Queer production studies is a subfield of production studies that specifically considers the significance of queer identity for media producers, particularly as it relates to the creation of LGBTQ content. Its emergence as a named subfield did not occur until 2018, but there have been studies of queer production prior to that. While general production studies scholarship has focused on industrial production, the scope of queer production studies includes not just production spanning commercial, public, and independent domains, but also fan production. Queer production studies often make use of interview and ethnographic methods to investigate how nonnormative gender and sexual expression factor in the work of media producers, and also examines relevant industry documents, media texts, and media paratexts to discuss how LGBTQ media content reinforces or challenges existing norms. It considers how queer media production relates to the degree of integration or marginalization of LGBTQ people and representation within media as well as society more broadly. Currently, almost all research explicitly identified as queer production studies is conducted in U.S.-based or European-based contexts, and there is thus a large gap in scholarship of queer media production occurring elsewhere. Research on queer production in the commercial domain has addressed how LGBTQ workers have shaped the content and marketing of queer media, and the relationship of commercial LGBTQ media to independent queer media and to LGBTQ activism. In commercial print, television, and digital media in the United States, there has been some integration of LGBTQ workers beginning in the 1990s, with mixed results for content diversity and for the injection of resources into independent production, as well as a complex relationship to advancing LGBTQ causes. In national contexts with prominent state-supported media, such as the United Kingdom and various European countries, the presence of LGBTQ workers at public service broadcasters interacts with mandates for diversity and inclusion. This has had mixed outcomes in terms of both work environments and the kinds of media texts produced. In independent queer production, issues of limited resources and viewership are persistent, but the professional trajectories of queer cultural workers show that they may move back and forth between major commercial and low-budget production. Digital media has been transformative for many independent producers, facilitating the creation of more diverse content, although web series still face issues of securing resources and dealing with competition from commercial media. Queer fan production has often occurred in response to deficiencies of representation in canonical (official) media texts, taking the form of narrative works such as music videos as well as paratextual commentary. While queer fan texts typically challenge the heteronormativity of mainstream media, many do not depart significantly from other norms around gender and sex. Some fan-written queer-themed fiction has been adapted into commercial television series in countries such as China, although state censorship has precluded the series from being explicitly queer.
The critical study of cultural and creative industries involves the interrogation of the ways in which different social forces impact the production of culture, its forms, and its producers as inherently creative creatures. In historical terms, the notion of “the culture industry” may be traced to a series of postwar period theorists whose concerns reflected the industrialization of mass cultural forms and their attendant marketing across public and private spheres. For them, the key terms alienation and reification spoke to the negative impacts of an industrial cycle of production, distribution, and consumption, which controlled workers’ daily lives and distanced them from their own creative expressions. Fears of the culture industry drove a mass culture critique that led social scientists to address the structures of various media industries, the division of labor in the production of culture, and the hegemonic consent between government and culture industries in the military-industrial complex. The crisis of capitalism in the 1970s further directed critical scholars to theorize new dialectics of cultural production, its flexibilization via new communications technologies and transnational capital flows, as well as its capture via new property regimes. Reflecting government discourses for capital accumulation in a post-industrial economy, these theories have generally subsumed cultural industries into a creative economy composed of a variety of extra-industrial workers, consumers, and communicative agents. Although some social theorists have extended cultural industry critiques to the new conjuncture, more critical studies of creative industries focus on middle-range theories of power relations and contradictions within particular industrial sites and organizational settings. Work on immaterial labor, digital enclosures, and production cultures have developed the ways creative industries are both affective and effective structures for the temporal and spatial formation of individuals’ identities.