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Article

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.

Article

Cameron Lynn Brown and Alfred L. Martin Jr.

Approaches to studying Black gay men within television typically center examinations of the textual features of particular representations. In general, scholars focus on Black gayness vis-à-vis historic stereotypes, often focusing on hegemonic femininity as an analytic framework for cataloguing stereotypes of Black gay characters. Across White-/multicultural-cast sitcoms, Black-cast sitcoms, and sketch comedy, one of the difficulties associated with engaging with television and its engagement with the intersections of Blackness and gayness is that communication scholars often engage with media texts rhetorically. In that rhetorical treatment, there is often an elision of not only the specificities of television form but also the contours of genre. Thus, when examining Black gayness in television, that examination will look different depending on whether Black gayness appears on a “prestige” drama on a premium cable network or streaming platform, a sitcom with a principally Black or White cast, or a sketch comedy series.

Article

Since the earliest years of the film industry, journalists and journalism have played a leading role in popular culture. Scholars debate whether journalism films—and by extension television programs, plays, cartoons, comics, commercials, and online and interactive stories and games—are a distinct genre, or whether journalists are featured in a variety of genres from dramas to comedies and satires to film noir. They also debate whether a film needs to feature a journalist doing journalism as a primary character or whether having a journalist as a secondary character still counts as a “journalism” film. Regardless, research into depictions of journalists in popular culture is important because the depictions influence public opinion about real-world journalists, as well as the credibility and public trust of the journalism field. Indeed, the influence might be greater even than the actual work performed by real-world journalists. Popular culture cultivates legend and myth, and this cultivation is especially true for a field such as journalism because the majority of the public will never see the inside of an actual newsroom. Popular culture myths about journalism focus on its normative role. Journalistic heroes are the foreign correspondents and investigative reporters who stand for community and progress. Journalistic villains are the lovable rogues, remorseful sinners, and unrepentant scoundrels who break journalistic norms and roles. A wide range of heroes and villains have been depicted on the big and small screen. For every Woodward and Bernstein working tirelessly to expose a corrupt presidential administration in All the President’s Men, there is a Chuck Tatum hiding an injured man in order to keep an exclusive in Ace in the Hole. For every Murphy Brown, a prominent and award-winning investigative journalist and anchor, there is a Zoe Barnes in House of Cards who has sex with sources and knowingly publishes false information. Many of the most interesting depictions, however, feature a character who has aspects of heroism and villainy. For example, Megan Carter in Absence in Malice attempts to be a watchdog reporter but destroys lives with her mistakes. Viewers ultimately are left with the idea that Carter will become a better journalist because of the lessons she has learned during the course of the film. Due to the potential impact of these depictions, entertainers must hold themselves to a higher standard to fulfill their discursive role within the broader republic. Entertainment programming needs a positive ethical code because it helps inform citizens by raising questions, offering incisive observations, and voicing marginalized perspectives. The code is in its nascent stages, but it is past time for media ethicists to develop a social responsibility theory for entertainment and amusement, the dominant role of almost all media.

Article

Adrienne Shaw, Katherine Sender, and Patrick Murphy

Critical audience studies is the branch of media research primarily concerned with what people do with the media they consume, rather than on the supposedly negative effects of media on people. Critical audience studies has long drawn on “ethnographic ways of seeing” to investigate the everyday uses of media in myriad contexts. This area of audience research has had to define who and what constitutes “an audience,” where audiences are located, and how best to understand how people’s lives intersect with media. Changes in media production and distribution technologies have meant that texts are increasingly consumed in transnational and transplatform ways. These changes have disrupted historical distinctions between producers and audiences. Critical cultural approaches should be considered from a largely qualitative perspective and look at feminist and global reception studies as foundational to the understandings of what audiences might be and how to study them. Taking video game players as a boundary example, we need to reconsider how contemporary media forms and genres, modes of engagement, and niche and geographically dispersed media publics affect audiences and audience research: what, or who, is an audience, how can we understand it, and through what methods might we research it now?

Article

The rejection of coming out as a linear narrative must be accompanied by an alternative to the formulas of confession, disclosure, and identity adoption that have pervaded the current representations of coming out in the West. The appearance of coming out in film narratives provides important opportunities to observe how elements such as repetition, rehearsal, and, above all, contrasts are incorporated into the stories that are recounted. Conventional coming-out films have relied so heavily on the restrictive nature of the genre’s narrative structure that the potential for alternative, or queered, realities of coming out is erased. The continual reappearance and adaptations of coming out will enable a better understanding of the ways in which the act is presented as a moment that is never finished and that often evades a final, perfected, and polished performance. Four specific narratives from queer film—Beautiful Thing (1996), Summer Storm(2004), Brotherhood (2009), and North Sea Texas (2011)—will be presented to offer counter models for coming out. In Beautiful Thing, the visual narrative demonstrates the importance of the reiterative, adaptable, and unanticipated representation of the act in visual media. In Summer Storm, the audience witnesses how coming out occurs in a world of competitive sports and where the teenage athletes reveal secrets that everyone already knows. In Brotherhood, the act of coming out is transformed into a moment when identities are instantaneously accepted and rejected within a homophobic, neo-Nazi subculture. In North Sea Texas, the script of coming out is reimagined by two characters who ambiguously decline any opportunity to define their identities. Coming out in visual narratives must be understood through an elaboration of Janet Harbord’s belief that the audience gravitates toward particular visual narratives where a comfort zone is created. These films have authored reiterative and adaptable approaches to the act of coming out that both comfort and challenge the audience.

Article

Tabloid journalism has long been a highly contested news form. With a sensationalist approach and an easily digested mix of entertainment and news, it has often attracted mass audiences at the same time as it has stirred controversy and raised concern about its impact on public discourse. Originating in the tabloid newspaper, associated both with a small newspaper format and a particular news style, the term “tabloid” is today considered to characterize a range of other media content, extending to popular TV programs and certain kinds of online news. The rise and development of tabloid journalism, in combination with wider processes shaping the media, has moreover led to a debate about “tabloidization,” involving ideas about shifting priorities in journalism and the media landscape as a whole. Although tabloidization has no standard definition, an overview of empirical research using the concept as a starting point highlights analyses of various media, historical periods, and media markets, adding to understandings of tabloidization as multi-faceted and context-bound. Such a process, furthermore, has been viewed both as a possible threat to the public sphere and as potentially entailing democratizing elements, relating to long-standing depictions of tabloid journalism as either “dumbing down” or “reaching out.” Yet contemporary analysis in this field has tended to paint a more complex picture of both phenomena as well as pointing to emerging questions around the category of tabloid journalism in digital settings.