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Received: 18 August 2018 Revised: 31 December 2018 Accepted: 4 February 2019

DOI: 10.1111/soc4.12675


Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer

Media: Key Narratives, Future Directions

Julian A. Rodriguez

Department of Sociology, University of

California, Santa Cruz Abstract
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) peo-
Julian A. Rodriguez, Department of Sociology, ple have become a familiar presence on the media land-
University of California, Santa Cruz, 1156 High scape. For more than half a century, scholars have
Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95064.
Email: jrodri73@ucsc.edu examined the importance of this recognition. In this article,
I extend the work of British sociologist Ken Plummer to
argue that key narratives have endured in discussions of
LGBTQ media. These narratives include the victim, the com-
munity, the militant/queer, and the assimilationist. In addition,
this paper points toward new directions for analysis and dis-
cussion; I argue that future research should take a more
nuanced approach by examining overlaps and tensions
among these stories.

1 | I N T RO D U CT I O N

In the 1970s, activist and film historian Vito Russo toured widely with a lecture on lesbian and gay images in Amer-
ican cinema. His efforts, culminating in the publication of The Celluloid Closet (1981) and a Peabody Award‐winning
documentary of the same name, marked a crucial point in the study of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer
(LGBTQ) media. Linking homophobic violence to stereotypical cinematic representations, Russo worked with a sense
of deep political urgency. “We have cooperated for a very long time in the maintenance of our invisibility. And now
the party is over,” he wrote in the final sentences of Celluloid's introduction (p. xii). Looking toward the future, Russo
envisioned he work as a starting point for a greater understanding of social difference, on the one hand, and for more
specific analyses of film, on the other hand.
Indeed, since Russo's work, a rich body of scholarship on gay and lesbian film has emerged, and scholars have
given additional attention to bisexual, transgender, and queer media forms. This subfield, which I refer to here as
LGBTQ media studies, spans hundreds of works and has distinct characteristics. First, in identifying the category
of “LGBTQ media,” studies focus on media forms that involve LGBTQ identities, individuals, characters, and themes,
as well as media with which LGBTQ‐identified people engage. (I use the phrase “LGBTQ media” in the same manner.)
Second, scholars consider varied dimensions of LGBTQ media practice, production, reception, and use. Third, works
discuss a range of media, including and especially newspapers, magazines, television, film, and Internet platforms.
Sociology Compass. 2019;e12675. wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/soc4 © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. 1 of 10

Fourth, research draws from diverse disciplines: media studies, Internet studies, gay and lesbian studies, communica-
tion, psychology, sociology, and history, to name only some. Last, given this diversity, methodological orientations,
theoretical frameworks, and findings differ significantly.
I contend, however, that key narratives, or stories, have persisted in discussions of LGBTQ media. I extend the
work of British sociologist Ken Plummer (1995), who investigates the explosion of sexual narratives in the late
20th century. By detailing stories of trauma, recovery, and coming out, Plummer underlines that personal narratives
of sexuality are always embedded in specific social worlds. He attributes the proliferation of sexual stories to mass
media, which he suggests has become a storyteller in ways that were impossible in previous generations. In a similar
context, storytelling and narrative have resonated with LGBTQ media scholars, from those who examine the cine-
matic tales of sissy men (Russo, 1981) to the journalistic accounts of productive, happy same‐sex couples
(Streitmatter, 2008).
Aligning with this scholarship, I detail four narratives below: the victim, the community, the militant/queer, and the
assimilationist. Media industries have shaped what stories are told about LGBTQ people, pushing activists and
scholars to critique these narratives and to produce accounts of their own. Altogether, media industries, activists,
and scholars have called on these narratives both explicitly and implicitly and in varied degrees. Thus, while media
scholarship is my focus and entry point, my argument extends to related forms of media engagement. In addition,
as Plummer highlights, stories are linked to power hierarchies such that some are told while others are ignored.
Indeed, the narratives outlined below reflect the dominance of narratives about white, gay, middle‐class, cisgender,
Western (especially United States) men. Even so, these accounts represent decades of struggle, so this paper aims
to make them visible and to point to new directions for analysis and discussion.


