Queer Micro-Films in Digital China
: Queer Tropes, Queer Feelings

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis examines a corpus of eighty-six queer low-budget short videos (‘micro-films’) made by amateur filmmakers between 2006 and 2016 that circulate on video-sharing platforms in China and the onscreen comments from viewers (danmu). It asks what facets of contemporary Chinese queer culture these micro-films’ cinematic commonalities underwrite. This thesis observes that these queer micro-films share one theme: a same-sex desire for love, and argues that in contemporary mainland China, queer micro-film is a key site through which a queer culture anchored in love and romance has emerged.

This thesis looks beyond the frameworks of aesthetics and identity politics and focuses on queer feelings and cultural meanings afforded by queer cinema. The main chapters analyse five of the most common tropes of the micro-films and argue that they participate in constructing key characteristics of a contemporary queer culture of romantic love: structures of looking in the opening sequence and lookism; framing and cinematic space and the generation of a fascination with queer intimacy; the manipulation of cinematic time and a utopian hope for romance; female characters in gay romance and gay misogyny; and tragic endings marked by queer death associated with pessimism about the impossibility of love. In contrast to existing scholarship that emphasises activism, resistance, and antinormativity in discussions of contemporary Chinese queer culture, this project traces an overlooked romantic strand of queer culture that is not necessarily connected to activist stances and sexual desires. This project expands the purview of queer cinema to include a group of neglected queer cinematic texts and widens the scope of Chinese queer cultural studies by elaborating a queer culture of romance that intersects with digital media and queer cinema.

Date of Award1 Oct 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorChris Berry (Supervisor)

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