As previous sections have shown, queer characters, situations, and themes are becoming increasingly prevalent in the media. It is sometimes difficult, though, to determine whether or not certain representations are balanced. After all, like other human beings, queer people can be villains, fools or rivals and many “negative” characters are richly portrayed and written. Never having a queer antagonist would be just as poor a decision as the tradition of portraying queer people as only the butt of jokes or as sociopaths. What is important to keep in mind when engaging with these and other representations is the spirit in which they appear to be made and what is being said about each character and his or her relationships to other characters and events. The following questions can help in contextualizing these representations:
- Why are things represented in a certain way? What’s being said? More importantly, what’s being assumed and not said? When queer characters and situations appear, are they presented as being representative of the entire queer community, or is queerness presented in a way that acknowledges difference by implying “This is how this particular person or situation is”?
- When queer characters and situations are represented in mainstream media, ask yourself how they are positioned against dominant heterosexual culture. Do they exist as an aberration of traditional heterosexual roles? Are they portrayed as oddities? Moreover, are they presented in a way that implies that they “should” exactly mirror heterosexual roles?
- Even in media that doesn’t deal explicitly with queer issues, try to spot instances in which certain types of sexuality and gender configurations are established as the only legitimate forms. Is marriage, heterosexuality, or monogamy presented as the only legitimate forms of romantic agency? Do the authors leave open the possibility that one can be queer or single and remain a valid and fulfilled human being?
- Support artists who provide positive messages regarding alternative identities. Media are primarily motivated by financial concerns: as producers begin to realize that they make less money off of media products based on prejudice and ignorance, they will be forced to raise their standards.
- Conversely, complaints about negative portrayals can be made to government agencies or industry regulatory bodies. Complaints about portrayals on radio and television, for example (including ads) can be made to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council; complaints about ads in Canadian print magazines or in public places can be made to Advertising Standards Canada.
Resources for Further Reading
- Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere - Advocacy
- Canadian Civil Liberties Association – Advocacy
- Resource for Gay-Straight Alliances and popular culture discussions
- Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation – Advocacy
- The Human Rights Campaign – Advocacy
- Amnesty International – International Advocacy
- Lambda Legal – Advocacy
- The Trevor Project - Crisis Hotline and Advocacy
- Gaylaxicon – queer comic book and science fiction convention.
- Comic Con - the world’s largest comic book and science fiction convention.
- The Spectrum Awards
- Current TV - Current TV has a gay media vlog called “That’s Gay”
- It Gets Better - The “It Gets Better” Project Channel started by Dan Savage
- It Gets Better Canada
Media and Culture
- Gay-nerds.com - General interest, nerd culture
- Towleroad - General interest, gay culture
- OUTtv - Canada’s GLBTQ TV station
- Autostraddle - Geek- and pop-culture site for lesbian women
- Fruit Fly Life - Queer media and news blog
- After Ellen - Popular culture site geared towards women
- The Backlot - Popular culture site geared towards men
- NewNowNext - Popular culture, celebrity gossip, and music
Film and Television
Diversity in Media Toolbox
The Diversity and Media Toolbox is a comprehensive suite of resources that explores issues relating to stereotyping, bias and hate in mainstream media and on the Internet. The program includes professional development tutorials, lesson plans, interactive student modules and background articles.