Introduction: Entertaining to Educate

  • Ava Laure ParsemainEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Entertainment Industries book series (PAEI)


The representation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other non-normative identities in popular media contributes to identity formation and can foster understanding and respect of LGBT+ people in broader society. Nonetheless, televisual portrayals of queer characters often reinforce oppressive ideologies. Some representations of LGBT+ identities exaggerate and demonise queer difference whereas others erase otherness to promote assimilation. While most of the scholarship focuses on what television teaches about gender and sexual identities, this book explores its pedagogy or how it teaches. To understand how television constructs and disseminates knowledge about queerness and how it can reproduce or disrupt norms of gender and sexuality, it analyses a selection of popular American programmes. Its central argument is that television educates about queerness through entertainment. More specifically, it is argued that entertainment elements like storytelling, melodrama, humour and music, which are primarily designed to provide enjoyment, function as pedagogical tools.


  1. ABC. (1981–1989). Dynasty [Television Series]. Los Angeles, CA: Richard Shapiro & Esther Shapiro.Google Scholar
  2. ABC. (1994–1998). Ellen [Television Series]. Los Angeles, CA: Neal Marlens, Carol Black & David S. Rosenthal.Google Scholar
  3. Ahmed, S. (2016). Interview with Judith Butler. Sexualities, 0(0), 1–11.Google Scholar
  4. Akass, K., & McCabe, J. (2006). Reading the L word: Outing contemporary television. London: I. B. Tauris.Google Scholar
  5. Amazon. (2014–). Transparent [Television Series]. Seattle, WA: Jill Soloway.Google Scholar
  6. Barber, L. (2013). Not-so-Modern Family: 16 years after Ellen, are we now in a golden age of queer television? Retrieved from
  7. Barker, M., & Austin, T. (2000). From Antz to Titanic: Reinventing film analysis. London: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
  8. Barnard, I. (1999). Queer race. Social Semiotics, 9(2), 199–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bartsch, A., & Schneider, F. M. (2014). Entertainment and politics revisited: How non-escapist forms of entertainment can stimulate political interest and information seeking. Journal of Communication, 64(3), 369–396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Battles, K., & Hilton-Morrow, W. (2010). Nobody wants to watch a beacon: Will & Grace and the limits of mainstream network television. In J. Elledge (Ed.), Queers in American popular culture (pp. 187–208). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.Google Scholar
  11. Becker, R. (2008). Guy love: A queer straight masculinity for a post-closet era? In G. Davis & G. Needham (Eds.), Queer TV: Theories, histories, politics (1st ed., pp. 121–140). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  12. Beirne, R. (2008). Televising queer women: A reader. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bradley, P. (2012). The exotic erotic: Queer representations in the context of postcolonial ethnicity on British TV. In C. Pullen (Ed.), LGBT transnational identity and the media (pp. 161–180). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bradley, P. (2013). Romancing the soap: Representations of gay love and relationships in Eastenders. In P. Demory & C. Pullen (Eds.), Queer love in film and television (pp. 33–46). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  15. Bruner, J. (1966). Toward a theory of instruction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Bryant, J., & Vorderer, P. (2006). Psychology of entertainment. Mahwah, NJ: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  17. Buckingham, D. (2000). After the death of childhood: Growing up in the age of electronic media. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  18. Buckingham, D., & Bragg, S. (2003). Young people, media and personal relationships. Retrieved from
  19. Buckingham, D., & Bragg, S. (2004). Young people, sex and the media: The facts of life? London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Butler, J. (1991). Imitation and gender insubordination. In D. Fuss (Ed.), Inside/out: Lesbian theories, gay theories. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  21. Butler, J. (1993). Bodies that matter: On the discursive limits of “sex”. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  22. Capsuto, S. (2000). Alternate channels: The uncensored story of gay and lesbian images on radio and television. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.Google Scholar
  23. CBS. (1978–1991). Dallas [Television Series]. New York, NY: David Jacobs.Google Scholar
  24. Chambers, S. A. (2003). Telepistemology of the closet; or, the queer politics of Six Feet Under. The Journal of American Culture, 26(1), 24–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Chambers, S. A. (2006). Heteronormativity and The L Word: From a politics of representation to a politics of norms. In K. Akass & J. McCabe (Eds.), Reading The L Word: Outing contemporary television (pp. 81–98). London: I. B. Tauris.Google Scholar
  26. Chambers, S. A. (2009). The queer politics of television. New York, NY: I. B. Tauris.Google Scholar
