Queer Television: Representations, Sensibilities, Forms, and Fandom
The international conference Queer Television: Representations, Forms, Fandom will be held at the University of Montreal’s Carrefour des arts et des sciences, May 9, 10 and 11, 2019 . This event, organized in collaboration with Labo Télé, the Department of Art History and Film Studies, the Centre de recherche interuniversitaire sur les humanités numériques ( CRIHN ), IRTG Diversity and the Queer Media Database, aims at finding and comparing multiple paths in order to examine television shows through a queer lens.
In a Cinema Journal article published in 2014, Lynne Joyrich underlines the paradox at the heart of the expression “queer television.” On the one hand, queer can be defined as a challenge to and disruption of hegemonic forms and representations that go beyond binary distinctions within sexuality and gender, and is attached to multiple and transitioning identities (Butler 2004, 2006; Bourcier 2001; Muñoz 2005, Halberstam 2016). On the other, television, as a mass medium, is extremely coded and linked to capitalist forms of power, therefore having troubles conveying queer themes and sensibilities. Indeed, “queer” and “television” can, at first glance, appear to be incompatible. For example, production studies highlight the need for TV series to avoid cancellation and get renewed, season after season, for as long as possible. Queer theory subverts this neoliberal type of productivity, making it possible to explore the link between the illusion of success and the lack of a future (Edelman 2005) for certain cultural objects. As Jack Halberstam points out, television seriality could also be a queer territory because of its multiple, ever-transforming nature: following this path, we should investigate the forms, technologies, and fan practices that could potentially open up new, innovative, and even radical ways of thinking about television.
By choosing to focus on fiction television seriality (other genres could be considered as well), we want to understand how queer theory can help determine certain specificities and contradictions in television, an ever-evolving medium that has been searching for an identity since its inception.
One field of inquiry is the presence of new LGBTQ+ protagonists in a context marked by an abundance of available titles and the fragmentation of TV markets. Since the beginning of the 1980s, the increased role of new representations of minorities has been a way for networks and, recently, online distribution services, to compete (Doty 2010). Moreover, the multiplication of online platforms such as VOD (following cable channels such as HBO) are challenging the rigid hegemonic television industry (from ABC to CBS, Fox or NBC). This transformation is creating new ways to perceive seriality and its productions, is enabling the creations of queer, trans, non-binary subjects, and is making room for alternative ways of storytelling.
Furthermore, the participation of fans in the construction of queer identity has, for certain series, garnered unprecedented visibility, on social networks and fan spaces online (Lothian et al. 2007, Stein 2015, Busse and Lothian 2017). Often, these practices balance out the lack of minority representation on the small screen and contribute in shaping alternative models of creativity.
We propose, therefore, to examine the relevance of a queer axis as it relates to television by analyzing queer protagonists, forms, platforms, fan interpretations and rewritings which put forward paths that are multiple, non-linear, non-heteronormative, and sometimes destined to fail (Halberstam 2005, Rich 1980).
Papers may tackle the following subjects (non-exhaustive list):
- ● Queer characters in contemporary television series;
- ● Queer forms and narratives in digital television;
- ● The industry: queer producers and creators;
- ● Marketing queer television in the context of convergence;
- ● Queer television and the remix culture: viewer practices, fandom;
- ● Queer methodologies for television.
The Queer Television conference situates its discussions at the crossroads between several disciplines and fields of study (Television, Media, Audience, Feminist and Gender Studies) in order to collectively construct hypotheses around these objects that are both fragile and complex. We will encourage papers which take into account the intertwining of production, forms, technologies, and reception involved in each case study, as well as the methodology.
Send your proposition (300 words), a short biography and a title for your presentation at firstname.lastname@example.org before November 1st 2018. Notice of acceptance will be sent before January 15th, 2019.
Joëlle Rouleau et Marta Boni (Université de Montréal)