Revising Reality: An Investigation of LGBTQIA+ Representation in Contemporary Speculative TV Shows

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2023-12

Authors

D'Antoni, Emma

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Abstract

Television plays a powerful role in shaping modern society— educating us, strengthening our connections, and influencing our moral and personal development. As one of the dominant narrative mediums of the 21st century, it follows that television carries a moral responsibility for fostering a more accepting and equitable society. This responsibility includes demanding greater diversity and representation in storytelling, especially within speculative fiction genres, since the reach of these genres and the implications of their subject matter are so vast. In this thesis, I explore LGBTQIA+ representation in contemporary speculative television, with a spotlight on the science fiction sub-genre.

I begin by examining how the traditions, theory, and public perceptions of speculative TV media make inclusivity in this super-genre uniquely important. Once the value of representation in these texts is established, I zero in on one of the most prominent speculative genres, science fiction, and perform a close analysis of three shows from 2000–present to evaluate whether these shows are meaningfully inclusive and assess what progress has been made in the last two decades. To aid me in appraising something as subjective as quality representation, I have designed a rubric informed by queer theory and based on Kristen J. Warner’s and Mary Beltrán’s models of plastic vs. meaningful cultural diversity.

Though progress has been made in the past twenty years to make these genres more inclusive, much queer representation in today’s media landscape is still confined to token characters and plastic subplots within otherwise normative narratives. Though there are modern shows that rise above and beyond, a paradigm shift is needed in how TV creators imagine and depict speculative societies.

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