Transconversations: New Media, Community, and Identity
A significant tradition in studies of media, in both cultural studies and sociology, has been to explore texts, and how audiences read them. Often, these works explore hegemonic and counter-hegemonic discourse, and inquire how attitudes are shaped by these discourses. Of the scholarship that focuses on the increasing representation of gays and lesbians in the media, some discussions center on negative versus positive stereotypes, and how these stereotypes affect gay and lesbian identities, such as Larry Gross’s work that looks at “symbolic annihilation” and how media shapes the closet (Gross and Woods 1999). Other scholars, such as Evan Cooper (2003), are interested in whether this changing media landscape improves heterosexual audiences’ attitudes about gays and lesbians. However, this chapter does not directly address explorations of texts and attitudes, but instead aims to articulate the ways that these cultural products get taken up by audiences, as resources in negotiating interactions and identities in their everyday lives. Furthermore, this chapter examines how representations become key factors in how lesbians talk about, and experience, their and others’ place in the larger (imagined) lesbian community.The progressive television drama series The L Word is taken up as a key frame in conversations about lesbians in everyday life.