David Church

David Church

Postdoctoral Fellow, Gender Studies

Visiting Assistant Professor, Gender Studies

Education

Ph.D., Communication and Culture (Film and Media Studies), Indiana University, 2014

M.A., Cinema Studies, San Francisco State University, 2008

B.A., English, Western Washington University, 2005

About David Church

Dr. David Church is a film and media scholar whose work focuses on the historical and contemporary circulation of culturally disreputable genres (e.g., exploitation, horror, and adult films). His research agenda explores how filmmakers, media industries, and fan cultures revalue and make contemporary use of the pastness and materiality associated with genres that, whether through aesthetic shortcomings or outdated politics, have otherwise seemed destined for the dustbin of history. He earned his Ph.D. in Film and Media Studies from Indiana University in 2014, and before returning to IU, he served as Lecturer and Program Coordinator of the Cinema Studies program at Northern Arizona University. He is also a founding member and programmer for SECS Fest, the Seattle Erotica Cinema Society’s annual sex-positive erotic film festival.

His first single-authored book, Grindhouse Nostalgia: Memory, Home Video, and Exploitation Film Fandom (Edinburgh University Press, 2015), looks at how nostalgia for physical spaces like drive-in theaters and grind houses has grown within exploitation film fandom as compensation for fans’ devotion to films that have gradually garnered more mainstream accessibility across video formats like VHS, DVD, and online video. Moreover, the book analyzes the recent cycle of retro-styled genre pastiches like Grindhouse as reflections of political anxieties among convergence-era subcultures that deliberately turn toward the past for present-day inspiration. His follow-up book, Disposable Passions: Vintage Pornography and the Material Legacies of Adult Cinema (Bloomsbury Academic, 2016), extends this research on nostalgia and taste into archival and historiographic questions about how the historicity of pre-1980s adult cinema is eroticized in its present-day consumption as “vintage” pornography. Drawing on extensive research at the Kinsey Institute and interviews with adult video industry members, the book argues that pornography’s erotic tension between the revelation and concealment of sexual spectacle becomes mirrored at a meta-cinematic level through an “archival striptease” created by the unexpected survival of adult films that fans earnestly celebrate as more than autoerotic fodder.

His most recent book is the short monograph Mortal Kombat: Games of Death (University of Michigan Press, 2020), about how martial-arts films influenced the cinematic qualities that created a moral panic around video game violence in the early 1990s. The book combines media industry analysis and reception study to explore how Mortal Kombat’s movement from arcade game to home consoles to transmedia franchise threatened to collapse disreputable public spaces into the domestic sphere at a time when 16-bit consoles were achieving widespread market penetration, thus allowing Mortal Kombat’s adaptability to serve as a referendum for the technological affordances of new platforms and the cultural value of fighting games as a genre.

He is currently writing a new book on so-called “elevated” or “post-horror” films as one of the horror genre’s most important and controversial developments since 2010. In addition to these single-authored works, he is the editor of Playing with Memories: Essays on Guy Maddin (University of Manitoba Press, 2009), a special issue of Porn Studies, and a dossier on adult film history for the Journal of Cinema and Media Studies.

Publications

  • Mortal Kombat: Games of Death (Landmark Video Games series) (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2020).
  • “In Focus: Why Adult Film History Matters” dossier (co-edited with Eric Schaefer), Journal of Cinema and Media Studies 58, no. 1 (2018). 
  • “Queer Ethics, Urban Spaces, and the Horrors of Monogamy in It Follows,” Cinema Journal 57, no. 3 (2018) 
  • “Canon Fodder: Reappraising Adult Cinema’s Neglected Texts” (special issue) Porn Studies 4, no. 3 (2017).
  • Disposable Passions: Vintage Pornography and the Material Legacies of Adult Cinema (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016).
  • “Cruising Celebrity: James Franco’s Queer Stardom, Performance Art, and Interior. Leather Bar,” Jump Cut, no. 57 (2016).
  • “Red Power, White Movies: Billy Jack, Johnny Firecloud, and the Cultural Politics of the ‘Indiansploitation’ Cycle,” in Grindhouse: Cultural Exchange on 42nd Street and Beyond, eds. Austin Fisher and Johnny Walker (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016).
  • Grindhouse Nostalgia: Memory, Home Video, and Exploitation Film Fandom (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015).
  • “One on Top of the Other: Lucio Fulci, Transnational Film Industries, and the Retrospective Construction of the Italian Horror Canon,” Quarterly Review of Film and Video 32, no. 1 (2015).
  • “‘This Thing of Ours’: Heterosexuality, Recreational Sex, and the Survival of Adult Movie Theaters,” Media Fields Journal, no. 8 (2014).
  • “‘Propane is for Pussies’: Bellflower’s Bromance of Retro Technology and Hip Masculinity,” Jump Cut, no. 55 (2013).
  • “Revisiting the Cruel Apparatus: Disability, Queerness, and Taste in In a Glass Cage,” in Nazisploitation! The History, Aesthetics, and Politics of the Nazi Image in Low-Brow Film and Culture, eds. Elizabeth Bridges, Daniel Magilow, and Kristin Vander Lugt (London: Continuum, 2012).
  • “Freakery, Cult Films, and the Problem of Ambivalence,” Journal of Film and Video 63, no. 1 (2011).
  • “Of Manias, Shit, and Blood: The Reception of Salò as a ‘Sick Film,’” Participations: Journal of Audience and Reception Studies 6, no. 2 (2009).
  • Playing with Memories: Essays on Guy Maddin (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2009).
  • ‘“Welcome to the Atrocity Exhibition’: Ian Curtis, Rock Death, and Disability,” Disability Studies Quarterly 26, no. 4 (2006).