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Indifference and queer television studies : distinguishing norms of existence and coexistence

Florian Vanlee (UGent) , Frederik Dhaenens (UGent) and Sofie Van Bauwel (UGent)
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Abstract
This paper deploys a case study of the first transgender lead character in Flemish television fiction—Kaat Bomans in the soap opera Thuis [Home] (één, 1995–)—to engage an underexplored distinction between the televisual dissemination of identity norms that regulate the embodied difference of sexual and gender minorities and ethical norms that prescribe moral modes of interacting with social difference. Conceived of as a representation normative to transgender existence, Kaat reifies identity norms that dictate how transpeople may legitimately embody difference. These reduce the diversity of transgender subjectivities into a singular and stable identity premised on binary gender conformity. Approached as a narrative that produces normative frames for cisgender people too, however, the case study shows that Kaat’s storyline propagates ethical norms on moral modes of coexistence and the negotiation of difference. Prescribing ethical indifference as a moral framework to negotiate difference in interpersonal interactions, Thuis invites viewers to acknowledge others’ difference without centralizing it as the central modality to social interaction. Supplementing identity-based television critique with reflection on ethical frameworks, the essay argues in conclusion, allows scholarship to not only critique what television is doing wrong, but to formulate what television should be doing to make things better.
Keywords
Queer television studies, Transgender portrayals, Queer ethics, Flemish television fiction, Cultural studies, GAY, HOMONORMATIVITY, REPRESENTATIONS, POLITICS, MEDIA

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MLA
Vanlee, Florian, et al. “Indifference and Queer Television Studies : Distinguishing Norms of Existence and Coexistence.” CRITICAL STUDIES IN MEDIA COMMUNICATION, 2020, pp. 1–15.
APA
Vanlee, F., Dhaenens, F., & Van Bauwel, S. (2020). Indifference and queer television studies : distinguishing norms of existence and coexistence. CRITICAL STUDIES IN MEDIA COMMUNICATION, 1–15.
Chicago author-date
Vanlee, Florian, Frederik Dhaenens, and Sofie Van Bauwel. 2020. “Indifference and Queer Television Studies : Distinguishing Norms of Existence and Coexistence.” CRITICAL STUDIES IN MEDIA COMMUNICATION, 1–15.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Vanlee, Florian, Frederik Dhaenens, and Sofie Van Bauwel. 2020. “Indifference and Queer Television Studies : Distinguishing Norms of Existence and Coexistence.” CRITICAL STUDIES IN MEDIA COMMUNICATION: 1–15.
Vancouver
1.
Vanlee F, Dhaenens F, Van Bauwel S. Indifference and queer television studies : distinguishing norms of existence and coexistence. CRITICAL STUDIES IN MEDIA COMMUNICATION. 2020;1–15.
IEEE
[1]
F. Vanlee, F. Dhaenens, and S. Van Bauwel, “Indifference and queer television studies : distinguishing norms of existence and coexistence,” CRITICAL STUDIES IN MEDIA COMMUNICATION, pp. 1–15, 2020.
@article{8644183,
  abstract     = {This paper deploys a case study of the first transgender lead
character in Flemish television fiction—Kaat Bomans in the soap
opera Thuis [Home] (één, 1995–)—to engage an underexplored
distinction between the televisual dissemination of identity norms
that regulate the embodied difference of sexual and gender
minorities and ethical norms that prescribe moral modes of
interacting with social difference. Conceived of as a representation
normative to transgender existence, Kaat reifies identity norms
that dictate how transpeople may legitimately embody difference.
These reduce the diversity of transgender subjectivities into a
singular and stable identity premised on binary gender
conformity. Approached as a narrative that produces normative
frames for cisgender people too, however, the case study shows
that Kaat’s storyline propagates ethical norms on moral modes of
coexistence and the negotiation of difference. Prescribing ethical
indifference as a moral framework to negotiate difference in
interpersonal interactions, Thuis invites viewers to acknowledge
others’ difference without centralizing it as the central modality to
social interaction. Supplementing identity-based television critique
with reflection on ethical frameworks, the essay argues in
conclusion, allows scholarship to not only critique what television
is doing wrong, but to formulate what television should be doing
to make things better.},
  author       = {Vanlee, Florian and Dhaenens, Frederik and Van Bauwel, Sofie},
  issn         = {1529-5036},
  journal      = {CRITICAL STUDIES IN MEDIA COMMUNICATION},
  keywords     = {Queer television studies,Transgender portrayals,Queer ethics,Flemish television fiction,Cultural studies,GAY,HOMONORMATIVITY,REPRESENTATIONS,POLITICS,MEDIA},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {1--15},
  title        = {Indifference and queer television studies : distinguishing norms of existence and coexistence},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15295036.2020.1714070},
  year         = {2020},
}

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