GEND 3046 syllabus

Queer Media

Wednesday 3:30-6:20

This course will examine the new visibility of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and trans identified people in newspapers, magazines, television and film. Paying close attention to the differential treatment accorded to people with non-normative sexualities and genders within popular culture, this course will trace the history of queer visibility in the U.S. and Canada beginning with the Motion Picture Production Code ban on explicit representations of homosexuality from 1934-1968 up until the recent wave of queer themed films, television dramas, reality shows, daytime TV talk shows, advertisements and the coming-out of gay and lesbian identified celebrities. We will explore these representational shifts in relation to larger societal changes and the tensions that arise when popular visibility of marginalized identities is entangled in commodity culture; when communities of resistance become “niche markets.” This course may be credited towards English Studies.

Instructor: Dr. Wendy Peters
Office: A310
Phone: 474-3450 ext. 4889
Fall office hours: Wednesdays 2:30-3:20 or by appointment

Texts: The supplementary course reader is available at Print Plus and Ivan Coyote’s book One in Every Crowd is available at the Nipissing University Bookstore. The rest of the readings can be found in online academic journals available through Nipissing University’s e-resources at

Marking scheme
Attendance & Participation  15%
Assignment 1: Sexual Identities and the Media  19%  October 17 2018 in class
Assignment 2: One in Every Crowd  18%  October 31 2018 in class
Assignment 3: Argument Identification  18%  November 21 2018 in class
Final Research Essay  30%  November 30 2018 under my office door by 5:00 pm

Even with an extension, all term work must be submitted by December 3 2018, except with written permission of the Dean of Arts and Science.

Late penalties will be applied in this class.
If your assignment is submitted after the deadline without an extension, you will be penalized 10% per day, up to a maximum of one week late. You may not submit any assignments more than one week after the original deadline. Extensions will be considered in advance of the deadline. Assignments will not be accepted by email, unless otherwise noted. 


By the end of the course students will be able to:

  1. Analyze and evaluate theoretical perspectives in queer theory, the Western history of sexuality, and critical cultural studies.
  2. Analyze and evaluate the implications of queer theory, the Western history of sexuality, and critical cultural studies for contemporary “queer media” and representational politics.
  3. Relate contemporary representations of sexual minorities in popular culture to the history of their representation in media throughout the 20th century.
  4. Illustrate and evaluate the importance of representation, identity production, commodification, consumption, and regulation in the study of sexualities in media.
  5. Recognize that men, women, heterosexual, gay, and lesbian are not essential and unproblematic categories, but categories with discursive force that can be seen in and are produced through media representations.
  6. Recognize how power operates through popular representations to value and discipline men and women differentially along the lines of sex, gender, sexuality, race, class, and ability.
  7. Write an original analysis and interpretation of a media representation through the application of major theoretical perspectives in queer theory, the history of sexuality, and critical cultural studies.


Successful graduates of this course will demonstrate:

  1. A developed knowledge and critical understanding of how power operates through popular cultural representations of sex, gender, and sexualities.
  2. The ability to develop evidence-based and original arguments regarding and utilizing the major perspectives of queer theory, the Western history of sexuality, and critical cultural studies.
  3. The ability to interpret and analyze media texts representing diverse sexes, genders, and sexualities as they relate to questions of power and social justice.

Students with a range of learning styles and needs are welcome in this course. In particular, if you have a disability / health consideration that may require accommodations, please contact the Disability Services Office as soon as possible. The Disability Services staff are available by appointment to assess specific needs, provide referrals and arrange appropriate accommodations. The sooner you let us know your needs the quicker we can assist you in achieving your learning goals in this course.

Laptops and phones
Students are permitted to use laptops only for taking notes from the lectures. Playing games, surfing the internet, checking e-mail, direct messaging, watching videos or listening to music are not permitted during class time. If you are disrupting other students with this kind of laptop or phone activity, you will be asked to turn off your device/s.