For much of the 20th century, mainstream media routinely ignored and denied the existence of the LGBTQ commu-
nity. When their existence was eventually acknowledged, mass media selected narrow stories and roles in which
LGBTQ people could fit. Attempting to counteract this process, early activism and scholarship primarily aimed to
uncover and then challenge stereotypical narratives about gays and lesbians (as reviewed in Fejes & Petrich,
1993). Building on these efforts and speaking about the significance of film and television, media scholar Larry Gross
(1984, 2001) succinctly remarks that one of the only positions that gays and lesbians could occupy in mass‐media
accounts is that of the victim. However, the victim narrative has not altogether disappeared, and media industries
and users have resumed this narrative when portraying bisexual and transgender people (Schoonover & Galt,
2016). In other words, the victim story continues to shape the contemporary media environment.
Historically, the victim narrative resulted in accounts of gays and lesbians with gender presentation and behavior
worthy of ridicule. Supported by ideas of gender identity as equivalent to sexual identity, a man in mainstream media
was necessarily a heterosexual man, and a woman was a heterosexual woman; for much of the 20th century, then,
homosexuals were not quite men and not quite women (Dyer, 1986; Russo, 1981). In turn, as Russo (1981) explains,
early mainstream film used transgender (or, more appropriate for the time, “transvestite” and “transsexual”) existence
interchangeably with homosexual life, and images of “sissies” were used to suggest homosexuality in men (see also
Gross, 2001). At the same time, mainstream news and entertainment outlets drove a stereotype of lesbians as “burly”
tomboys and “dykes” (Alwood, 1996; Gross, 2001; Russo, 1981; Streitmatter, 1995).
Immorality likewise became a sign for the existence of gays and lesbians. Bolstered by psychological research
labeling homosexuality a dangerous sickness, media coverage beginning in the 1950s portrayed gays and lesbians
as promiscuous and dangerous perverts (Alwood, 1996; Fejes & Petrich, 1993; Gross, 2001; Russo, 1981;
Streitmatter, 1995, 2008). For instance, the New York Times ran a front‐page story about gays and lesbians as “devi-
ates” who were “condemned to a life of promiscuity” (Alwood, 1996). Accusations emerged that homosexuals, given
their lack of moral constraints, were susceptible to the lure of communism and therefore threatened national security.
Similar sentiments resurfaced during the AIDS epidemic; though media was slow to respond to the disease,

mainstream print and television news described AIDS as a result of unchecked gay promiscuity with the potential to
destroy national well‐being and threaten heterosexual safety (Alwood, 1996; Gross, 2001). Cinema continued a sim-
ilar storyline especially in the 1980s and 1990s, with a flood of fictional accounts of unhinged gays and lesbians
aiming to injure and murder heterosexuals (Gross, 2001; Russo, 1981).
The specter of death followed gays and lesbians across various media forms. News, television, and film have
described homosexuality as rendering a person so miserable that death, especially by suicide, becomes a viable option
(Fejes & Petrich, 1993; Gross, 2001; Russo, 1981; Streitmatter, 2008). Russo (1981), quoting a famous line from
1970's Boys in the Band, remarks, “You show me a happy homosexual, and I'll show you a gay corpse” (p. 178). Indeed,
between the period of 1961 and 1971, of the 32 films that feature lesbian or gay characters, 13 committed suicide,
and 18 were murdered (Gross, 2001). The AIDS crisis again revived this storytelling direction; news coverage
portrayed gay victims as “guilty” of their own plight and at first offered little humanizing story to go along with
accounts of their death and dying (Alwood, 1996; Fejes & Petrich, 1993; Gross, 2001; Streitmatter, 1995, 2008).
The victimization of LGBTQ people and accounts of this victimization have also trailed the rise of newer media
technologies. In part responding to overly optimistic views of the Internet (discussed below), scholars and web users
have underlined the everyday occurrence of anti‐LGBTQ discrimination in online communities and multiplayer online
video games (Brookey & Cannon, 2009; Christensen, 2006; Elund, 2013; Gray, 2011; Pullen, 2010a; Wakeford,
1997). These technologies have enabled abuse ranging from the defacing of LGBTQ individuals' public profiles to
name calling, bullying, and slurs targeted at LGBTQ people. For example, Brookey and Cannon (2009) note that
players in the online video game Second Life attacked gays and lesbians for their perceived association with bestiality.
In a similar vein, Wakeford (1997) explains the targeted censorship of LGBTQ message boards and e‐mailing lists
whereas Christensen (2006) concludes that online game players reproduce masculinity through violent, misogynist,
and homophobic language.