  27. Collins, P. H. (2000). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  28. Daley, A., Solomon, S., Newman, P. A., & Mishna, F. (2007). Traversing the margins: Intersectionalities in the bullying of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 19(3–4), 9–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Davies, F. (2008). Paradigmatically oppositional representations: Gender and sexual identity in The L Word. In R. Beirne (Ed.), Televising queer women: A reader (pp. 179–194). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Davis, G., & Needham, G. (2008). Queer TV: Theories, histories, politics (1st ed.). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  31. Demory, P. (2013). True love queered: Sex, melodrama, and romance in Queer as Folk. In P. Demory & C. Pullen (Eds.), Queer love in film and television (pp. 69–79). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  32. Demory, P., & Pullen, C. (2013). Queer love in film and television: Critical essays. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  33. Dhaenens, F. (2012). Gay male domesticity on the small screen: Queer representations of gay homemaking in Six Feet Under and Brothers & Sisters. Popular Communication, 10(3), 217–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Dhoest, A. (2015). Revisiting reception research: Case study on diasporic LGBTQs. Participations, 12(2), 78–97.Google Scholar
  35. Di Mattia, J. L. (2009). “No country for the infirm”: Angels in an unchanged America. In M. Mark Leverette, B. L. Ott, & C. L. Buckley (Eds.), It’s not TV: Watching HBO in the post-television era (pp. 227–247). Milton Park: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  36. Doran, S. E. (2013). Housebroken: Homodomesticity and the normalization of queerness in Modern Family. In P. Demory & C. Pullen (Eds.), Queer love in film and television (pp. 95–104). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  37. Dyer, R. (1992). Only entertainment. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  38. Dyer, R. (1993). The matter of images: Essays on representations. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  39. Dyer, R. (2002). The culture of queers. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  40. E! (2015–2016). I Am Cait [Television Series]. Los Angeles, CA: Gil Goldschein.Google Scholar
  41. Ellis, S. K. (2017). From the desk of Sarah Kate Ellis. In GLAAD (Ed.), Where we are on TV. New York, NY: The GLAAD Media Institute. Retrieved from Scholar
  42. FOX. (2009–2015). Glee [Television Series]. Los Angeles, CA: Ryan Murphy.Google Scholar
  43. FOX. (2015–). Empire [Television Series]. Los Angeles, CA: Lee Daniels.Google Scholar
  44. FOX/Netflix. (2003–2006; 2013–). Arrested Development [Television Series]. Los Angeles, CA: Mitchell Hurwitz.Google Scholar
  45. Gamson, J. (2002). Sweating in the spotlight: Lesbian, gay and queer encounters with media and popular culture. In D. Richardson & S. Seidman (Eds.), Handbook of lesbian and gay studies (pp. 339–354). London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Giroux, H. A. (1983). Theory and resistance in education: Towards a pedagogy for the opposition. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey.Google Scholar
  47. Giroux, H. A. (1994). Disturbing pleasures: Learning popular culture. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  48. GLAAD. (2015). Where we are on TV. Retrieved from
  49. GLAAD. (2016). Where we are on TV. Retrieved from
  50. GLAAD. (2017). Where we are on TV. Retrieved from
  51. Gray, J. (2008). Television entertainment. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  52. Hall, S. (1973). Encoding and decoding in the television discourse. Birmingham: Centre for Cultural Studies, University of Birmingham.Google Scholar
  53. Hall, S. (1980). Encoding/decoding. In S. Hall, D. Hobson, A. Lowe, & P. Willis (Eds.), Culture, media, language. London: Hutchinson.Google Scholar
  54. Hall, S., & du Gay, P. (1996). Questions of cultural identity. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  55. Harindranath, R. (2009). Audience-citizens: The media, public knowledge and interpretive practice. New Delhi, India: Sage.Google Scholar
  56. Hartley, J. (1999). Uses of television. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  57. Hawkins, G. (2001). The ethics of television. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 4(4), 412–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. HBO. (2005). The Comeback [Television Series]. New York, NY: Michael Patrick King & Lisa Kudrow.Google Scholar
  59. HBO. (2012–2017). Girls [Television Series]. New York, NY: Lena Dunham.Google Scholar
  60. HBO. (2014–2015). Looking [Television Series]. New York, NY: David Marshall Grant, Sarah Condon & Andrew Haigh.Google Scholar
  61. Heller, D. (2006). How does a lesbian look? Stendhal’s syndrome and the L word. In K. Akass & J. McCabe (Eds.), Reading The L Word: Outing contemporary television (pp. 55–68). London: I. B. Tauris.Google Scholar
  62. Heller, D. (2014). Wrecked programming celesbian reality. In B. R. Weber (Ed.), Reality gendervision: Sexuality and gender on transatlantic reality television (pp. 123–146). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Heller, D. (2016). Catfight! Camp and queer visibility in Orange Is the New Black. In R. Moseley, H. Wheatley, & H. Wood (Eds.), Television for women: New directions. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  64. Himberg, J. (2014). Multicasting: Lesbian programming and the changing landscape of cable TV. Television & New Media, 15(4), 289–304. Scholar
