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.
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.
“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