The power of popular culture lies today in its global reach; its ubiquity; and its ability to reproduce itself virtually without limit. Popular culture also shapes and is shaped by ideology, including ideologies about sex, gender, and sexuality. Popular media, from its beginnings in the early twentieth century, have understood that “sex sells,” and depictions of sexual content and imagery abound in popular film, television, and advertising, among others. Mainstream critics and feminist critics have often bemoaned what has been seen as regressive and often objectifying portrayals of sex and sexuality. But queer readers have often found escape and solace in popular entertainment, in a world “over the rainbow” that allows for fantasy and alternative readings of even the most putatively heterosexist texts. The texts of popular culture, as critical studies theorists and theorists of color have insisted, are always ambiguous, permitting multivocal interpretations and readings; those readings will vary depending on the social location of the reader. This chapter looks at the ways that queer theory and queer readers have been able to identify with popular culture texts, the ways that queer readings open up possibilities for textual interpretation, and how we might understand the increasingly common portrayals of LBGT people in popular media.
Sexuality and Popular Culture
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