Media studies research topic: LGBT community on TV

Aspects of LGBT portrayal on television would make interesting research paper topics. Cucumber and Banana, and the documentary Tofu, are a new series of interlocking television shows portraying the LGBT community in England that have debuted recently from creator and writer Russell T. Davies. The shows present the lives of gay and straight urban couples living their lives in the 21st century.

Cast of Cucumber, an LGBT show in England. (Credit: Ben Blackall/Red Production Company Ltd.)

Cast of Cucumber, an LGBT show in England. (Credit: Ben Blackall/Red Production Company Ltd.)

Davies was the writer of the popular Queer as Folk, the 2005 reboot of Doctor Who and Torchwood. For your LGBT issues class or media studies course, consider writing about how gays and lesbians are treated in television shows.

Cucumber and Banana television shows

In media studies, a frequent research paper topic is examining how television shows or movie sequels continue a story or character theme throughout the installments. Davies’ three new shows draw on each other and share some of the same characters. Cucumber plays like a serialized novel, telling the story of 46-year-old Henry in Manchester, England. After a break-up with his long-time boyfriend Lance, Henry has a mid-life crisis and rejoins the dating scene. The show primarily presents urban middle-aged male gay life. Banana consists of several stand-alone short stories that center on the characters Henry encounters in his life, and highlights the lives of younger gay, lesbian, straight and transsexual people. Tofu is an online, non-fiction documentary series about gay life and sexuality.

The idea for Cucumber came right after Davies’ production of Queer as Folk in 1999 when older LGBT viewers complained that their age group was not represented in the show. “That’s absolutely fair enough to crave representation,” said Davies in “‘Cucumber’ and ‘Banana’ Creator Russell T. Davies on the Importance of Global Television,” by Liz Shannon Miller posted online at IndieWire.com, April 14, 2015. By the time Davies made Cucumber, he explained: “When I came around to the same thing, 15 years later, I came a bit older, a bit wiser, a bit more sappy. The only way to write a good drama is [to] have a core subject and to focus on it.”

Russell T. Davies as creative icon

Another topic for media studies is to chronicle the career of a single creator, director or writer. For example, Davies has quite a list of hit shows on his resume. Queer as Folk, both the British version and the American version, traced the lives of urban gay and lesbian friends. The show broke down barriers in television on both sides of the Atlantic when it was aired on Britain’s Channel 4 and on Showtime. Davies also revived the hugely popular British science fiction show Doctor Who in 2005 and created its spin-off Torchwood, a darker X-Files-style show.

“We made [Queer as Folk] with a very good heart, and with every intention to be honest and true to say what I thought were interesting things about gay life,” said Davies in “Straight Talking,” published in Western Mail, Cardiff, Wales, January 17, 2015. But the show was aired at 10:30 p.m. on a weeknight, and the show’s creators thought it would not get a large audience. Everyone was surprised when it did. “The appetite for that program, and the joy with which it was welcomed… signaled how much we’d been lacking that sort of programme,” said Davies.

LGBT TV impact on society

With society becoming more comfortable with LGBT issues, and many Millennials finding gay marriage acceptable, television shows are reflecting the opinions of society. Davies did much to show gay people in real life situations in comedic and dramatic stories. But there is still a ways to go, according to J. Bryan Lowder, writing with June Thomas in “Finally, Two Gay Shows We Can Recommend Unreservedly,” posted on Slate.com June 4, 2015: “Being queer still means you move through the world in a different way and with different kinds of baggage. Sometimes, that will mean we need to struggle to overcome the trauma of difference to become healthier people.” Lowder added: “We will be dealing with it for some time to come, perhaps forever. I hope more artists will embrace that fact, as Davies has done so admirably here.”

For more information on Gay and Lesbian Studies or Media Studies: Television, check out Questia’s library of resources. 

Are there other LGBT issues television can address? Tell us in the comments.

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