  65. Hinds, L. (1991). Using entertainment television to educate: A case study. The Journal of Popular Culture, 25(2), 117–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Hodge, R., & Tripp, D. (1986). Children and television: A semiotic approach. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  67. Holtz-Bacha, C., & Norris, P. (2001). “To entertain, inform, and educate”: Still the role of public television. Political Communication, 18, 123–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Jensen, K. B., & Rosengren, K. E. (1990). Five traditions in search of the audience. European Journal of Communication, 5(2), 207–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Joyrich, L. (2008). Epistemology of the console. In G. Davis & G. Needham (Eds.), Queer TV: Theories, histories, politics (1st ed., pp. 15–47). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  70. Joyrich, L. (2014). Queer television studies: Currents, flows, and (main)streams. Cinema Journal, 53(2), 133–139.Google Scholar
  71. Kama, A. (2002). The quest for inclusion: Jewish-Israeli gay men’s perceptions of gays in the media. Feminist Media Studies, 2(2), 195–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Kama, A. (2003). Negation and validation of self via the media: Israeli gay men’s (dis)engagement patterns with their representations. The Communication Review, 6(1), 71–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Kaufman, D. (2015). Applaud “Empire” for showing realities of homophobia. Retrieved from
  74. Klein, B. (2011). Entertaining ideas: Social issues in entertainment television. Media Culture Society, 33(6), 905–921.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Klein, B. (2013). Entertainment-education for the media-saturated: Audience perspectives on social issues in entertainment programming. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 16(1), 43–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Kunze, P. C. (2013). Family guys: Same-sex parenting and masculinity in Modern Family. In P. Demory & C. Pullen (Eds.), Queer love in film and television (pp. 105–115). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  77. LaMarre, H. L., & Landreville, K. D. (2009). When is fiction as good as fact? Comparing the influence of documentary and historical reenactment films on engagement, affect, issue interest, and learning. Mass Communication and Society, 12(4), 537–555.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Lennon, E., & Mistler, B. J. (2014). Cisgenderism. TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, 1(1-2), 63–64. Scholar
  79. Lesser, G. S. (1975). Children and television: Lessons from Sesame Street. New York, NY: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  80. Lewis, J. (1992). The ideological octopus: Exploration of television and its audience. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  81. Liebes, T., & Katz, E. (1986). Patterns of involvement in television fiction: A comparative analysis. Journal of Communication, 1(2), 151–171.Google Scholar
  82. Liebes, T., & Katz, E. (1990/1993). The export of meaning: Cross-cultural readings of Dallas (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  83. Lister, M., & Wells, L. (2001). Seeing beyond belief: Cultural Studies as an approach to analysing the visual. In T. van Leuwen & C. Jewitt (Eds.), The handbook of visual analysis. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  84. Livingstone, S. (1998). Making sense of television: The psychology of audience interpretation (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  85. Logo/VH1. (2009–). RuPaul’s Drag Race [Television Series]. New York, NY: Tom Campbell.Google Scholar
  86. Love, H. (2014). Queer. TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, 1(1–2), 172–176. Scholar
  87. Lusted, D. (1986). Why pedagogy. Screen, 27(5), 2–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Mattheiß, T., Weinmann, C., Löb, C., Rauhe, K., Bartsch, K., Roth, F., … Vorderer, P. (2013). Political learning through entertainment – Only an illusion? How motivations for watching TV political talk shows influence viewers’ experiences. Journal of Media Psychology, 25(4), 171–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. McCarthy, A. (2001). Ellen: Making queer television history. GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, 7(4), 593–620.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. McKee, A. (2000). Images of gay men in the media and the development of self esteem. Australian Journal of Communication, 27(2), 81–98.Google Scholar
  91. McKee, A. (2012a). The aesthetic system of entertainment. In A. McKee, C. Collis, & B. Hamley (Eds.), Entertainment industries: Entertainment as a cultural system (pp. 9–19). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  92. McKee, A. (2012b). The importance of entertainment for sexuality education. Sex Education: Sexuality, Society and Learning, 12(5), 499–509.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. McKee, A. (2013). The power of art, the power of entertainment. Media, Culture & Society, 35(6), 759–770.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. McKee, A. (2016). Fun! What entertainment tells us about living a good life. London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Meyer, M. D. E., & Wood, M. M. (2013). Sexuality and teen television: Emerging adults respond to representations of queer identity on Glee. Sexuality & Culture, 17(3), 434–448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Miller, T. (2007). Cultural citizenship: Cosmopolitanism, consumerism, and television in a neoliberal age. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  97. Moore, C. (2008). Resisting, reiterating, and dancing through: The swinging closet doors of Ellen DeGeneres’s televised personalities. In R. Beirne (Ed.), Televising queer women: A reader (pp. 17–31). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. NBC. (1998–2006; 2017–). Will & Grace [Television Series]. Los Angeles, CA: David Kohan & Max Mutchnick.Google Scholar
