Date of Award

8-11-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Griff Tester

Second Advisor

Wendy Simonds

Third Advisor

Jung Ha Kim

Fourth Advisor

Anthony Hatch

Abstract

2011 was the first year the majority of the American public were in favor of same-sex marriage—a nine point (and largest year-to-year) increase from 2010. That year gave the LGBTQ community a crucial win in the hard-fought cultural war over government validation of same-sex relationships. Not so coincidentally, 2010 saw mass media, specifically network television, depict same-sex relationships like never before. New shows like Modern Family, Glee and The Good Wife hit their ratings zenith alongside stalwarts like Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives and House. But were the relationships depicted diverse in terms of roles, race, class and gender? Or did they resemble the heteronormative ideal of the white, upper middle-class relationship and family? Through a discourse analysis of popular, scripted network television shows from the 2010-2011 season, I found the depictions to powerfully create a “normal” same-sex relationship towards a heteronormative ideal. Both the same-sex women and men’s relationships were heteronormative in that their statuses and roles within the relationship adhered to the classic masculine/feminine binary. However, the same-sex women’s relationships were queerer, exhibiting sexual fluidity and labels beyond gay and straight. Still, the women maintained Western, feminine appearances supporting Laura Mulvey’s male gaze. The same-sex men’s relationships fully supported Jasbir Puar’s notion of the “exceptional homosexual.” Beyond their roles, the men’s relationships were heteronormative by being same-raced/white, upper-class, and, in two out of the three couples, having children. Ultimately, all the depictions exemplified Monique Wittig’s frustration that historical “discourses of heterosexuality oppress us in the sense that they prevent us from speaking unless we speak on their terms.”

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