This article I have come across is something that I have found very interesting in my project, as it opposes one of main main arguments that lesbian women are presented as butch. Here, the argument that lesbian women are being portrayed as girly girls, resembling barbie dolls. The word butch implies that women are heavily influenced by masculine attributes and behaviours, however many modern day theorist such as Judith Butler believe that recently the term Butch has reformed the traditional perception as she states ‘within lesbian context , the ‘identification’ with masculinity that appears with butch identity is not a simple assimilation of lesbianism back into the terms of heterosexuality… As Butch-femme explained, she likes her boys to be girls, meaning that being a girl contextualises and resignifies ‘masculinity’ in butch identity’ (Butler 1990, 123). This theory redefines the meaning of butch of a women striving to be a man, but instead a women who admires masculine either characteristics or appearance and isn’t affraid to embrace it, therefore creating her own identity. However the traditional connotation of the word still plays a large role in shaping how people view lesbian women linking with butchness.
Since conducting the project, I have realised that there is a lack of lesbian characters on TV in comparrison to gay men. Orange is the new black and Glee both include lesbian character (who’s representations vary between both programmes) however they are not american sitcoms so cannot be used in my project. The amount written on lesbian representations as well is also significantly lower that writings regarding the representation of gay men. Recently GLAAD surveyed the amount of lesbian characters in film and television and found there was a serious lack:
It was definitley more difficult finding Butch representations in American Sitcoms than gay, however I found a few:
- A lesbian couple shown in Modern Family who absolutely hated the male gay couple, following the stereotype of lesbians as men hating women
- In friends the lesbian character who attends the lesbian women who chats up phoebe
- Rules Of Engagement
Although there aren’t many example of lesbian butch women, butch is constructed through appearance and behaviour, which women characters do deploy. This construction framed by television is definitely a stereotype they want to portray of indicating that the character could be lesbian, therefore reinforcing the audiences view of what a lesbian should look like. My project gather opinions for 3 people with 3 different sexual orientations as to they interpret a word to describe LGB characters and how they feel about it in general, therefore provided a view with does not conform to the mainstream stereotype like lesbians and gays hating each other.
Narrowing down my project to solely research American Sitcoms, has allowed me to carefully deconstruct elements within the characters from a few present day sitcoms and compare them to the past (1990s- early 2000’s). Of course gay rights has become an increasingly publicised and welcomed topic with society throughout the years, although with hundreds of years of oppressive opposition, comes strong discourse around the negativity towards homosexual orientation. Thus prominent stereotypes within society have lived on and have essentially shaped a social construct towards LGB citizens, for example the association of gay men as feminized males and lesbians as masculine females. These social construct which apparently are current within modern day society are then translated into television, as a way to represent realities. My main concern with this is that, as we are constantly exposed to heteronormative value through television, the way in which LGB people are represented are so distinctively different from their surrounding heterosexual characters (attitudes, clothes, body language and tone of voice), that it emphasises the idea that being homosexual isn’t normal- ultimately characterising them as outcasts.
Here are some television programmes which I have looked into, which exemplify traditional heteronormative values:
-Will and Grace
-The New Normal
-One Big Happy
In each series I have listed above, their is at least one gay male character who evidently more flamboyant, overly dramatic and has a higher pitched voice that the rest of the men on the show- generally conforming to the stereotypical elements in which symbolizes feminine behaviours. For example in The New Normal and Modern Family, both married male couples consist of one of the partners playing the role of the more masculine husband, whereas the other stands as the role of the wife. This is something which I find quite bizarre as again it reinforces the heteronormative ideology that no matter what you sexual orientation may have, the roles of a man and a women in a relationship is imperative. I am not saying that this is completely a false representation, however It a construction which has been commonly framed by american sitcoms, which roots to the ubiquity of heteronormal standards which television promotes.
One main object I aim to evoke from the audience is the invisibility of the dominance of heteronormativity in popular culture, but specifically in television. People who are not affected by it may as well be blind to it, as it is not and never will be a problem for them as being exposed to your personal version of normal is not something that would being upsetting. However on the receiving end, homosexual citizens deal with the gap which should reflect their position in society just as equally as heterosexuals.
‘Heterosexuality as a social reality seems to be invisible to those who benefit from it. In part, this is because of the remorseless construction of heterosexuality as normal. If things are natural, they cannot really be questioned or scrutinized and so they fade from view. Such naturalisation often characterizes how we see, and don’t see, the powerful; how they see, and don’t see, themselves. (Westerfelhaur & Lacroix). This normalisation is very apparent in television programmes, through the extreme differences of portrayal between hetero and homosexual characters, which I want to highlight as a problem we as a society are facing, through the use of my interviews.
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.
The only way I could effectively present my project was though an online website, so that the viewers could navigate from the images to through to the videos. I want to make it clear that this is not a web media project and I am using the platform of website solely to display my project ‘Beyond The Screens’
I have used the online free website maker WIX, a simple and straightforward website which allows you to easily construct you envisioned website. I have decided to keep it very minimal for two reason:
- Emphasising that it is not a web based project
- To reflect the intentions of the context of the photographs and videos, very bare and not giving away too much information
Wix has allowed to me resize, drag, drop and insert my photographs, videos and text enabling me to design it exactly how I wanted it. This saved a lot of time compared to how long it would take if I was starting a website from scratch though coding. Generally this sped up my word process of uploading the content online and has provided me with more flexibility and freedom to execute the project in the way I desire.
As you can see above in the original photographs, I had problems with the shadows behind the subjects on the wall, as well as on their faces- around the nose area. Although I did have the three lights on, I could not position them together in unison to achieve a shadowless image. Although I able to fix this problem in photoshop by lassoing the faces/bodies out and copying it onto a new layer, so that I could fill the background with a similar colour to what it would have looked like against a wall, with a black and white filter.
