Thesis defences

PhD Oral Exam - Katerina Symes, Communication

Internet-Distributed Television and the Pedagogy of Queer Crossovers

Thursday, October 13, 2022 (all day)

This event is free


School of Graduate Studies


Daniela Ferrer



When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.

Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.


We are arguably living in a Golden Age of Queer TV ushered in by internet-distributed television. Although the nonlinear affordances of internet protocol have transformed TV's industrial practices and economic structures, which are said to affect content and creative programming decisions, this dissertation reconsiders the technologically determinist assumption that internet-distributed television platforms unquestioningly afford freedom in terms of viewer and content autonomy, particularly in increasing diverse queer and trans* representation. By offering a comparative analysis of three American, internet-distributed queer crossover TV series Orange Is the New Black (Netflix, 2013-2019), Transparent (Amazon Prime Video, 2014-2017, 2019), and Her Story (YouTube, 2016) this project brings together both a Television and a Platform Studies approach to Queer TV Studies. This methodological contribution is key to understanding how TV's changing structures of production, distribution, and consumption are impacting the broader socio-cultural role of TV alongside the recent proliferation of queer and trans* content.

My central argument is that queer crossovers, insofar as they reach a broad audience, are inherently pedagogical in how they construct and disseminate knowledge about queerness. Because these TV series target mainstream audiences, first and foremost, they rely on a Trojan Horse structure as part of their pedagogy they use predominately white, educated, upper-middle class, and nominally straight and/or cisgender protagonists to draw viewers into their series. However, as queer crossovers circulate, they must respond to cultural contestations over their use of this device, which centers mainstream viewers as a site for education, pleasure, and viewership. This feedback is incorporated into the production and development of each series over time as the shows themselves (i.e., producers, writers) learn to learn from queer and trans* communities. This act of teaching back that is, how each show's learning becomes its own form of scaffolding for audiences results in changes to queer crossovers in terms of their material conditions production, their content choices, and their storytelling and aesthetic strategies. Thus, this supplanting Trojan Horse structure with another pedagogical strategy not only reflects a shift in who is being taught what and when, but also implies a dynamic relationship between TV, audiences, and pedagogy.

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