Thursday, 7 January 2016

From Dot Cotton to Torchwood...

Torchwood is a useful show for examples of representation of sexuality. I'll post some clips below which we'll look at in class and you can use to practice your semiotic deconstruction skills.

Anytime you are doing this, always try to use terminology as much as possible - remember, there are 10/50 marks for Use of Terminology. I've also provided formally written examples of how you might combine this with EX (use of evidence [denotation]) and EAA (explanation, analysis and argument [connotation] get 20 marks each).

These clips would have been broadcast post-watershed, and do cover some quite adult ground.

When considering representation of sexuality the topic of gender is important: the basic stereotype of a gay man or woman is centred on showing characteristics of the opposite gender [so... binary opposites], especially as regards hair and clothing but also body language and aggression or passivity (and taste in music etc).

This picture is complicated somewhat by having two conflicting stereotypes of lesbians: the 'butch' lesbian (diplaying masculine characteristics) and the 'lipstick' lesbian, an ultra-glamorous, hyper-feminine figure. When we see a lipstick lesbian we should consider if the character is perhaps being included to pander to a male audience (the feminist 'male gaze' theory), using codes of pornography rather than seriously exploring social issues.

The first clip shows how far UK TV has come in its treatment of gay characters. Eastenders broke many taboos in its depiction of a gay male couple back in the 1980s, but was also heavily criticised for centring their storyline on the issue of AIDS.

We can see clearer examples of butch lesbian stereotypes in dramas such as Prisoner Cell Block: H [wiki].

(can play at higher, 360p, qual direct from

Eastenders has gone on to include gay characters with somewhat less controversial storylines, though appeared reluctant to permit some of these to have sexual relationships, notably Pauline Fowler's long-term companion. There was considerable controversy in 2008 when the BBC included two young men kissing in the Eastenders omnibus, so the inclusion of gay characters clearly remains a sensitive and controversial issue.
The Mail tried to fuel a moral panic. It'll be a while before they catch up to the 21st century