind the house, drank beer, listened to music and talked for hours. Our platonic relationship grew daily, as did our desire to spend every possible moment with each other. When his parents questioned this, he innocently told them that he loved me. His mother responded by threatening to come after the family and me with a kitchen knife. Our reverie ended abruptly and we never saw each other again. My social position and pretence coupled with my romantic outlook had convinced me in my naïveté that anything was possible, even this platonic love. The painful lesson learned that summer was that this was not the case, and never would be. It wasA Taste  of  Honey” (King,,  M. 1965) . It was a summer of beginnings, and an end. 

When I show our film, RUFUS STONE (2011) (a story of about the youth of two gay men even older than me) to Millennials (and lately Gen Z’s), there is always a bit of squeamishness and shuffling, certainly signs of some kind or recognition and/or unease at the conundrum presented by the film’s story. In discussions following screenings, this present generation seems to me to be a sexually ambivalent one, more comfortable with multiple choices or no choice at all.  Nonetheless, these young people do identify with the complexity of feelings presented by youth within the film. They are also particularly aware of the societal pressures around sexual positioning that are now seen as on a continuum by their generation, if not by society as a whole. The ever-present cultural pressure is to make a choice (is there really one?), but this demand is complicated by their entrenched ambivalence. 
I read recently that Prince Harry has actually said, (light-heartedly admittedly). that if it doesn’t work out with his current girlfriend, he wouldn’t be put off by maybe dating a guy. What is coming back to me, flowing back from these teen and early-twenties audiences—a generation with a very amorphous feeling about gender and sexuality which is very much on continuum—is that they are much more accepting about the idea of change of gender (transgender) than their predecessors.  This generation and the way that they often think about sexuality seems very different in its way to my generation’s thinking and previous generations following me. Yet, much of the angst and fear of rejection, even scorn, within the processes of discovery of sexualities, remain very much the same.

In a recent report on sexuality of American high school students by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC, 2016), researchers found that

some students identify themselves as heterosexual but report having sexual contact with only persons of the same sex, whereas some students who identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual have not had sexual contact or have had sexual contact with only persons of the opposite sex. This dissonance is well documented in other research and can be a normal part of the developmental process that occurs during adolescence.

The report goes on to say that

although ‘many sexual minority youth cope with the transition from childhood to adulthood successfully and become healthy and productive adults, others struggle as a result of challenges such as stigma, discrimination, family disapproval, social rejection, and violence.

With the progress made in supposed acceptance of the equal rights of gay and lesbian citizens, particularly in Western cultures over the last half-century, it is easy to assume that feelings of unease, even ‘dissonance’ around issues of sexuality have been left behind us.  Nonetheless, it seems from not only the CDC study, but also my personal experience discussing sexuality with youth following screenings of RUFUS STONE, that this is not the case.  Both during the collection of stories from older gay and lesbian citizens, and then in writing the story for the film, the assumption was made (by me at least) that this was a story very much entrenched in the past and that society has moved on. But then in writing the line for RUFUS STONE, “We all knew, but we didn’t like to say” it was brought home for me that I needed to admit that it remains a contemporary problem—a lack of genuine acceptance.

This surprising identification of a present-day attitude regarding sexuality that I had always assumed as a historical one continues to befuddle me. I find certain solidarity with youth, nonetheless, in stories of both insecurities around sexualities and fear of rejection of these important rites of passage. This is why I am writing the next film script.  This time, the story takes us back to the 1960s, the time of “free love” gay liberation, and the “sexual revolution” ... or was it?

Tag: A gullible youth on a roller coaster ride of loss of innocence and coming out in the flux and instability of 1960s hippy America

"Copacetica" is the working title of a script currently in development for a feature-length film.  The story expands an earlier A/V production, which has been viewed internationally and written about in academic journals and books.

Set in the 1960s, Copacetica's themes include being different, the celebration of being an outsider, seeing oneself from outside of the “norm”, and the interior conflicts of “coming out” within a continuum as a (gay) male in a straight world. These observations are set within the flux and instability of a period of great social change, but which are often viewed in retrospect as consistent and definable. Being straight or being gay can also be viewed in a similar way within the wider culture’s need to set up a sexual binary and force sexual “choice” decision-making for the benefit of the majority culture. Through the device of the fleeting moment, the story interrogates the certainties and uncertainties of the “norms” of modernity.

To end this essay, I take us back to the beginning. The following is an excerpt from Copacetica’s working script. By doing so I hope to intrigue you, convincing you to continue to develop this conversation.

“There are no truths. Only stories.” ―  King, T. 1994.

Scene 3. INT. - KYLE'S APARTMENT - NIGHT.

Kyle's apartment, which he shares with his art-school roommate, Albert, is small. A kitchen unit is at one end of the main room, which is also Kyle's bedroom. Kyle's single mattress rests on a piece of plywood cut to size and raised off the floor in the corner by plastic milk crates. Albert has the small bedroom in the back of the apartment. Kyle has created a photomontage of black and white clippings, mostly from fashion magazines, Bailey and Avedon, etc. and glued them to the walls surrounding his bed. Some student art work in frames cover the other walls. Stacked bricks and wood planks form a bookshelf filled with LP's, a cheap stereo and books. A small dinette table with two unmatched chairs is near the kitchen unit. The flooring is cheap charcoal grey wall-to-wall carpet.