The second set of photographs are exhibit the images with a black and white layer (presents defaulted by photoshop), I have put up to show the difference between the final photographs which I have customised the presets of the black and white layer along with the level and contrasts on the image. My intentions were to play around with customising a filter, and which ever one looked best, I would apply to all the photographs. However, of course when it actually came to editing all the photographs, this was not feasible as all the subjects have different skin tones, hair and eye colours.Therefore the way I anticipated the photographs to look was quite naive, as one filter could not produce a generalised outcome to cater for all the different tones within the image. Another factor that hindered this was the higher intensity of lighting in will (male with curly hair), as although his skin is significantly lighter than the rest of the people, this again highlighted the differences of tones, as the other images have a warmer tone.
The way I tackled this was by lowering the levels just on his face and body, not the background to imitate a soft light look. This did work although it did create contrast between the skin on his chest and his freckles on them, which is not a necessarily negative thing as I do want to present diversity within the people I photograph. However in comparison to the other where there skin looks a lot smoother and even toned, this could look slightly inconsistent in regards to my editing skills.
I also managed to take away the shadows on their faces by using the clone stamp tool, which was a very long and tedious process as it was very simple for it to look extremely unrealistic and over edited. So time and effort was crucial to this part of the editing.
The reason I went for a darker black and white filter was because I felt it highlighted the subjects features better, which I also enhanced by using a low opacity dodge tool to slightly brighten the eyes and the burn tool to darken the lips and eyebrows. I wanted to create images with with strong contrasts eg illuminating their facial features against darker tones, was because I wanted it to reflect the intentions of my project: exposing people (a mixture of contrasting sexual orientations) as humans, framing them in non subjective way, to social constructions around their sexuality.
‘Gay, Straight or taken’ is a reality television programme produced by HBO, in which the objective is to find the heterosexual (love interest) male out of the two other contenders, a homosexual male and a heterosexual male in a committed relationship. Kelsey Wallace’s study examines how this show can actually reinforce stereotypical homosexual representations rather than defy them, which is what the shows executives claim to do. Wallace focuses on the ‘framing’ of homosexual characters which she Entman explains ‘Framing in media occurs when the media emphasise certain aspects of a perceived reality, while at the same time excluding other aspects of that perceived reality in order to shape public opinion (Entman, 1993).’
Some ways in which Gay, Straight or Taken reinforce the effeminate gay notions is through staging certain activities for the contestants to participate in, which specify with certain gender stereotypes. For example shooting bow and arrows is surrounded with the discourse of strength and traditional masculinity, in comparison to going to a hair/beauty salon and performing tasks which are classically related to female activities. These variations of activities enable the women (along with the rest of the public watching) to scrutinise the 3 men to analyse what environment they feel most comfortable in and what they are achieve in it. This therefore strongly emphasises the differences between the homo and heterosexual males through essentially framing them as opposite genders.
I have found that the importance of the framing of homosexual characters within television programmes is the core of my entire project as my aim is to explore how people respond to these negative representations which are established through television. The purpose of my photographs are to frame the subjects as bare humans, therefore hiding any aspects of them which could be a subject of discussion or judgment relating to their sexual orientation. Framing also applies to the style of my video, as I am opposing conventional styles of observatory documentary which are designated to inform the truth in a clearly structured way. Instead I am challenging the audiences perception of LGB which they have been presented with through television and swapping the voices of the interviewees so that the audience cannot identify their voices with their faces. I am also adding to this by filming extreme close up shots of sections of their face so the audience are only able to view glimpses of them. This enhances the idea of framing them in a way which goes against their conventional framings, and presenting them as humans who have the same features on their body just like heterosexual people, confronting the heteronormative belief.
I have filtered my research to focus on the way in which LGB’s are represented, specifically in television. Television is a broad sector of the media therefore this may seem quite vague. Although throughout my research regarding the construction of LGB characters, I will continue to specify in a particular genre of television, based on the evidence and knowledge I accumulate from my findings.
Valentina Cartei and David Reby case study brings attention to the difference between the vocal ranges 0f heterosexual and homosexual male television character, as a reflection of how society has built certain perceptions around homosexuality and effeminacy.
- One being that the decision to allocate a higher pitch voice to represent gay males, in response to the supposed general view in society surrounding homosexuals being increasingly effeminate, therefore television character encapsulate this authenticity to present ‘reality’.
- On the other hand, television characters can be seen as the catalyst for reinforcing these ideas linking homosexuality and effeminacy. Many television shows aim to represent reality for example dramas, sitcoms and soaps. This therefore strengthens the identification of homosexual males with feminine tendencies, promoting to the public a generalised and unrealistic characterisation of gay men in society.
This research project has significant relevance to my assignment as it analyses topics similar to mine, as it aims to highlight part of the subject I am exploring- the negative and unfair representations of gay men in television. As I am making a 3 short documentary videos of the 4 people, who I am photographing (2 homosexual and 2 heterosexual), the pitch of voice plays a key role in regards to the judgement and defining someones sexual orientation- as seen in this project. For this reason, I am taking a different approach to the aspect of voice, and mismatching the audio with the visuals, overlaying sound which does not belong to the person being displayed. The reason for this is to deceive the viewer by presenting that not all representations are accurate and fair in television.
‘Moreover the increased F0 variation observed in the voice of actors playing homosexual characters suggests that they attempt to increase the melodic quality of their voice, another stereotypical correlate of perceived femininity’ (Cartei, Reby: 2012)
Cartei, V. and Reby, D. (2012) Acting Gay: Male Actors Shift the Frequency Components of Their Voices Towards Female Values When Playing Homosexual Characters. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior [online]. 36 (1), pp. 79-93. [Accessed 12 October 2015].