Andy Warhol's Blow Job

Roy Grundmann
Book Cover

PB: $31.95
EAN: 978-1-56639-972-2
Publication: Jan 03

HC: $86.50
EAN: 978-1-56639-971-5
Publication: Jan 03

240 pages
7 x 10
40 halftones

A watershed in gay male culture

Read the Introduction (pdf).


In this ground-breaking and provocative book, Roy Grundmann contends that Andy Warhol's notorious 1964 underground film, Blow Job, serves as rich allegory as well as suggestive metaphor for post-war American society's relation to homosexuality. Arguing that Blow Job epitomizes the highly complex position of gay invisibility and visibility, Grundmann uses the film to explore the mechanisms that constructed pre-Stonewall white gay male identity in popular culture, high art, science, and ethnography.

Grundmann draws on discourses of art history, film theory, queer studies, and cultural studies to situate Warhol's work at the nexus of Pop art, portrait painting, avant-garde film, and mainstream cinema. His close textual analysis of the film probes into its ambiguities and the ways in which viewers respond to what is and what is not on screen. Presenting rarely reproduced Warhol art and previously unpublished Ed Wallowitch photographs along with now iconic publicity shots of James Dean, Grundmann establishes Blow Job as a consummate example of Warhol's highly insightful engagement with a broad range of representational codes of gender and sexuality.


"A whole book on one short film may seem excessive, but when the film is Andy Warhol's BLOW JOB—a pivotal document of the productive tensions between pop and art, pornography and avant-garde, gay and straight, visible and invisible 'sex'—one book hardly seems enough. Roy Grundmann has produced the definitive analysis from every possible perspective of this most fascinating of self-reflexive films. The amazing thing is how vital and compelling each of these perspectives seems." Linda Williams, Director of Film Studies, U.C. Berkeley, and author of Playing the Race Card: Melodramas of Black and White from Uncle Tom to O. J. Simpson

"Roy Grundmann has extended Andy Warhol's diabolical plot to make respectable 1960s film critics say a naughty expression for an illegal sex act, making an academic book title out of it forty years later! He has also done the near impossible, written a book on a single-take film, more talked about than seen for most of those forty years, that is a masterful synthesis of queer history, cultural theory, and film studies. Grundmann has deftly demonstrated the centrality of the minimalist masterpiece that is Blow Job—and of its sly author—to postwar Western avant-gardes and to the sexual and racial cultures they inhabit." Thomas Waugh, Professor of Film Studies and Director, Programme in Interdisciplinary Studies in Sexuality, Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, Concordia University

"Finally, the longest reaction shot in film history has found its ideal analyst. Roy Grundmann has written a thoughtful, funny, accessible, yet deeply theorized book that situates Warhol's most (in)famous film in all its polymorphous contexts. This book shows just how rich 'close reading' can be, yet it offers a window on the entire underground of a Warholian century." Caroline A. Jones teaches contemporary art and theory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and has written about Warhol in her Machine in the Studio, among other places

"Andy Warhol's BLOW JOB is a tour de force, a virtuosic elaboration of a myriad of resonances, implications, and subtexts to what appears to be one of the simplest films possible. The control of the film scholarship is impeccable and there's hardly a missed beat in the writing. Grundmann's book is a terrific addition to film studies, Warhol studies and queer studies. It wears its learning lightly and with grace." David James, Critical Studies, School of Cinema, USC

"Grundmann’s strength lies in his theoretical improvisation on a theme, his wandering off into Hollywood film, hypochondria, Mailer, Kinsey, and whatever else his keen analytical eye alights on." Cineaste

"...the book wields its greatest strength from its reader-based cultural studies methodology." Film International

"(T)he book is...impressive vital, even moving." Film and History

"Roy Grundmann, a self-conscious enthusiast of the film, has made a sometimes compelling, always scholarly and I think finally unarguable case for Blow Job's importance and interest.... this book is essential reading for anyone interested in Warhol, and especially the Warhol films."GENRE

"With a delicate sensibility and intricate handling of resources and available material on the topic, the author maintains a careful study of the film and its context within cinema studies and queer/sexuality studies... Grundmann makes a contribution here to academia with his work whose style is eloquent, humorous, touching and at times deeply personal." Senses of Cinema

"Grundmann's book contains excellent work on the circulation of images and the production of masculinity in terms of race and sexuality. His close readings are remarkable and the context he gives is outstanding." Jump Cut

Table of Contents

1. Myths from the Underground
2. Shadows and Myths
3. White Gay Male Identity Between Passing and Posing
4. Gay Masculinity Between (De)Construction and Demontage
5. Andy Warhol, James Dean, and White Gay Men
6. Darkness as Metaphor

About the Author(s)

Roy Grundmann is Assistant Professor of Film Studies at Boston University and a contributing editor of Cineaste.


In the Series

  • Culture and the Moving Image edited by Robert Sklar

    The Culture and the Moving Image series, edited by Robert Sklar, seeks to publish innovative scholarship and criticism on cinema, television, and the culture of the moving image. The series will emphasize works that view these media in their broad cultural and social frameworks. Its themes will include a global perspective on the world-wide production of images; the links between film, television, and video art; a concern with issues of race, class, and gender; and an engagement with the growing convergence of history and theory in moving image studies.