3 | T HE CO M M U N I TY

From the development of gay and lesbian publications to the rise of subcultural homosexual film to the more recent
emergence of LGBTQ online spaces, the community narrative has played a special role. Facing continuous victimiza-
tion and remaining largely invisible to society for much of the 20th century, gays and lesbians turned to media to first
nourish a sense of community as self‐conscious and politically engaged people. Efforts initially took the form of
media circulated within the community. Cinema, especially underground cinema, allowed gays and lesbians to affirm
their existence, lives, and identities (Dyer, 1986, 1990; Russo, 1981). The “homophile” newsletters in the 1920s and
1930s led to more widely circulated publications in the decades that followed, including Lisa Ben's pioneering lesbian
magazine Vice Versa in 1947 (Chasin, 2000; Fejes & Petrich, 1993; Gross, 2001; Streitmatter, 1995). At the same
time, news‐ and entertainment‐based television programs began to reach millions every week, so gay and lesbians
increasingly took opportunities to appear on shows to tell their stories. Besides working in newsrooms, they per-
suaded media executives to present more frequent and honest gay and lesbian images (Alwood, 1996; Gross,
2001; Streitmatter, 1995). This became particularly important in the face of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s when news
outlets, slow to respond to the disease, relied on dehumanizing images and provided little information to both com-
munity and non‐community members (Alwood, 1996; Gross, 2001; Streitmatter, 1995, 2008). And by the 1990s,
media had become a critical site for community activism centered on military and marriage rights (Chasin, 2000;
Gross, 2001; Moscowitz, 2013; Streitmatter, 2008).
Acceptance from heterosexual people has remained a fraught issue during these struggles and beyond given con-
cerns about its effects on the community. To illustrate, Mattachine Review, a homophile publication emerging in the
1950s, took an accommodating approach to heterosexual norms in the hopes of receiving positive treatment for gays
and lesbians (Gross, 2001; Streitmatter, 1995) while other activists and scholars have viewed methods like these as a
“gay activist trap” where media aims to and “is judged by whether it succeeds in persuading that [straight] audience to

