Chapter 10. The economics of gay reality television

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This article examines the possibilities and conditions of increasingly debated ‘gay visibility’ and the production of sexual difference across various sites in contemporary reality television. Three reality television programs (Gay, Straight or Taken, How to Look Good Naked and Queer Eye for a Straight Guy) are used as illustrative examples of theoretical observations. These programs both rely on and constitute sexual ‘truth’ in the sense that they differentiate between homosexuality and heterosexuality and constantly visualize this produced difference. This way, it is suggested that although the usage of gay characters destabilizes prevailing conceptions of gender and sexuality, it can also participate in fortifying normative understandings of sexuality and gender. Also, in the context of reality television shows, (sub)cultural capital associated with only certain kind of gay characters advances gay visibility in television. The political significance of gay visibility thus becomes ambivalent if it is analysed in relation to current social and economic processes.


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