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Javnost - The Public, Vol. 19 - 2012, No. 4

Reading Gays on the Small Screen: A Reception Study among Flemish Viewers of Queer Resistance in Contemporary Television Fiction

, pages: 57-72

Drawing on the insights of queer theory, this study departs from the notion that popular culture can articulate resistance to the discourse of heteronormativity, which is being reiterated and consolidated in popular culture products. In particular, this study focuses on the potential of gay representation in contemporary television fiction to resist heteronormative institutions, practices, norms, and values. In preceding qualitative textual studies on queer resistance in a selection of popular series (namely The Wire, Family Guy, Six Feet Under, Brothers & Sisters, Torchwood and True Blood), it is argued that these series represent gay characters and themes that expose the oppressive practices of heteronormativity and represent viable alternatives to the heteronormative way of living. As articulations of resistance only become resistant in the act of reading, this study aims to explore how television audiences negotiate the meaning of gay representation and its potential to resist. Its aim is twofold: First, it aims to study how Flemish regular television viewers of contemporary television fiction read gay representation and, in particular, how they read articulations of queer resistance. Second, it aims to inquire whether or not the television viewers assume heteronormative or resistant discursive positions in their readings. To this end, a reception analysis confronts the results of the preceding textual analyses, which have illustrated how popular series can resist the discourse of heteronormativity, with the readings of the regular television viewers.

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