Queer theory and change. Towards a pragmatic approach to resistance and subversion in media research on gay and lesbian identities

Sander De Ridder, Frederik Dhaenens, Sofie Van Bauwel


This paper wants to challenge the tendency in media studies on gay and lesbian identities to remain within two dominant paradigms: the essentialist or the post-structuralist traditions. Consequently, we will elaborate on the question: if media research emphasizes social change, should it mainly adopt a political and strategic identity claim which refers to essentialism, or, should it acknowledge discourses as more important, and therefore use post-structural and queer theoretical insights? Since we discuss the case of gay and lesbian identities, we will focus on possible resistance in popular culture, which mainly involves offering alternatives to the continuous representation of heteronormativity.

We will argue that for social change to occur, there needs to be a symbiosis between agency and structure. To this end, a dialectic approach is needed that bridges the gaps between, on the one hand, a post-structuralist project that creates awareness of norms, discourse and hegemony, and on the other, identity politics that have the potential to change laws and institutions.

This paper will offer a mainly theoretical exploration and will use illustrations from popular media culture with a focus on television. To this end, this paper will illustrate how LGBT-targeted television channels employ the discussed strategies of resistance.


media studies; essentialism; queer theory; resistance

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.15847/obsOBS522011454