During my research concerning LGB representations in television, I found 3 reoccurring words across all the case studies and theoretical writings which were used:
Queer- Encapsulates both men and women (A previously negative word surrounding the homosexual behaviour, that has now been reformed into a theory which oppresses the idea of a heteronormative society)
Butch– Targeted at lesbian women (women who supposedly disassociate from feminine stereotypes and aspire to more masculine)
Effeminate– Targeted at gay men (Men who adopt an overly feminine attitude and do not identify with stereotypical masculine tendencies)
All the case studies, research projects and online forums I read regarding the representation of the LGB community, all include these three terms to describe the way they are characterised. Some I looked at:
- Acting Gay: Male Shift The Frequency Components of Their Voices Towards Female Voices When Playing Homosexual Characters- Valentina Cartei and David Reby
- The Perception of Homosexual Stereotype On ‘Gay Straight or Taken- Kelsey Wallace
- Seeing ‘‘Straight’’ through Queer Eye: Exposing the Strategic Rhetoric of Heteronormativity in a Mediated Ritual of Gay Rebellion -Robert Westerfelhaus & Celeste Lacroix
Sperm Stealers!…And Other Representations of Lesbian Parents across Television
- Were We Being Served? Homosexual Representations In British Comedy- Murray Healy
Reinventing Privilege: The New (Gay) Man in Contemporary Popular Media- Helene A. Shugart
- Invisibility, Homophobia and Heterosexism: Lesbians and Gays and The Media- Fred Fejes and Kevin Petrich
As part of my research it was necessary to explore theories and more importantly case studies regarding the world of LGB in television, to provide evidence to create a solid basis for my argument I am aiming to present within my project. Although throughout my research I have come across some opinions which express the positive reactions to the embodiment of LBG in television, there is a difference between embodying them as part of our society, and framing their characters. The embodiment of LGB characters can be most commonly be found on television sitcoms, which can be seen as a type of humorous television program based on situations that could arise in everyday life, therefore creating characters that the audience can relate and empathise with- essentially recreating a mildly accurate realities. ‘They have made us think about ourselves by making us laugh at our own absurdity. Good sitcoms are a kind of virtual reality – they reflect the rhythms of everyday life, the pain of the human condition and, of course, the joy of laughter’ (Phil Wickham, BFI). However my project intends to question televisions role in framing LGB characters in (american) sitcoms- from the way they dress to the way they behave, and to highlight the ubiquity of heteronormativity, (another form of framing which ‘does not just construct a norm, it also provides the perspective through which we know and understand gender and sexuality in popular culture’ (Westerfelhaus & Lacroix). Therefore the three words that I have chosen to ask my interviewees about, address the elements in which may LBG characters are represented in television sitcoms.
Some questions I have brainstormed:
- Can you personally relate to any LGB characters you have seen on american sitcoms?
- What does the word Queer/Effeminate/Butch personally mean to you?
- How do you interpret the representations of LGB characters in american sitcoms
Some other derogatory words I researched were ‘Alternate lifestyle’ and ‘sexual preference’ instead of sexual orientation, because these words are no longer considered appropriate, because “preference” and “lifestyle” imply that one’s sexual/romantic orientation is a choice, which it’s not. For gays and lesbians, heterosexuality is the ‘alternative lifestyle. However these terms do not directly link to the representation of LGB of American sitcoms, furthermore I decided to use words which strongly affiliate with the portrayal of their characters so I could gain a more detailed insight of how people (all sexes) interpret these stereotypes shown in sitcoms.
Westerfelhaus, R. & Lacroix, C. 2006, “Seeing “Straight” through Queer Eye: Exposing the Strategic Rhetoric of Heteronormativity in a Mediated Ritual of Gay Rebellion”,Critical Studies in Media Communication, vol. 23, no. 5, pp. 426-444.
Phil Wickham on Sitcoms, BFI.co.uk http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/445368/ accessed on 25 november 2015