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Gay male performances in American confessional documentary and reality television.

By Christopher Pullen


This thesis examines the performance of gay males presented in American confessional documentary and reality television, and relates this to the construction\ud of homosexual identity. It specifically focuses on the representation of social actors involved in performance, as well as contextualising the contribution of producers.\ud Although it does not present an historical analysis, it examines a timescale: between 1971 and 2004. A central context is the hypothesis that confessional documentary\ud and reality television offer discursive and performative spaces to social actors, who may engage with the idea of `performativity': the ability to influence ideas in society.\ud The context of individual agency is examined in relation to the potential of `capillary' power: power which may exist outside dominant forces. In this way Michel Foucault's ideas on power and discourse are foregrounded in relation to\ud theorists who suggest the potential for cultural and social resistance. At the same time sociological contexts, and specifically the idea of social construction are examined. Anthony Giddens' ideas on `experiments in living' are discussed alongside social theorists who suggest that new forms of social identity may be offered by homosexuals.\ud A central finding is the observation that models of homosexual identification have progressed towards `the domestic'. This not only involves gay males represented in stable romantic relationships and (non-traditional) `family' roles, but also that through connecting themselves with domestic production they potentially influence dominant ideas. This thesis extends previous ideas of homosexual identity examined in the media (those historically formulated within the context of film and drama studies). In this way it offers new discursive ideas surrounding gay identity, making new connections in confessional documentary and reality television

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