Regulated and Racialized Homosexuality in MADtv Skits
Department of Social Research University of Tampere Tampere, Finland
The paper discusses representations of male and female homosexuality in MADtv parodies with emphasis on the role of affects and emotions in doing both hetero- and homosexuality. MADtv is an originally American comedy series (1995- ), which is aired in several European countries too.
The series both promotes "gay visibility" and participates in the regulation of sexuality. The paper deals with the two main themes of the research material: the coming out stories and the stories concerning sexual transformation. The special scope of interest is in how the representations of affects and emotions participate in both regulation of sexuality and in "racializing (homo)sexuality" in the research material. Homosexuality is continuously represented as an object of recognition and knowledge in the series and at the same time heterosexuality is constructed as a cultural norm marked with silence. However, there are also differences in representing homosexuality itself. On one hand, homosexuality is depicted as already "known" when related to white and middle-class effeminate men or women. On the other, one's homosexuality is represented as surprising and embarrassing when concerning masculine white men, working class gays or ethnic "others". In the research material, gays themselves have feelings of ambiguity and discomfort due to their sexuality, which operates in constructing the feelings of awkwardness as a ridiculous, private problem of homosexuals. The skits thus produce an image of sexual discrimination not only as imaginary but as imagined by homosexuals themselves, which may offer a comforting fantasy of sexual equality but it also may trivialize the feelings of everyday marginalization. The social norms which regulate sexuality are not touched upon. Rather, the paper argues that the series participate in constructing Western societies not only as liberal but also as free from discrimination and sexual hierarchies.