We see the room in monochrome with the same swimming pool green tone we have seen earlier.
We hear muffled sounds, the panting sounds of sex. We tour the photographs and artwork, but then move to

KYLE, his jeans around his ankles, on top of someone.
We ARE VIEWING Kyle's body from above.
At first we don't know who he is fucking. Slowly we see that it is BILLIE. Billie's mini-dress is around her breasts.
KYLE lets out a moan, then rolls off of Billie. There isn't much room on the single mattress. It is uncomfortable, so he stands and pulls his Y-fronts and jeans up over his ass and cock. In the meantime, BILLIE has pulled down her dress. They've been fucking in the dark.
KYLE walks to the kitchen area. His naked chest and torso gleam in the dim glow from the streetlight coming through a small window in the kitchen area.
KYLE then moves to the wall and turns on an overhead florescent light fixture. The lighting makes the scene greener and even more garish.
BILLIE feels around the floor next to the mattress for her panties. She pulls them on.
BILLIE then props herself up, head on one hand. The bed sheets are swimming pool green.
BILLIE
You don't like doing that very much, do you?
KYLE
(Stunned)
Wha'? Whoa! (Pacing) Where did that come from? I never said that!
BILLIE
Yeah, but you don't have to tell me; you act like it,
KYLE
It's just that this sack is so cramped. Aren't you uncomfortable? (Beat) Christ, Billie.
(Hurt) What a shit thing to say. (Turns away from her)
KYLE then turns on the stereo and lights a joint.
begin song: Eric Anderson "Foolish Like the Flowers"
BILLIE
I dunno. (Beat) (Sitting straight up now) Maybe it's this fucking business all together.
(Joking now, seeing Kyle is hurt and trying to make light of her remark)


     BILLIE (con’t)
Let's take 'fucking' lessons! They have love-ins, how about we organise a fuck-in! (Beat)

I guess that's just an orgy, huh?
KYLE
(Angry) Maybe you just need to be a little less of a snap case, eh?
(He still is not over his embarrassment because of her initial question. His ego has been crushed)
KYLE paces nervously, putting on a white T-shirt.
KYLE CONT.
(Beat) (Almost talking to himself)
Is there more beer in the fridge?
KYLE moves to fridge and opens it. The light from inside bathes his frame in a flattering light.  KYLE grabs two cans of beer, opens them with a church key, moves back to Billie, giving her a beer. She is still lying on the mattress, propped up on a pillow.
Billie is half dressed now. The greenish lighting makes her look older, a bit like a circus performer. Her pancake white make-up and smudged coal black eyes, which earlier looked so "mod", now appear ghoulish. She is an Egon Schiele painting.  
KYLE takes another drag on his joint.
KYLE
You wanna stay over? Albert is away for the weekend; we could sleep in his double without him ever sussing.
BILLIE gets up from the mattress and adjusts her mini-dress. She looks at her reflection in a nearby round, distressed cobalt blue glass mirror, but it emphasizes the ghoulishness of her appearance.
BILLIE
Nah. I promised my mother I'd spend some time with her tomorrow.
KYLE hands Billie his joint. BILLIE takes a toke and hands it back. 
KYLE
Hey! Don't forget your eyelashes! There on the table there.
BILLIE moves to the table and picks up the two false eyelashes. They look like two gigantic black caterpillars crawling across the table. She forces them on to her eyelids, counting on the glue that was already on them to hold them in place.
KYLE
Hey! Maybe next time you can give me a blow job!

BILLIE
Yeah, right. I'd blow you then you'd blow me off. Not cool and you know it! You sad dudes all alike that way.
KYLE
Awe, c'mon! It wouldn't be like that. Sock it to me! That would really turn me on! What do ya say? Pa-lease??
BILLIE slips on her shoes, straightens her dress and looks in the mirror one last time.
BILLIE throws Kyle a distasteful look.
BILLIE
 You're such a dude. You're more into getting yourself off than into
  
getting it on. (Beat)
Love ya, anyhow, "Dude".
KYLE
First mistake!
BILLIE, moves to the door, blows him a kiss, dramatically.
BILLIE
See ya! (Beat) Probably at Frank's tomorrow night?
KYLE has moved to the bed and is lying with his hands behind his head, somewhat more relaxed now, toking on the joint.
(Is this because Billie is leaving?)
      KYLE
Okay, Billie. See you there.
begin song: Eric Andersen "Is It Really Love at All"
Love. Is it really
love at all?
Or something that I heard love called
Something that I heard love called.
BILLIE starts to exit.
KYLE
(From the bed)
Hey, Billie!
BILLIE at the door, turns back
BILLIE
Yeah?
KYLE
Do you think we should get married?
Blackout.



References

CDC (Centers for Disease Control). 2016. |”Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS)”.

Date Accessed: 11 Jan. 2017. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/index.htm

King, M. 1965. “A Taste of Honey” (song). Date Accessed: 11 Jan. 2017. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLS2l6QxuuY

King, T. 1994. Green Grass, Running Water. New York: Bantam Publishers.

RUFUS STONE. 2011. (film). Josh Appignanesi, Director. Kip Jones, Executive Producer & Author. London: Parkville Films.



[i] An expanded version of this story appeared as “Infusing Biography with the Personal: Writing Rufus Stone”, published in Creative Approaches to Research, 2013: vol. 6. no. 2, pp.6–23.