Gay Representation, Queer Resistance, and the Small Screen: A reception study of gay representations among Flemish fans of contemporary television fiction

gay-representation.jpegAuthor(s) (CIMS)

Frederik Dhaenens

Year Publication





Drawing on the fruitful insights of queer theory, this study departs from the notion that popular culture can function as articulations of resistance to the discourse of heteronormativity that is being reiterated and consolidated in popular culture products. In particular, this study focuses on the potential of gay representation (representations of those who are identified and/or self-identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual) in contemporary television fiction to resist heteronormative institutions, practices, norms and values. Previous textual studies on popular series (namely The Wire, Family Guy, Six Feet Under, Brothers & Sisters, Torchwood and True Blood) have argued that these series represent gay characters and gay-related themes that, on the one hand, expose how the discursive practices of heteronormativity function, and on the other, transgress social and cultural assumptions about gender, sexuality and identity and thereby function as queer and viable alternatives to the heteronormative way of living. Since articulations of resistance only become resistant in the act of reading, this study wants to explore how television audiences negotiate the meaning of gay representation and its potential to resist. First, it studies how Flemish fans of contemporary television fiction read gay representation, and in particular, how they read the articulations of resistance embedded in the text. Second, it inquires whether or not the fans assume a heteronormative or resistant discursive position in their readings of the gay representations. To this end, an exploratory reception analysis confronts the results of a sample of textual analyses that have illustrated how popular series can resist to the discourse of heteronormativity, with the readings of the fans.