  99. NBC. (2006–2013). 30 Rock [Television Series]. New York, NY: Tina Fey.Google Scholar
  100. Netflix. (2015–2018). Sense8 [Television Series]. Los Gatos, CA: Lana Wachowski & Lilly Wachowski.Google Scholar
  101. Oliver, M. B., & Raney, A. A. (2014). An introduction to the special issue: Expanding the boundaries of entertainment research. Journal of Communication, 64(3), 361–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  102. Oxygen. (2015–2016). The Prancing Elites Project [Television Series]. Los Angeles, CA: Tom Cappello & Alana Goldstein.Google Scholar
  103. Peele, T. (2007). Queer popular culture: Literature, media, film, and television. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  104. Postman, N. (1985). Amusing ourselves to death: Public discourse in the age of show business. New York, NY: Penguin.Google Scholar
  105. Pratt, M. (2008). “This is the way we live…and love!”: Feeding on and still hungering for lesbian representation in The L Word. In R. Beirne (Ed.), Televising queer women: A reader (pp. 135–147). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  106. Ramsden, P. (2003). Learning to teach in higher education (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  107. Reed, J. (2007). The three phases of Ellen: From queer to gay to postgay. In T. Peele (Ed.), Queer popular culture: Literature, media, film, and television (pp. 9–26). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  108. Rosenblum, D. (1994). Queer intersectionality and the failure of recent lesbian and gay “victories”. Law & Sexuality, 83, 83–122.Google Scholar
  109. Roth, F. S., Weinmann, C., Schneider, F. M., Hopp, F. R., & Vorderer, P. (2014). Seriously entertained: Antecedents and consequences of hedonic and eudaimonic entertainment experiences with political talk shows on TV. Mass Communication and Society, 17(3), 379–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  110. San Filipo, M. (2017). Doing time: Queer temporalities and Orange Is the New Black. In C. Barker & M. Wiatrowski (Eds.), The age of Netflix: Critical essays on streaming media, digital delivery and instant access (pp. 75–97). Jefferson, NC: McFarland, Incorporated Publishers.Google Scholar
  111. Sarkissian, R. (2014). Queering TV conventions: LGBT teen narratives on Glee. In C. Pullen (Ed.), Queer youth and media cultures. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  112. Showtime. (2000–2005). Queer as Folk [Television Series]. Los Angeles, CA: Ron Cowen & Daniel Lipman.Google Scholar
  113. Showtime. (2004–2009). The L Word [Television Series]. New York, NY: Ilene Chaiken.Google Scholar
  114. Shugart, H. (2003). Reinventing privilege: The new (gay) man in contemporary popular media. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 20(1), 67–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  115. Silverstone, R. (2007). Media and morality: On the rise of the mediapolis. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  116. Singhal, A., & Rogers, E. M. (2002). A theoretical agenda for entertainment-education. Communication Theory, 12(2), 117–135.Google Scholar
  117. Singhal, A., Rogers, E. M., & Brown, W. J. (1993). Harnessing the potential of entertainment-education telenovelas. International Communication Gazette, 51(1), 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  118. The CW. (2004–2007). Veronica Mars [Television Series]. Los Angeles, CA: Rob Thomas.Google Scholar
  119. The CW. (2015–2018). Crazy Ex-Girlfriend [Television Series]. Los Angeles, CA: Rachel Bloom.Google Scholar
  120. Tulloch, J. (2000). Watching television audiences: Cultural theories and methods. London: Arnold.Google Scholar
  121. Tulloch, J., & Moran, A. (1986). A country practice: “Quality soap”. Sydney, NSW: Currency Press.Google Scholar
  122. Uhlich, K. (2015). Looking: A new way to break a TV taboo. Retrieved from
  123. Vorderer, P. (2001). It’s all entertainment-sure. But what exactly is entertainment? Communication research, media psychology, and the explanation of entertainment experiences. Poetics, 29(4), 247–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  124. Vorderer, P., Klimmt, C., & Ritterfeld, U. (2004). Enjoyment: At the heart of media entertainment. Communication Theory, 14(4), 388–408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  125. Walker, R. L. (2010). Politically queer: Ellen and the changing face of American television, 1997 to 2007. In J. Elledge (Ed.), Queers in American popular culture (pp. 1–24). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.Google Scholar
  126. Walters, S. D. (2001). All the rage: The story of gay visibility in America. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  127. Wirth, W. (2006). Involvement. In J. Bryant & P. Vorderer (Eds.), Psychology of entertainment. Mahwah, NJ: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  128. Wlodarz, J. (2008). “We’re not all so obvious”: Masculinity and queer (in)visibility in American network television of the 1970s. In G. Davis & G. Needham (Eds.), Queer TV: Theories, histories, politics (1st ed., pp. 88–107). London: Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations