Undergraduate Humanities Forum 2007-2008: Origins

Document Type

Presentation

Date of this Version

April 2008

Comments

2007-2008 Penn Humanities Forum on Origins, Undergraduate Mellon Research Fellows.

URL: http://humanities.sas.upenn.edu/07-08/uhf_fellows.shtml

Abstract

Recently, much attention has been devoted to the subject of lesbian and gay 'visibility' in the contemporary media and marketplace. Journalists, activists, and scholars alike have either bemoaned or celebrated the increasing appearance of gay and lesbian people in TV shows, films, and advertisements. For some, the visible presence of lesbians and gays in the media is a key factor in social awareness and gay rights advancement, while for others this 'visibility' reifies stereotypes of gay and lesbian identity and limits the public image of LGBT people to a resoundingly white, urban, upper-middle class (and typically male) segment of its population. Likewise, some have praised the development of gay and lesbian marketing niches, attributing the power of the purse to the solidification of social agency outside the market, while others have critiqued such developments as the potential downfall of subversive 'queer' identities. Naturally, I simplify this dialogue, reducing arguments and their proponents to two extremes. It would be more accurate to state that the gay and lesbian community finds itself at odds in a debate centered on the question of how gay and lesbian identity and rights discourses should situate themselves in relation to 'mainstream' culture and its modus operandi, consumer capitalism. For many, if not most, gay visibility is a double-edged sword: the 'consciousness raising' that such visibility affords us is accompanied by the marginalization of those who do not fit into the 'charmed circle' of marketability, along with the loss of a discrete subcultural identity.

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Date Posted: 19 June 2008

This document has been peer reviewed.