Lance Loud, An American Family, and the reconfiguration of the American Son

Authors: Pullen, C.

Conference: 4th Film and History Biennial Conference

Dates: 8-12 November 2006


This paper argues that the presence of Lance Loud in An American Family significantly challenged concepts of family membership, particularly relating to the acceptance of homosexual children. Whilst Lance did not openly testify his sexuality in the series, the iconic reading of the text involving his close relationship with his mother, and immediate (and later) press and television interviews where his life was fully explored, allowed for a reconfiguration of the role of the accepted gay son.

In this way Lance’s early positioning of the first (openly) gay contented documentary performer contributed to a growing emergence of gay social actors openly testifying their sexuality on television. Consequently this paper not only explores Lance’s performative moments within An American Family (and his later appearance in Lance Loud: Death in An American Family (Alan and Susan Raymond for PBS, 2003)) tracing his relationship with mother Pat and father Bill, it also explores later textual moments which might be considered as progressively influenced by the series. In this way The Real World (Bumin Murray for MTV, 1992 – present), The Amazing Race (Jerry Bruckheimer TV for CBS, 2000 – present) and documentary iconic performances recording the value of Matthew Shepard’s life, all may be related to progressing an acceptance of gay children (openly gay producer Jon Murray (creator of The Real World) cites Lance Loud has his inspiration to include gay people in the series).

This engenders Lance’s early positioning as a trailblazing iconic character that stimulated an understanding and acceptance of the American son. This may be related not only to his personal agency, but also to the support of progressive documentary producers who have been inspired by his humanity and bravery, producing texts which support the acceptance and equality of gay family members.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Christopher Pullen