accept homosexuals” (Russo, 1981, p. 271). Even so, concerns about positive recognition have continued for decades,
as evidenced by a growing group of psychological studies that detail how mass media affects, in limited ways, hetero-
sexuals' attitudes toward gays, lesbians, and homosexuality more broadly (Bonds‐Raacke, Cady, Schlegel, Harris, &
Firebaugh, 2007; Calzo & Ward, 2009; Cooley & Burkholder, 2011; Jang & Lee, 2014; Riggle, Ellis, & Crawford,
1996). The earliest of this scholarship is Gross' (1984) work on the Cultural Indicators Project, which detailed how
television “cultivated” viewers' conceptions of reality, including their intolerant ideas and attitudes about
It is intuitively understood that media plays role in the well‐being of LGBTQ individuals, with the coming out pro-
cess signaling the recognition of a key identity to oneself and to the rest of the LGBTQ community. As Fejes and
Petrich (1993) explain, “persons who are ‘coming out’ search both the interpersonal and media environment for clues
to understand their feelings and sense of difference” (p. 396). This process has often formed the basis for media
advocacy aimed at presenting out role models and affirming media examples for the community (Fejes & Petrich,
1993; Gross, 2001; Muñoz, 1999; Streitmatter, 1995). This concern, too, resonates with psychological scholarship
that addresses media's relationship with the self‐acceptance, identity development, and feelings of belonging among
LGBTQ people, particularly LGBTQ youth. Cabiria (2008), for instance, argues that gays' and lesbians' experiences in
the online video game Second Life allow them to explore their identities and develop self‐esteem and optimism; sim-
ilarly, transgender youth in McInroy and Craig's (2015) study report a feeling of support and belonging after watching
other transpeople's online video blogs about the transition process (see also Craig, McInroy, McCready, & Alaggia,
2015; Craig, McInroy, McCready, Di Cesare, & Pettaway, 2015; Evans, 2007; Fox & Ralston, 2016; Gomillion &
Giuliano, 2011; McKee, 2000).
Community has become the basis for LGBTQ online spaces and video games as well as research about them
(Edwards, 2010; Gross, 2001; Pullen, 2010a, 2010b; Shaw, 2012; Thompson, 2014; Wakeford, 1997). A great opti-
mism followed the rise of web‐based communications in the 1990s. In Gross' (2001) words, “the Internet offers
opportunities for individual engagement both as senders and receivers … Notable among the interests served by this
(so far) uniquely egalitarian and open medium of communication are those represented by sexual minorities” (p. 227).
Indeed, online environments can foster a sense of belonging, acceptance, and connection; act as sites for political
activism; and provide opportunities for coming out. For instance, Pullen (2010b) explores the online aftereffects of
the murder of young male teenager Lawrence King in Oxnard, California. Examining the online production of videos
and materials in tribute to King, Pullen suggests that King's death and the subsequent responses produced a
“copresence,” or “a sense of being with others,” based in terms of mutual understanding, shared experience, and
empathy (p. 19). Thus, Pullen argues that King's story and life created a shared humanity. Even so, scholars and media
users are becoming increasingly aware of the power dynamics of this online community building (Shaw, 2012;
Thompson, 2014).


Advocates for LGBTQ recognition have fluctuated in their approaches. Whereas some activists and scholars have
aimed to adapt to dominant norms, others have directly challenged the status quo under the labels of militancy
or radicalism. Indeed, mainstream press took notice of these efforts, with some publications remarking on the threat
of a “militant minority” (Alwood, 1996). In the 1960s, buoyed by similar efforts among African Americans, women,
and college students, gays and lesbians changed “from conforming to the dictates of heterosexual society to building
a national gay community with values often in conflict with those of heterosexual[s]” (Streitmatter, 1995, pp. 51–52;
see also Alwood, 1996; Fejes & Petrich, 1993; Gross, 2001; Streitmatter, 2008). The gay and lesbian press publi-
cized events that initially received little mainstream media recognition, particularly the Stonewall riots of 1969,
and propelled the community to attend public demonstrations and protests. The 1970s saw the rise of “zaps” in
which activists would infiltrate heterosexual events and protest antigay oppression in hopes of gaining recognition

