Narrative Agency in Queer Television Drama: Shame, Reflection and (American) Community

Authors: Pullen, C.

Conference: Subversive Re/Viewing : Readings, Communities, Practices

Dates: 2 December 2006


This paper examines narrative agency in contemporary queer television drama, particularly focussing on the issue of dealing with shame, and the construction of community. Through examining Sally Munt’s observations on the contentious nature of rejecting shame (primarily focusing on Queer as Folk, Channel 4, UK), this paper considers how in new queer television drama shame, culpability and personal reflection form connective strands in the construction of politicised queer communities. Furthermore through exploring the significance of Ken Plummers ideas on ‘Intimate Citizenship’, it is argued that community representations form therapeutic sites of engagement which enable new possibilities for identification. Consequently through examining evidence within Queer as Folk (Showtime, US) and The L Word (Showtime, US), connections are made between narrative agency and audience identification. Also the debate is extended to consider distinctions between American and British queer community storytelling, revealing a balance between the benefits of representing communities in coalescent engagement, and the provision of solitary (albeit powerful) character moments.

It is revealed that the voice of queer community is established though the coalescence of diverse community members, involved in the re-appropriation of shame. Here the labelling of queer shame (written by heterosexual authors) is displaced by the provision of new stories of performative recreation. These indicate the failures of dominant dissenters, and the potential of new community forms.

This ultimately focuses on the potential of production, and identification, which for gay producers and audiences may be considered as self reflexive moments of engagement.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Christopher Pullen