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Stephan Pennington

Stephan Pennington is an Associate Professor of Music at Tufts University. His work focuses on the politics of the performance of identity in popular music, focusing on intersectional analysis of race, gender, and sexuality. He has published and presented on a variety of topics from the black banjo revival to the 1930s International Rumba craze in Germany. His forthcoming monograph is on transgender vocality and race.

“'Details Baby, Details': Listening for Gender in The Crying Game"
In 1992, direct action protest group Transgender Nation was founded, beginning a new wave of visibility and political organizing for transgender people. The same year, Neil Jordan’s 1992 film The Crying Game, a thriller about the complicated love affair between an IRA soldier, Fergus, and a black British woman, Dil, was released. The film caused an uproar centered on the “secret,” revealed in a full frontal visual shot, that Dil had a penis.

The critical discourse around The Crying Game ranges widely, from the politics of race and sexuality, to misogyny and colonialism. These diverse takes are generally invested in reading the critically acclaimed film as regressive, fixating on the figure of Dil, her penis, and her gender in order to do so. Problematically, the readings of Dil’s identity are almost exclusively visual or textual, ignoring that Dil is framed just as much by her voice as by her image.

In this paper, I re-read Dil’s identity, which forms the basis of a great deal of scholarship, through the introduction of audio into the visual, paying careful attention to the sound editing of Dil’s performance of the song “The Crying Game.” Re-reading Dil’s musical performance of self challenges the scopophilc readings of her as Object and opens up new ways of understanding not only the film The Crying Game, but also representations of racialized trans/gender identity in the media at an important transition moment for transgender history.