Intellectual Property
All materials developed for this course, including, but not limited to, lectures, lecture notes and slides, assignments, examinations and syllabi, that are provided in class or online, are the intellectual property of the course instructor. Posting, providing, sharing or selling any audio, video, or textual materials from the course is prohibited. Participation in this course constitutes an agreement by all parties to respect the intellectual property rights as well as the privacy of others during and after their association with Nipissing University. The only exception to the above is formally authorized accommodation arrangements made through Student Development Services.

September 5 2018

I recommend starting Ivan Coyote’s book, One in Every Crowd, as soon as possible. Please note that it is geared for a “young adult” reader (roughly age 12-18) and I have chosen it to engage in wider discussions about: independent cultural production versus mainstream media; queer futurity; the “It Gets Better” campaign; and the roles of humour and affect in queer media.

September 12 2018
Sexuality and the Media

Hilton-Morrow, W. & Battles, K. (2015). Introduction (5-34). In Sexual Identities and the Media: An Introduction. New York, NY: Routledge. Print Plus could not get permission to reprint this chapter so please read the attached .pdf, keeping in mind that you only have to read pages 5-34 (not the whole pdf): Sexual Identities and the Media – Introduction

September 19 2018
Visibility and Analysis

Hilton-Morrow, W. & Battles, K. (2015). Visibility (69-99). In Sexual Identities and the Media: An Introduction. New York, NY: Routledge. This reading is in the supplementary course reader from Print Plus.

September 26 2018
The warm embrace of capitalism: The political economy of assimilationist images and the politics of visibility

Peters, W. (2011). Pink dollars, white collars: Queer As Folk, valuable viewers, and the price of gay TV. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 28 (3): 193-212. Read online through e-resources.

Screening: Transgender Parents (2014)  45 mins

October 3 2018
Learning to Write a Critical Media Analysis

Please read the following three exemplary student papers. In class we will discuss each of them in relation to your final assignment. Please know that I have written permission from each of these students to use their paper in this class.

Troye Sivan student paper

Undertale student paper

Cucumber student paper

October 10 2018 Study breakno office hours 

October 17 2018
“Homonormativity and the politics of race”

King, S. (2009). Homonormativity and the Politics of Race: Reading Sheryl Swoopes. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 13(3): 272-290. Read online through Nipissing e-resources.

ASSIGNMENT ONE: Select a media text—film, character, series, meme, tumblr, ad/s, etc—and draw on the first four readings in the course to write one short essay that considers the relationship between visibility and sexual identities in your chosen media text. You can write about the media text that you plan to analyze in your final paper. Further details for the short assignments can be found in the Assignments section of the syllabus. Value 19%

October 24 2018
Queer Futurity and Multivocality
Special Guest: Dr. Kathryn Trevenen, University of Ottawa

Watch the original video by Dan and Terry:

Puar, J. (November 16, 2010). In the Wake of It Gets Better. The Guardian online:

Goltz, D. B. (2013). It Gets Better: Queer Futures, Critical Frustrations, and Radical Potentials. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 30(2): 135-151. Read online through Nipissing e-resources.

Clare, E. (2017). Ideology of Cure. In Brilliant Imperfection: Grappling with Cure (pp. 5-17). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

October 31 2018
Writer and Storyteller: Ivan Coyote

Coyote, I. E. (2012). One in Every Crowd. Vancouver, BC: Arsenal Pulp Press.

Who is Ivan Coyote? Good question. To learn more visit:

ASSIGNMENT TWO: Write a short essay on Coyote’s anthology One in Every Crowd that addresses how the stories reflect and / or challenge claims made about representations of queerness, futurity, fixity, homonormativity, sexuality, gender, race, class, media and cultural production as discussed in the course readings so far. Draw on the course readings and put them in conversation with Coyote’s work. Additionally, you can reflect on what Coyote’s writing taught you, what you struggled with and / or enjoyed. Please use the single pronoun “they” when referring to Ivan Coyote as this is their stated preference. Further details for the short assignments can be found in the “Assignments” section of the syllabus. Value: 18%

November 7 2018
Comedy and Anxious Displacements

Cavalcante, A. (2015). Anxious Displacements: The Representation of Gay Parenting on Modern Family and The New Normal and the Management of Cultural Anxiety. Television and New Media, 16(5): 454-471. Read online through Nipissing e-resources.

