“But they’re gay though”: how LGBTQ+ audiences are queering contemporary drama
Davenport, Alexandria Douglas
Previous research and the existing literature on LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transgender, Queer) representation in the media has neglected to examine how LGBTQ+ audiences are actively queering media in order to fill gaps in representation and to find relatable characters and experiences in the media they consume. While we have seen a rise in research looking at increased representation, especially on television, and the online presence of fans, including LGBTQ+ audiences and their reactions to media representation, and the results of queering media (or “messing up” media for their own purposes), we have failed to see a rise in research examining how audiences react to this lack of representation and how they come to queering. My contribution to the literature provides empirical evidence of how people are actively queering media. This study uses purposive snowball sampling to gather participants, and the combined methodologies of participant observation and in depth semi-structured interviews, which were carried out in Edinburgh, Brighton, and London from 2014 to 2016. The resulting thesis argues that LGBTQ+ audiences are queering contemporary drama to address a lack of representation and for their own personal enjoyment. We can understand their queering practises take the form of careers that progress through time, many of them reflecting major life changes and life stages, starting in adolescence and discovering their sexualities and gender identities, changing as they go away to university, and then again when they start or settle into adulthood. Their queering practices are done according to personal ethical guidelines, which prohibit practices they find taboo, but also maintaining intersectionality in representation and queering. Their practices are also emotional; allowing them to explore their identities and interpersonal relationships, as well as examine emotional events in their lives; this is not reflective of the previous assumption that fans are crazed, but that they experience a range of everyday emotions. Finally, they expand the domains of queering to expand representation beyond dyadic relationships, which dominate LGBTQ+ representation in the media, to include more romantic and sexual orientations such as aromatic, asexual, and polyamorous, as well as trans and non-binary identities. This study points to the need for continued research in this area to fully understand how and why LGBTQ+ audiences are queering media, and the need to broaden the exploration of queering outside of urban centres in the UK, and across all backgrounds and age groups.
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