Youths in Educational Documentary: Coming Out, Partnerships and Race

Authors: Pullen, C.

Conference: Society for Cinema & Media Studies Conference

Dates: 6-9 March 2008


This paper focuses on a recent gay youth focused documentary series on Channel Four in the United Kingdom. Within this Coming Out at School, offered a discussion on the problematic issues for young gays and lesbians coming out to classmates and teachers, Gay to Zed explored issues of teenage ritual, partnership and friendship networks, and Batty Boy confronted the hatred and abjection of homosexuals within Jamaica (focusing on popular musicians living there). These programmes were broadcast in a school teaching slot, aimed at educating young students. Through examining issues concerning personal performance, identity and intimacy, this paper explores not only the public service ethos of the series, but also the personal investments of young performers attempting to change their world. In this way though exploring the issue of personal self reflexivity in relation to institutional educational constraints and demands, it reveals young performers engaged in transgressive activity. This I would argue connects with Anthony Giddens’s ideas concerning a ‘transformation of intimacy’ in contemporary society, at the same time it is indicative of Marvin Carlson’s ideas on the potential of subversion ‘from within’. Also this paper extends beyond the context of performance, and relates also to audience engagement. Here a school age identified audience is encouraged not only to identify with their gay and lesbian peers, but also to consider a complex relationship between racial and sexual minorities which often involves ‘displaced abjection’ (Stallybrass and White). Channel Four’s school addressed gay series navigates a difficult terrain, which extends far beyond current educational strategies in the United Kingdom. This paper calls for an understanding of these issues, and the prospect of incorporating such potential within institutional frames.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Christopher Pullen