Jun 18, 2024  
2023-2024 Catalog 
2023-2024 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

ENG 409 - Television: Queer Representations (=GSS 401)


With its roots in the gendered domestic suburban household, television has a longstanding investment in questions of gender and sexuality.  Pushing back against the assumption that LGBTQ characters did not appear on our screens in a sustained way until the 1980s, this course will investigate how TV representation of queer life have changed with the evolution of the medium since the 1950s.  Recent work in the field of queer TV studies has unearthed queer characters from previously invisible archives, charted changing conceptions of masculinity and femininity in broadcast programming, and documented the organizational strategies  employed by television narrative that disclose and contain expressions of non-normative sexualities. Indeed, in one of the foundational texts on queer TV, Lynne Joyrich argues that “U.S. television does not simply reflect an already closeted sexuality but actually helps organize sexuality as closeted.” Extending Joyrich’s line of reasoning, we will seek to understand the dynamics of visibility and invisibility that structure representations of televised queerness. How might we understand the contemporary series Transparent alongside or against the representation of a trans character on All in the Family (1975)? Why might The New Normal, a seemingly positive portrayal of new kinship structures, have failed as a series in 2013? Even as we watch the problematic take on villainous lesbian characters in the Angie Dickinson vehicle, Police Woman (“Flowers of Evil,” 1974), we will move beyond diagnoses and critiques of “bad” versus “good” queer representations to acknowledge the pleasures that may attend the viewing of even ideologically corrupt programming. Which shows and episodes became lightening rods for desire despite their failure to produce fully realized queer characters? And what genealogy (or genealogies) of queer TV might take us from the groundbreaking episodes of Ellen (“The Puppy Episode”) and Roseanne (“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”) in the 1990s to the moment at which a Vanity Fair cover declared that with “Gay-per-view TV” shows like Will and Grace and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, prime time had “come out” (2003)? As we historicize such developments, we will consider the contributions of writer-producers and series creators such as Alan Ball and Ryan Murphy, and analyze a variety of programs from “quality television” to animation, from the sit-com to reality TV, and from sci-fi to the game show.

Satisfies a major requirement in English.
Satisfies a minor requirement in English.
Satisfies the Diversity requirement in the English major.
Satisfies a major requirement in Gender and Sexuality Studies.
Satisfies a minor requirement in Gender and Sexuality Studies.
Satisfies an interdisciplinary minor requirement in Film and Media Studies.
Satisfies the Justice, Equality and Community requirement.