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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Under the rainbow: Post-closet gay male representation in American theatre and television
by Grant, M. Shane, Ph.D., The Florida State University, 2010, 267; 3415222
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines gay male representations in theatre and on television between 1998 and 2006. Following the explosion of gay characters seen in the early and mid-1990s, the time period under study witnessed the emergence of “post-closet” gay male characters whom authors now fashion as already openly gay identified, therefore avoiding the traditional coming out narrative. While scholars have analyzed the explosion of gay male characters in the early and mid-1990s, this dissertation extends and complicates that body of work by focusing on the particularities of post-closet characterizations. The study exposes multiple narrative interpretations of four case studies in order to refute the notion that performance narratives with gay central characters either convey only assimilationist or radically queer ideologies. Through close readings of Richard Greenberg's 2003 play Take Me Out (and its Broadway production), NBC's Will & Grace (1998-2006), Showtime's Queer as Folk (2000-2005), and Moises Kaufman's The Laramie Project (2001), this study explores four major issues. As gay characters now most often enter narratives as already out (post-closet), the work begins by examining methods through which authors establish their gay male characters’ sexual identity. The study then moves on to investigate ways in which gay characters negotiate heteronormative forces that maintain social and cultural mores advocating monogamous heterosexuality as natural and foundational. The third major section reveals the degree to which actors known publicly as heterosexual can provide viewers opportunities to read characters as “less” gay. The fourth and final major theme examines trends involved in dramatizing actual events that contain gay/queer figures at their center. Additionally, the study compares the difference between theatre and television audience and their role in the political economy of each medium. The comparison suggests that commercial theatre audiences exist as a subset of the socially liberal, urban-minded demographic identified by Ron Becker in Gay TV and Straight America (2006) known as SLUMPYs. The primary queer theory foundations used to interrogate the material is drawn from the works of Michael Warner's The Trouble With Normal (1999) and Lisa Duggan's The Twilight of Equality? (2004). Considering the plays and television programs in their totality reveals the texts as multi-layered, containing characters and narratives that simultaneously subscribe to and resist normative forces. While critics and activists have often dismissed the radical potential of these representations simply because of their broad, mainstream appeal, this study reveals their complexity.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Dahl, Mary Karen
School: The Florida State University
School Location: United States -- Florida
Source: DAI-A 71/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: LGBTQ studies, Multimedia Communications, Mass communications, Theater
Keywords: Gay characters, Gay men, Queer as Folk, Take Me Out, Television, The Laramie Project, Will and Grace
Publication Number: 3415222
ISBN: 978-1-124-09884-5
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