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Getting to be seen: visibility as erasure in media economies of transgender youth

Description

There is currently a proliferation of images of transgender youth in popular discourse, many of which reflect the threat to capitalist heteronormativity that transgender young people pose to contemporary U.S.

There is currently a proliferation of images of transgender youth in popular discourse, many of which reflect the threat to capitalist heteronormativity that transgender young people pose to contemporary U.S. society. This veritable explosion in media visibility of transgender youth must be critically examined. This dissertation explores media economies of transgender youth visibility by examining media and self-represented narratives by and about transgender young people in contemporary U.S. popular discourse to uncover where, and how, certain young transgender bodies become endowed with value in the service of the neoliberal multicultural U.S. nation-state. As normative transgender youth become increasingly visible as signifiers of the progress of the tolerant U.S. nation, transgender youth who are positioned further from the intelligible field of U.S. citizenship are erased.

Utilizing frameworks from critical transgender studies, youth studies, and media studies, this project illustrates how value is distributed, and at the expense of whom this process of assigning value occurs, in media economies of transgender youth visibility. Discursive analyses of online self-representations, as well as of online representations of media narratives, facilitate this investigation into how transgender youth negotiate the terms of those narratives circulating about them in U.S. contemporary media. This project demonstrates that increases in visibility do not always translate into political power; at best, they distract from the need for political interventions for marginalized groups, and at worst, they erase those stories already far from view in popular discourse: of non-normative transgender youth who are already positioned outside the realm of intelligibility to a national body structured by a heteronormative binary gender system.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2016

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Keeping Betty ugly: manufacturing diversity for network TV

Description

This dissertation examines the ways ABC/Disney's Ugly Betty (ABC 2006-2010) manufactures diversity to create an illusion of the U.S. as a site of multiple pluralisms and equality by re-scripting the

This dissertation examines the ways ABC/Disney's Ugly Betty (ABC 2006-2010) manufactures diversity to create an illusion of the U.S. as a site of multiple pluralisms and equality by re-scripting the ugly duckling parable as a Latino de-racialization project and assimilation narrative. The success of the show's original version, Colombian telenovela, Yo Soy Betty, La Fea (RCN 1999-2001), escalated into an international franchise, licensed by and culturally adapted for television markets around the globe. The image the United States promotes of itself, as seen through its media products (especially Disney products) valorize and export discourses of The American Dream around the globe. In order to maintain this carefully crafted self-image, one that masks the ongoing racial oppression and colonial holdings, depictions of diversity are manufactured.

This study examines the Disney affiliated series Ugly Betty to assess how the culture and identity of Betty Suarez, its titular character, as a Mexican-American woman is manufactured. Of particular interest is how she is coded as a diverse member of U.S. workforce, and how her transformative makeover from ugly duckling can be read as an assimilation narrative from racialized ethnic invader to white American professional. Using criteria extracted from scholarship and cultural production regarding Latina identity formation, I locate Betty within what I call the spectrum of assimilation among U.S. Latinas. Because there are various ways in which one negotiates, expresses and balances the multiple cultural, racial and classed components of their self-identity, I tease out markers from existing theories to locate Betty's self-projected cultural identity within the series narrative.

Building on the evidence gathered regarding Betty's rejection of a politicized Latina identity, this project analyzes the implications of the choice of New York City as site of Betty's transformation and how the use of queer visibility and American Dream discourse inform a reading of Betty as assimilation narrative. This dissertation concludes with a brief analysis of two shows featuring Latina titular characters. Both Cristela (ABC 2014-) and Jane the Virgin (CW 2014-) are successors of Ugly Betty yet diverge in the way their portrayals of Latinidades include more nuanced and pluralistic representations.

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Date Created
  • 2015