- Introduction:What Is Queer Production Studies/Why Is Queer Production Studies?
in the period immediately following the 1969 Stonewall riots—a period hegemonically understood as the start of the modern gay rights movement—gay men and lesbians began proclaiming themselves out and proud. As part of that proclamation, gay men and lesbians began to protest the ways they were being depicted across media forms. Focusing on the harm that could parasocially come from "mainstream" viewers being exposed to images of gay men and lesbians that hewed closely to stereotypical gender-inversion models, the early to mid-1970s saw organizations such as the Gay and Lesbian Task Force begin trying to pressure networks and studios to rehabilitate the ways gayness was mediated. Following this activist turn, much of the early gay and lesbian media scholarship also focused on rhetorical analyses of LGBT media images, assessing the semiotic chain that sutured "incorrectly" feminine behaviors to gay men and "butch" behaviors to lesbians.
When American media studies began engaging with cultural studies approaches to media in the 1980s, paying attention to audiences and production practices as well as mediated images, scholars began by building upon the work of Birmingham School scholars such as Stuart Hall. However, the work this engagement produced rarely included axes of "difference." When differences were accounted for, scholars often studied representations of white women (as in seminal work by Julie D'Acci and Janice Radway). Alexander Doty challenged queer studies scholars to engage with media production and reception practices, suggesting that there are three places in which queer media culture develops: "(1) influences during the production of texts; (2) historically specific readings and uses of texts by self-identified gays, lesbians, bisexuals, queers; and (3) adopting reception positions that can be considered 'queer' in some way, regardless of a person's declared sexual and gender allegiances" (xi). Some queer studies scholars heeded Doty's call to produce scholarship that engaged with reading practices/positions of LGBT people. Still others examined the phenomenon of "queering" media (which has also helped scholars engage with studies of mediated bromances). However, with few exceptions, production studies infrequently included sexuality and queerness in its research agenda.
Some scholars have begun to turn their attention to queer production studies, examining the ways LGBTQ subjects use media as a counterpublic (Gamson; Muñoz), the politics [End Page 3] of writing gay characters within otherwise heterosexual series (Martin, "Scripting Black Gayness"), the utility of paratexts in producing onscreen queerness (Draper), the particularities of branding queerness within cable television (Freitas; Himberg; Ng), the ways gay characters are cast within television (Martin, "The Queer Business"), and the invisibility of queer labor (Tinkcom). With queer media studies more frequently turning its attention to issues of production, the time is ripe for a sustained theoretical intervention that helps illuminate the relationship(s) between the proliferation of LGBTQ media and the ways such media are produced. Here the aim is to position queer production studies as a discipline or offshoot of broader production studies and examine what it means to produce queerness in/across twenty-first-century media.
So what is queer production studies? On one hand, queer production studies borrows from "broader" production studies, as outlined by Vicki Mayer, Miranda Banks, and John Caldwell, in that it takes
the lived realities of people involved in media production as the subjects for theorizing production as culture. Production studies gather empirical data about production: the complexity of routines and rituals, the routines of seemingly complex processes, the economic and political forces that shape roles, technologies, and the distribution of resources according to cultural and demographic differences. … Articulated from various disciplines … production studies privilege but also interrogate research methodologies that place the researcher in dialogue with subjects usually charged with representing us.(4)
Mayer, Banks, and Caldwell's theorizations adequately guide the ways many studies of queer production occur, often focusing on the labor of industry workers as they produce LG (and sometimes B, T, and Q) content, including examining the ways such characters and content are produced within the writers' room, on sets, and within production companies, as well as the ways such roles are cast. However, such...