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date: 07 December 2022

Agonistic Queer TV Studies for Western Europelocked

Agonistic Queer TV Studies for Western Europelocked

  • Florian VanleeFlorian VanleeCentre for Cinema and Media Studies, Ghent University

Summary

Queer TV studies have until now focused predominantly on U.S. TV culture, and research into representations of sexual and gender diversity in Western European, Asian, and Latin American programming has only recently found traction. Due to this U.S. focus, queer television in Western Europe has yet to be comprehensively documented in scholarly sources, and Western European queer television studies hardly constitute an emancipated practice. Given that U.S.-focused queer theories of television remain the primary frame of reference to study LGBT+ televisibility in Western Europe, but its domestic small screens comprise a decidedly different institutional context, it is at this time necessary to synthetically assess how the U.S. television industry has given way to specific logics in queer scholarship and whether these logics suit conditions found in domestic television cultures.

Queer analyses of U.S. TV programming rightly recognize the presence and form of non-heterosexual and non-cisgender characters and stories as a function of commerce; that is to say, television production in the United States must primarily be profitable, and whether or how the LGBT+ community is represented by popular entertainment is determined by economic factors. The recognition hereof pits queer scholars against the television industry, and the antagonistic approach it invites dissuades them from articulating how TV could do better for LGBT+ people rather than only critiquing what TV currently does wrong. While it is crucial to be attentive toward the power relations reflected and naturalized by television representations, it is also important to recognize that the discretion of prescriptive, normative interventions by queer TV scholars relates to conditions of U.S. television production.

The dominance of public service broadcasters (PSBs) and their historical role in spearheading LGBT+ televisibility highlights the distinctive conditions queer TV scholarship is situated in in Western Europe and troubles established modes of engaging the medium. Where the modest scale of national industries already facilitates more direct interaction between academics and TV professionals, PSBs are held to democratic responsibilities on diverse representation and have a history of involving scholars to address and substantiate their pluralistic mission. Consequently, Western European television cultures offer a space to conceive of an agonistic mode of queer TV scholarship, premised not only on contesting what is wrong but also on proposing what would be right. Hence, future engagements with domestic LGBT+ televisibility must look beyond established analytics and explore the value of articulating openly normative propositions about desirable ways of representing sexual and gender diversity.

Subjects

  • Gender (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies)
  • International/Global Communication
  • Mass Communication
  • Media and Communication Policy

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