Feeling Normal: Sexuality and Media Criticism in the Digital Age

Feeling Normal: Sexuality and Media Criticism in the Digital Age

Feeling Normal: Sexuality and Media Criticism in the Digital Age

Feeling Normal: Sexuality and Media Criticism in the Digital Age

Synopsis

The explosion of cable networks, cinema distributors, and mobile media companies explicitly designed for sexual minorities in the contemporary moment has made media culture a major factor in what it feels like to be a queer person. F. Hollis Griffin demonstrates how cities offer a way of thinking about that phenomenon. By examining urban centers in tandem with advertiser-supported newspapers, New Queer Cinema and B-movies, queer-targeted television, and mobile apps, Griffin illustrates how new forms of LGBT media are less "new" than we often believe. He connects cities and LGBT media through the experiences they can make available to people, which Griffin articulates as feelings, emotions, and affects. He illuminates how the limitations of these experiences--while not universally accessible, nor necessarily empowering--are often the very reasons why people find them compelling and desirable.

Excerpt

I like to tell people that everything I know about being a gay man I learned by watching television. That claim is only partially true, however, as I probably learned just as much by renting movies and chatting with people online. Twenty years removed from my first struggles with sexuality, I understand now that I consumed so much gay and lesbian media in my youth because I wanted to put myself near bodies and places with parallels to my own narrative and history. in doing that, I was trying to situate myself in a world built around desire. No matter how loving and supportive one’s family might be, to experience same-sex desire while growing up in heteronormative culture is to doubt what you know about yourself. in this context, gay and lesbian cinema, television, and online media provide important though fraught resources. I, for one, looked to them because I wanted to “feel normal.” a nebulous term for an affective state, “feeling normal” is an experience of freedom and belonging; it is both a flush of recognition and a fantasy of generality. It is an experience of body and mind that you share with others, a sense of mutuality that can be difficult to come by without readily available scripts by which to model yourself. While queer theory defines identity as being fluid and labile, the lived experience of that variability is often one of anxiety and doubt.

If identity is a necessary fiction for politics and a convenient fiction of the marketplace, it is also a comforting fiction that helps people feel connected to others and make sense of the everyday. As an anchoring narrative, identity provides a sense of connection to both intimates and strangers. the stories about desire and identity available in gay and lesbian cinema, television, and online media are scripts that offer sexual minorities avenues through which they may understand their experiences. Such narratives are elaborate in that they affix people to certain practices and structures like communities and nation-states, as well as modes of consumption and habits of mind. At the same time, identity narratives are never elaborate enough: people get confused and feel hurt when the stories available to them in media culture are limited or confining. People also experience insult and injury when those stories deviate from the ones that are validated by the social norms they encounter in the world around them. I consumed gay and lesbian media in search of those stories, and while I saw traces of my experiences in some of them, others were alienating and difficult for me. Through those stories, I hoped to place myself near a world I knew existed but . . .

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