Trapped in a generic closet : black-cast television sitcoms and black gay men
Trapped in a Generic Closet is an interdisciplinary, mixed methods project that examines the various sites where meaning is made and negotiated with respect to representations of black gay men in black-cast from the mid-late 1990s through the early part of the 21st century. Combining scholarship from TV genre theory, reception theory, authorship studies, critical race theory and queer media studies, this dissertation works toward developing a more holistic understanding of the ways black gayness operates within black-cast sitcoms. This project intervenes and works against the scholarly impetus to study lead and co-starring characters because they have more sustained visibility with viewers and instead examines those one-off (or nearly one-off) black gay male characters within the black sitcom because, I argue, they reveal more about the ways in which ideology function within the genre. It is within the moments of rupture that black gay guest-starring characters emerge that viewers can understand what the show's producers and writers (as a monolithic group) think about gayness and its intersection with comedy. Ultimately, this dissertation project shifts the scholarly attention away from white gay televisuality to black gay televisuality to explore the ways homosexuality functions within the black sitcom and begin correcting the erasure of black queer bodies from the televisual canon of gay representation. Working in tandem with Roderick A. Ferguson, who posits "queer of color analysis extends women of color feminism by investigating how intersecting racial, gender, and sexual practices antagonize and/or conspire with the normative investments of nation-states and capital," this project seeks to extend this critique to the black-cast sitcom and examines the sites where meaning about black gay characters is made.