November 14 2018
Gay for You: Redefining Heterosexual Masculinities

Becker, R. (2009). Guy love: A queer straight masculinity for a post-closet era? In G. Davis & G. Needham (Eds.) Queer TV: Theories, Histories, Politics (pp. 121-140). New York, NY: Routledge. This reading is in the supplementary course reader from Print Plus.

November 21 2018
Closet cases: Bullies and Blackmail

Peters, W. (2016). Bullies and Blackmail: Finding Homophobia in the Closet on Teen TV. Sexuality & Culture, 20: 486-503. Read online through Nipissing e-resources.

In relation to each of the articles by Cavalcante (2015), Becker (2009) and Peters (2016), and in no more than 325 words per article, summarize / identify: 1. the topic; 2. main argument; 3. two supporting claims; 4. one key concept, with a definition.
The topic is the most general description of the subject of the article. For example, “This article is a consideration of how the It Gets Better Campaign addresses queer youth…”
The main argument is the most focused and concise summation of the point of the essay. Authors are typically trying to convince you of something: What is it? For example, “King argues that Swoopes’ coming out was framed in the following terms…”
Most well developed arguments will be supported by secondary claims. These are assertions meant to support the central argument and convince you, the reader, that this is a good argument. For example, “King provides evidence that African American communities are no more homophobic than other racial groups…” or “Peters illustrates how youth came out in relation to Queer As Folk…”
Key concepts are technical terms and ideas that go with the field of analysis. For example, the closet, heteronormativity, homophobia.
Each summary should be written in your own words with some quotations. Do not copy an abstract or over-rely on quotations. It is most important that you demonstrate that you understand the article.

November 28 2018

Come to class to watch Moonlight (2016) and ask me any questions about your final papers.

Final research papers are due Due November 30 2018 under my office door by 5:00 pm


Attendance and Participation 15%
Regular attendance is essential. Late entries as well as early exits are disruptive, and often result in the missing of important information. Participation includes, but is not limited to, contributing one’s own insights or ideas to class. It also entails respectful listening and a commitment to involving others in the learning process. You are expected to come to class prepared to discuss the day’s readings. Verbal participation in class should be relevant and connected to the readings for the week.

Value 19%, 18% and 18% = 55%
Each paper should be 900-1000 words (about 3 pages), double-spaced and should have a brief introduction and conclusion. Include a bibliography (any recognized style) and use in-text citations as usual.

Evaluation criteria: understanding of the relevant course concepts; ability to apply and employ course concepts and approaches; originality; clarity; organization; writing mechanics

Final Research Essay
Value 30% Due November 30 2018 under my office door by 5:00 pm

Choose an example of queer media. View the video, tumblr, series, episode, film or narrative and take notes on the representation of queer sexualities, especially as these intersect with class, race and other facets of identity. If you have already viewed the text, you must view it again. In your notes, record relevant sections of dialogue or text that you can use as evidence in supporting your argument.

Then, using the concepts, ideas, and/or arguments from at least three articles from the course readings and one additional scholarly source, create an analysis of the text. I am looking for analysis, not simply description. An essay on Empire that simply describes the way in which this text features gay characters will not meet the expectations of this assignment. You will very quickly have the sense that “queer” is a contested term with powerful social and ideological implications. It will be important to locate the text you choose within the frame of that contestation. i.e., Empire is queer in this sense but not this. Support or illustrate your assertions with examples from the text; be as specific and precise as possible.

