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Film / Changing Our Minds: The Story of Dr. Evelyn Hooker

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Changing Our Minds: The Story of Dr. Evelyn Hooker is a 1992 feature film directed by Richard Schmiechen.

It is a documentary of the life and career of Dr. Evelyn Hooker, a pioneer in human sexuality. After an eventful early life that included being denied admission to Yale because she was a woman, and studying in Germany at the time of the annexation of Austria in 1938, Hooker began to explore the nature of homosexuality in human beings. Standard psychiatric doctrine of the day deemed homosexuality a mental disorder, and homosexuality was included in the DSM as a disease. This both justified discrimination against homosexuals and also led to terrifying "cures" like shock therapy and lobotomization. Hooker's contention was that homosexuality was not a disease and that homosexuals were just as well adjusted, on the whole, as heterosexuals. Through her research, she set out to prove it.

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Tropes:

  • Behavioral Conditioning: One of the dumber "cures" shown onscreen involved psychiatrists showing their subjects gay erotic pictures, while administering an electric shock. Then they showed the subjects erotic pictures of women, hoping to transfer their attractions. It didn't work!
  • The Cameo: Raymond Chandler is shown in an old Christopher Isherwood home movie, hanging out with Isherwood and Evelyn Hooker at Isherwood's house.
  • Documentary: The life of Evelyn Hooker and her pioneering research.
  • Electric Torture: Shock therapy, one of the scarier ways that doctors tried to turn gay men straight. A disturbing clip shows a victim going through shock therapy treatment.
  • Inkblot Test: One of Hooker's tools was the Rorschach inkblot test. None of the experts could tell any difference between the reactions of gay and straight people to the test.
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  • The Ken Burns Effect: There are many still pictures and every single one of them is panned, or zoomed, or both. When Hooker talks about how tall she was and how that made her something of an outcast in school, the camera slowly pans up a picture of lanky teenaged Evelyn.
  • Narrator: Patrick Stewart! He provides a fairly standard narration track describing Hooker's life and research.
  • Stock Footage: Quite a bit. The film starts with a terrifying "Educational Film" clip in which a gay man undergoes a lobotomy. There's also films of shock therapy treatments, as well as news clips to help set time and place, as well as old home movies of Hooker and her friends.
  • Talking Heads: Hooker is interviewed at length. There are other interviewees, such as a psychiatrist who was sympathetic to Hooker's research, as well as Chuck Rowland, a gay playwright who worked with Hooker.
  • Where Everybody Knows Your Flame: A stock footage clip of a gay bar is shown to illustrate how gay society was starting to come into the light in the years after World War II.
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