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The New Gay for Pay

The New Gay for Pay
The Sexual Politics of American Television Production

Taking a bottom-up approach through interviews with numerous industry workers, this book deepens our understanding of the intricate processes behind the creation of the LGBT representations that appear on television.

January 2018
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208 pages | 6 x 9 | 9 b&w photos | Hardcover has a printed case, no dust jacket |

Television conveys powerful messages about sexual identities, and popular shows such as Will & Grace, Ellen, Glee, Modern Family, and The Fosters are often credited with building support for gay rights, including marriage equality. At the same time, however, many dismiss TV’s portrayal of LGBT characters and issues as “gay for pay”—that is, apolitical and exploitative programming created simply for profit. In The New Gay for Pay, Julia Himberg moves beyond both of these positions to investigate the complex and multifaceted ways that television production participates in constructing sexuality, sexual identities and communities, and sexual politics.

Himberg examines the production stories behind explicitly LGBT narratives and characters, studying how industry workers themselves negotiate processes of TV development, production, marketing, and distribution. She interviews workers whose views are rarely heard, including market researchers, public relations experts, media advocacy workers, political campaigners designing strategies for TV messaging, and corporate social responsibility department officers, as well as network executives and producers. Thoroughly analyzing their comments in the light of four key issues—visibility, advocacy, diversity, and equality—Himberg reveals how the practices and belief systems of industry workers generate the conceptions of LGBT sexuality and political change that are portrayed on television. This original approach complicates and broadens our notions about who makes media; how those practitioners operate within media conglomerates; and, perhaps most important, how they contribute to commonsense ideas about sexuality.

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: The New Gay for Pay
  • Chapter 1. Visibility: Lesbian Programming and the Changing Landscape of Cable Television
  • Chapter 2. Advocacy: Hitching Activism to Modern Family’s Gay Wedding
  • Chapter 3. Diversity: Under-the-Radar Activism and the Crafting of Sexual Identities
  • Chapter 4. Equality: Proposition 8 and the Politics of Marriage on Television
  • Conclusion: The Personal Is Still Political (and Profitable)
  • Notes
  • References
  • Index

Tempe, Arizona

Himberg is an assistant professor of film and media studies at Arizona State University.


“Reading Julia Himberg's recent book in public, even in Los Angeles, is a bit like wearing a statement piece to church. Fellow coffee shop dwellers, lunchers, and friends see the rainbow-colored television screen emblazoned on the cover, their eyes run over the title, and one question generally leads the conversation: "What is The New Gay for Pay?"”
The Advocate

The New Gay For Pay is a significant contribution to both media studies and gender & sexuality studies, laying out the current landscape. It is also a solid primer for those looking to understand the workings and operators behind the creation and casting of LGBT characters on television.”
Lambda Literary

“This book will appeal to those interested in critical TV studies, media activism, and how cultural understandings of the LGBT community gain power...Himberg offers a strong overview of LGBT media scholarship, and readers new to this area of study will still find the book accessible while engaging with key concepts in the field. ”
Media Industries Journal

“This book is written with remarkable economy, especially admirable in a project which manages so much complexity. The New Gay for Pay is refreshingly accessible, and I can imagine it being useful to a range of audiences beyond the academy…a valuable study of LGBTQ representations in the postnetwork era and an instructive example of work on television and advocacy.”
Critical Studies in Television

“[The New Gay for Pay] offers a useful contribution to the field by focusing on the perspective of industry representatives and the multifaceted ways in which TV contributes to the politics of representation of LGBT issues and identities.”
European Journal of Communication

“Through her meticulous attention to the nuances surrounding LGBT television representations, Himberg constructs a wonderful book that provides a model for this kind of scholarship. Her examinations of industry practices and procedures, the actions of individual human agents and day-to-day decision making provide a detailed, concrete understanding of contemporary LGBT media...By undertaking this ambitious endeavor to work through large-scale questions on such a fine-grained scale, Himberg has created a book that is a welcome addition to any collection.”
New Review of Film and Television Studies

“This is a terrific book that makes a major contribution in proposing ‘studying up’ interview-based methods for understanding media industries. It changes the game about the politics of representation of LGBT communities. Bravo!”
Amy Villarejo, Cornell University, author of Ethereal Queer

“Himberg cogently emphasizes that we should see all of television and our culture’s media industries not as unified and monolithic but as arenas of struggle and negotiation. Her book thus importantly complicates discussions of the media regarding such issues as production cultures, questions of ‘diversity’ and ‘representation,’ and critiques of neoliberalism. By engaging with these issues and showing their complexity, Himberg reveals possibilities for action and agency—possibilities that are crucial for any kind of effective media politics.”
Lynne Joyrich, Chair and Professor of Modern Culture and Media, Brown University


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This book may also be available on the following library platforms; check with your local library:
3M Cloud Library/bibliotheca