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Lesbians on Screen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry in encyclopedia/dictionary

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe International Encyclopedia of Gender, Media, and Communication
PublisherWiley
ISBN (Electronic)9781119429128
ISBN (Print)9781119429104
DOIs
E-pub ahead of print8 Jul 2020
PublishedNov 2020

King's Authors

Abstract

This entry considers the major shifts in lesbian representation on cinema, television, and digital screens over the past 20 years, in the context of a longer history. Focusing on the question of visibility and progress, the entry explores how historical processes of marginalization have placed burdens of representation on lesbian visual cultures in the present. Emphasizing the intersection of sexuality with gender and race, the entry explores the history of the term “lesbian” in film criticism and identifies its place in contemporary discourses of sexuality marked by the influence of queer theory. The entry begins by outlining the contemporary cultural and social context. It then proceeds to identify how the lesbian has been framed through discourses of visibility and invisibility, both on-screen and in criticism. The entry then offers an overview of some of the primary stereotypes that have figured lesbianism on the classic Hollywood screen and beyond, from violence and seduction to the (rare) happy ending. Following this, it investigates how filmmakers have challenged these stereotypes and found new ways of exploring ambiguous desires on-screen, with a particular emphasis on the influence and legacy of the New Queer Cinema, and the tension between demands for universal stories and those that foreground the specificities of lesbian experience. Finally, arguments surrounding lesbian evidence and authenticity are explored, with attention paid to the links among spectatorship, aesthetics, identity, and identification.

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