The Queering of the Media: How TV and Film Shape and are Shaped by Society.
“Hollywood, that great maker of myths, taught straight people what to think about gay people…and gay people what to think about themselves” -Vito Russo
Media is a mirror of societies cultural values and institutions , having the power to change our understanding of the world . Portrayals of different groups and identities in television and film decrease the fear and hate within society that arises from ignorance . The idea of accurate representations in the media, thus, is important for any minority group, impacting on how the group is perceived and accepted by society. In this article I will follow how the changing portrayals of Gay, Lesbian and Queer (GLQ) people are paralleled by changes in society, demonstrating clearly the importance of visibility to minority groups. I will, further, show that while visibility has increased drastically from the beginning of the 20th century, media portrayals of GLQ people remain narrow, not accurately reflecting the diversity of society today.
Television and film define and shape viewers sense of normality . Whether one ascribes to a bottom up (society dictates media content), a top down (media content dictates the desires of society) or a mixture of the two, as I do, media cannot be denied as a reflection of societies sense of normality. The creation of media content and views of society can be seen as a continuously entangled web, interlinked on every level, leading to what we see each night when we switch on the TV. The representations of society we see on TV shape our views and desires, leading us to call for change and political reform . These calls for reforms, leading to increased visibility of issues, again impact upon desires and our sense of normality, thus, the cycle continues. This cycle connects in every direction, representations, desires of the society and political reform flow into each other (as shown below); every element is crucial in creating our prime time viewing.
The level of visibility of a group, thus, can make or break a community. Media shapes a societies sense of normality through what it does and does not depict . That which is seen as outside of the norm is often treated with fear or hatred, something needing to be suppressed, changed or annihilated by the broader community. Lack of representation, further, instills feelings of self hatred and isolation for the individuals rendered invisible in their own society . Having no role models or people one can relate to in the media can lead to the view that you are a freak or alone in the world. For the GLQ community then, increasing their visibility in the media is incredibly important, because it will not only lead to greater rights and acceptance within society, but also increased acceptance of themselves, decreasing suicide rates and depression . An American survey conducted by GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) clearly...