and media visibility. And into the 1980s and 1990s, slow media and governmental responses to AIDS prompted
hundreds of direct‐action strategies and events, such as halting rush‐hour traffic in New York City and San
Francisco (Alwood, 1996).
At the same time, a queer narrative began to develop and has solidified. There is no consensus on the meaning of
“queer,” yet it broadly refers to that which is “politically radical, rejects binary categories (like heterosexual/homosex-
ual), [and] embraces more fluid categories” (Raymond, 2003, p. 98). Despite its association with abuse and discrimi-
nation, “queer” has since become part of a popular communication, with LGBT people re‐appropriating and
identifying with the term (Raymond, 2003). In activist spaces, groups adopted the category to signal their defiance;
notably, Queer Nation became known for its militant tactics, such as unifying hundreds in marches and publicly out-
ing gay individuals, including prominent government officials (Alwood, 1996; Gross, 2001; Streitmatter, 1995). The
queer category has similarly propelled art and media from the LGBT community, from the online gay comic strip (also)
titled Queer Nation and started by former Marvel writer Chris Cooper (Gross, 2001) to the Queer Resources Direc-
tory of LGBT websites and e‐mail lists (Wakeford, 1997). In the arena of academia, queer theory surfaced and has
proliferated, calling attention to queerness throughout culture and questioning the constructions and functions of
sexuality and gender (Raymond, 2003).
Likewise, the category of queer has reverberated in media scholarship. Building on queer theory and extending
seminal works on gay and lesbian audiences (Dyer, 1986; Russo, 1981), queer media scholars stress that select media
are themselves queer, or they are open to a range of queer readings, positions, or uses. In turn, media texts, audi-
ences, or users can queer sexual and gender binaries as well as the expectations, demands, and constraints of hetero-
sexuality and gender (and to a much lesser extent racism). Despite criticism (Dhoest & Simons, 2012; Raymond,
2003), researchers have extended these ideas to a range of media, from earlier forms like television (Dhaenens &
Van Bauwel, 2011; Doty, 1993; Griffin, 2008; Muñoz, 1999; Reed, 2009) and film (Doty, 1993; Richardson, 2003;
Schoonover & Galt, 2016) to newer media forms like web‐based communities (Pullen, 2010a) and video games
(Consalvo, 2003; Thompson, 2014). A key catalyst for this queer media narrative is Doty's (1993) routinely cited
Making Things Perfectly Queer. He explores how queerness in mass culture develops across the production of texts;
the readings and uses of texts by self‐identified gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and queers; and the adoption of queer read-
ings regardless of sexual and gender identification. Through textual and historical analyses of television shows like
I Love Shirley and The Golden Girls, star characters like Pee‐wee Herman, and genres like horror films and musicals,
Doty seeks to “refuse, confuse, and redefine” how mass culture is interpreted in the public and the academy. Audi-
ences of all sexual and gender identities develop queer positions, readings, and pleasures, Doty argues, which pushes
beyond the traditional distinction between homosexuality and heterosexuality. As such, queerness has always been
in mass culture texts and the audiences who receive and use them.
So too has Muñoz's (1999) Disidentifications driven the queer media narrative. In his work, Muñoz links queer of
color cultural expression to political resistance. Drawing in part from psychoanalysis and film theory, he coins the
term “disidentification” or a way of negotiating an oppressive public sphere by working simultaneously within and
against the constraints of sexuality, gender, and race. In other words, “disidentification is about recycling and rethink-
ing encoded meaning” and originates distinctly in the perspective of individuals who are disempowered (p. 31). Like
Doty, he locates these queer strategies in multiple locations: gay mass culture, performance art, museums, photogra-
phy, camp and drag, and television. For instance, in his most media‐centered chapter, he outlines the work of activist
Pedro Gamora. Appearing on MTV's reality television program The Real World, Gamora was able to share his personal
story as an HIV+ gay man, and Muñoz argues that Gamora worked within reality television to produce a space that
challenges heteronormativity and racism.
Though queer media narratives are traditionally centered in print, television, and film, scholars have explored
queerness with respect to cyberspace and online communities, resulting in a body of scholarship that Wakeford
(1997) calls “cyberqueer studies” (see also Pullen, 2010a; Thompson, 2014). With the popularization of the Internet
in the 1990s, scholars stressed that sexuality and gender are especially fluid online (in addition to emphasizing new
outlets for community building, as discussed earlier). Because the physical body is invisible on the Internet,

cyberspace would free Internet users from identities tied to the body—sexuality and gender, among others—such that
you can become whoever you want. In turn, people could create new, virtual versions of themselves that did not align
with their physical selves and identities. In 21st century cyberqueer research, scholars explore how LGBTQ Internet
users challenge heteronormativity by carving out spaces for sexual exploration and pleasures (Pullen, 2010a; Thomp-
son, 2014). However, in contrast to earlier cyberqueer accounts and with influence from online discrimination schol-
arship, these recent studies acknowledge that Internet users' gender and sexual identities inform their Internet use,
participation, and experience.