In your analysis you will need to define the sense in which you are using the term queer and you will need to ground that definition in the work of the scholars with whom we are engaging. You then need to explain how the text you have chosen exemplifies or defies that definition and give concrete examples that demonstrate your point. Lastly, though importantly, the greater part of your essay needs to work with course concepts in order to offer a critical analysis of the way in which the text you have chosen can be understood to be socially and politically positioned. For example, is it a text that pushes the normative boundaries around our society’s typical understanding of gender and sexuality? Is queerness disciplined or celebrated in the text? Does the text challenge or reproduce normative values of family, sexuality and society? How are race, class, gender, and ability figured in relation to queerness? Where do you see the influence of “valuable viewers” on your text? Does the difference of non-normative sexuality actually make a difference? What is the relationship between what has come to be known as queer theory and what we see on our television, cinema, and computer screens? Your paper will not be able to answer all of these questions, but I offer them to give you a sense of the kinds of questions that you are expected to address in your analysis.

The paper must be 8 pages, double-spaced, 12 point font, with three course readings (or more) properly cited in a bibliography, using a recognized and consistent style. Additionally, you must integrate at least one academic article / book chapter, not from the syllabus, into your essay to support, illustrate, contrast or challenge your thesis.

Evaluation criteria: Originality; comprehensiveness; attention to queerness and sexuality as they intersect with gender, race and class; integration of course concepts; organization; writing mechanics.

Please read the important notes for written assignments, writing tips, plagiarism and grading criteria below. These tips will all help to improve your paper.

Important notes for written assignments

– On the title page please include your name and always keep a copy of your paper in print or computer file.

– All assignments must be double-spaced, in 12 point font (not a fancy font please), with 1 inch margins and page numbers.

– All assignments should be submitted in the lecture period.

– Assignments will not be accepted over email, unless other stated.

– Under truly extraordinary circumstances – for example a death in the family or hospitalization – an extension be considered by the instructor.

– Remember to provide a title, preferably one that highlights your thesis or central concerns.

– Avoid lengthy, overly general introduction; state your intentions concisely and engagingly.

– Each paragraph is to be a unit of thought and should develop an idea.

– Provide transition between topics. Your essay should have continuity; it should “hang together.”

– Support or illustrate your assertions; be as specific and precise as possible.

– Quoted materials (see “plagiarism” below) belong in quotation marks and a page number should be supplied. See syllabus for complete APA references for readings in the course reader. Use a style guide for references and be consistent. Ideas or passages that are paraphrased (written in your own words) also need to be referenced.

– Avoid over-use of quoted materials. Passages that are quoted need to be contextualized and require comments that directly forward your own argument.

– You may use the word “I” in your work for this class.

– Proofread to avoid errors of spelling, grammar and punctuation.

Academic Integrity

Plagiarism and academic dishonesty are serious offences. It is your responsibility to be familiar with Nipissing’s policies on academic dishonesty. Please make yourself familiar, here:

Any instances of students plagiarizing or cheating will be dealt with according to this policy.

Statement of what grades mean

80-100% indicates EXCEPTIONAL PERFORMANCE: comprehensive in-depth knowledge of the principles and materials treated in the course, fluency in communicating that knowledge and independence in applying material and principles.

70-79% indicates GOOD PERFORMANCE: thorough understanding of the breadth of materials and principles treated in the course and ability to apply and communicate that understanding effectively.

60-69% indicates SATISFACTORY PERFORMANCE: basic understanding of the breadth of principles and material treated in the course and an ability to apply and communicate that understanding competently.

50-59% indicates MINIMALLY COMPETENT PERFORMANCE: adequate understanding of most principles and materials treated in the course, but with significant weakness in some areas and in the ability to apply and communicate that understanding.

0- 49% indicates FAILURE: inadequate or fragmentary knowledge of the principles and materials treated in the course or a failure to complete the work required in the course”

Faculty handbook, “Final Grades:”