Screening the Closet: The Discourse of Visibility, Sexuality, and Queer Representation in American Film and Television, 1969-Present

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Overview

Title
Screening the Closet: The Discourse of Visibility, Sexuality, and Queer Representation in American Film and Television, 1969-Present
Contributors
Kohnen, Melanie E. S. (creator)
Joyrich, Lynne (Director)
Chun, Wendy (Reader)
Lee, Robert (Reader)
Brown University. American Civilization (sponsor)
Doi
10.7301/Z04B2ZJ8
Copyright Date
2010
Abstract
This dissertation examines the claim that a so-called "explosion of gay visibility" occurred during the 1990s. I question the assertion that the increasing inclusion of gay and lesbian images in American film and television automatically represents tremendous social progress. By putting this progress into a larger historical and theoretical context, I interrogate what "gay visibility" means in terms of media representations and regarding questions of cultural belonging and identity. Through an integration of queer theory and media studies, with an additional focus on ethnic studies, this dissertation cuts across established divisions and thus allows for a new way of understanding queer visibility and its central role in shaping contemporary American culture. The four chapters examine crucial turning points in the recent history of queer visibility, such as AIDS activism during the 1980s, Ellen DeGeneres' coming out in the 1990s, and the representation of the American West in films such as The Laramie Project and Brokeback Mountain. I analyze how and why a specific definition of queer visibility, namely one that can be tied to a gay and/or lesbian identity, has become central to imagining queer subjectivities and practices in relationship to the media. Through this analysis, I show that existing accounts of queer visibility obscure more than they reveal. Specifically, I outline the critical role that whiteness plays in facilitating queer representations, an aspect that is often deliberately forgotten in academic and popular writing. My research advocates a broader perspective on the construction and impact of queer visibility by examining previously separate sexual and textual forms together. I examine queer practices and representations that cross sexual, gender, and racial identifications; I undertake an examination of film, TV and print media; and I juxtapose writings by media producers, audience members, and scholars in order to articulate a broader way of understanding queer visibility.
Keywords
sexuality
nation
film
Race
Sex
Television
Notes
Thesis (Ph.D. -- Brown University (2010)
Extent
vii, 201 p.

Citation

Kohnen, Melanie E. S., "Screening the Closet: The Discourse of Visibility, Sexuality, and Queer Representation in American Film and Television, 1969-Present" (2010). American Studies Theses and Dissertations. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library. https://doi.org/10.7301/Z04B2ZJ8

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