Following a long history of community‐based advocacy, gay and lesbian images have thrived across the media land-
scape in the 1990s and beyond. “Lesbian chic” advertisements (Clark, 1991), mass‐market gay and lesbian films (Fejes
& Petrich, 1993; Gross, 2001; Streitmatter, 2008), and especially televisual star Ellen DeGeneres (Chasin, 2000; Dow,
2001; Gross, 2001; Reed, 2002, 2009; Skerski, 2007; Streitmatter, 2008) signaled a new era of visibility. Media activ-
ists and particularly scholars have approached this recognition with deep suspicion, suggesting it is linked to the com-
bined forces of heteronormativity and capitalism (and to much lesser extents racism, classism, and Western
colonialism). This skepticism echoes the earlier discussed militant/queer perspectives and is forcefully described in
Chasin's (2000) words as the gay and lesbian movement “selling out” and adopting an assimilationist position. Chasin
makes use of advertisements and a few other media forms, and other researchers similarly range in their research
objects, including film (Brookey & Westerfelhaus, 2001; Schoonover & Galt, 2016), television (Battles & Hilton‐Mor-
row, 2002; Dow, 2001; Reed, 2002, 2009; Skerski, 2007), print advertisements (Chasin, 2000; Clark, 1991; Peñaloza,
1996), video games (Elund, 2013), websites (Campbell, 2005, 2007), and media more generally (Chasin, 2000; Fejes &
Petrich, 1993; Gross, 2001; Moscowitz, 2013; Sender, 2003, 2004; Streitmatter, 2008; Walters, 2001).
A frequent point of contention is that LGBTQ media representations are the work of capitalist marketing and cor-
porate interests (Campbell, 2005, 2007; Chasin, 2000; Clark, 1991; Gluckman & Reed, 1997; Gross, 2001; Peñaloza,
1996; Sender, 2003, 2004; Streitmatter, 2008; Walters, 2001). Primarily during the early 1990s, misleading market
research showed that gays and lesbians are disproportionately wealthy, well‐educated “dream” consumers with
trendsetting, fashionable tastes; despite sampling predominantly white, urban, white‐collar gays and lesbians, market
researchers took the findings as representative of all gays and lesbians. In turn, businesses and corporations began
advertising in mass media with “gay vague” images: visuals with gay, lesbian, or bisexual subtext meant to appeal
to sexual minorities while not alerting heterosexuals (Clark, 1991; Gross, 2001; Peñaloza, 1996; Sender, 2003,
2004; Walters, 2001). In a related vein, corporate industries began commercializing gay and lesbian subcultural styles
through mass media (Clark, 1991; Gross, 2001; Peñaloza, 1996). More broadly, the recognition of the gay and lesbian
market has contributed to the dramatic rise of gay and lesbian content in news and entertainment media, and recent
market concerns have played a similar role in media industries' inclusion of bisexual and transgender representations
(Gross, 2001; Shaw, 2009; Streitmatter, 2008; Walters, 2001). Despite these widespread processes, media users and
scholars are still gaining interest in the proliferation of LGBTQ websites and the growing number of LGBTQ video
games (Campbell, 2005, 2007; Elund, 2013; Shaw, 2009, 2012).
Equally important is the troubled relationship between media and gay and lesbian politics (Chasin, 2000; Gross,
2001; Moscowitz, 2013; Peñaloza, 1996; Walters, 2001; Sender, 2003, 2004; Streitmatter, 1995, 2008). Indeed,
some scholars suggest that gay and lesbian politics has lost its critical edge and has ignored bisexual, transgender,
and queer people and problems. Simultaneous with gay and lesbian market research, gay and lesbian press needed
money to survive and expand. Attempting to attract mass‐market advertisers, they began “hermetically sealing and
physically distancing the controversial aspects of gay/lesbian culture,” including gender nonconformity, explicit sex,
and poverty (Peñaloza, 1996, p. 34). These outlets likewise made a switch to a glossy “lifestyle” content focused
on fashion, celebrities, and travel instead of the overtly activist topics popular in previous decades (Chasin, 2000;

Campbell, 2005; Peñaloza, 1996; Sender, 2003, 2004; Streitmatter, 1995). In addition, mass media became a key site
for gays and lesbians to advocate for military and marriage rights, yet some have noted that these goals have benefit-
ted overwhelmingly white, middle‐class, Western gays and lesbians (Chasin, 2000; Gross, 2001; Moscowitz, 2013;
Streitmatter, 2008).


As mentioned previously and as has become apparent above, the four narratives privilege certain voices and experi-
ences, pointing toward areas for further investigation. In particular, the stories of racial‐ethnic minorities and the
influence of race and ethnicity are rarely discussed at length (Gray, 2011; Muñoz, 1999; Schoonover & Galt,
2016). This is despite a noted history of lesbian press recognizing various axes of identity (Streitmatter, 1995) and
decades of interdisciplinary research that details the intimate relationships among race, ethnicity, sexuality, and gen-
der. Relatedly, most stories and scholarship have focused on Western media, especially media from the United States.
However, non‐Western LGBTQ narratives are becoming a familiar subject across some fields, like film studies, and
warrant future research (Schoonover & Galt, 2016). Finally, bisexual and transgender accounts are limited though
they too are seeing increased interest across literatures, especially in scholarship surrounding newer forms of media
like video games, blogs, and websites (Brookey & Cannon, 2009; Craig, McInroy, McCready, & Alaggia, 2015; Craig,
McInroy, McCready, Di Cesare, & Pettaway, 2015; McInroy & Craig, 2015).
Beyond the concerns discussed above, I suggest that the most fruitful research would examine the overlaps and
tensions among the four narratives (and other future stories). At a glance, these four narratives are incompatible, and
scholarly and activist discussions have historically focused on one or two at a time. Even so, some critical scholarship
has explicitly detailed the uneasy relations among these narratives. Campbell (2005), for example, examines niche
marketing practices on the online portals Gay.com and PlanetOut.com. Targeting gays and lesbians for their roles
as “dream consumers,” the portals characterized themselves as spaces of community while simultaneously enticing
users to disclose personal information for corporate clients. Thus, while the sites allowed individuals to develop
personal relationships and share their intimate lives, the portals revealed deep tensions between economic impera-
tives and marginalized community building. Similarly, Schoonover and Galt (2016), citing Doty (1993) and other queer
media scholars, underline that film studies literature often paints popular cinema as deeply ideological. Through
textual analysis of global cinema—including films from Thailand, Serbia, and Nigeria—they seek to offer popular
cinema more nuance, underlining that it is a site where “the relationship of queerness to the world is negotiated
and renegotiated” (p. 210). Although aligning with the assimilationist narrative by detailing how films at times
maintain a Western, heterosexual perspective given concerns about a mass‐market audience, Schoonover and Galt
suggest that the popular still leaves room for queer critique. These authors' nuanced approaches, I contend, seem
essential for the LGBTQ media scholarship and for the advocacy in the academy and beyond.

Julian A. Rodriguez https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0397-6370


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Julian A. Rodriguez is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of California, Santa
Cruz. His areas of interest include sexualities, gender, media, and qualitative research methods. In his dissertation
research, he examines LGBTQ community and business on the video‐sharing website YouTube.

How to cite this article: Rodriguez JA. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer media: Key narratives,
future directions. Sociology Compass. 2019;e12675. https://doi.org/10.1111/soc4.12675