From Katy Perry to theories of camp, scholars from the Popular Culture and American Culture Associations compared and argued for four days in New Orleans last week. Over 2100 people from all over the world gave papers in fields ranging from communication studies and film to sports and comic books.
Those into queer, gay, lesbian, transgendered, and gender and media issues had a field day. Gay, Lesbian and Queer Studies Area Chair, Bruce Drushel of Miami University thought the conference very successful. He arranged for over fourteen panels and over fifty presentations on a wide range of topics.
"I was again this year impressed by the consistent quality of the presentations and by the number of attendees, particularly in light of reductions in travel funds at many institutions. The GL&Q Studies area had just as many panels in New Orleans as we had last year in San Francisco -- and the conference itself had about 150 more attendees. I also was pleased to see more research presentations from undergraduates, which speaks to the benefits of emphasizing undergraduate research at many universities."
One panel tackled issues surrounding the way lesbians are depicted in the press. Presenters viewed lesbians in the margins of mainstream gay press and analyzed the normalization of lesbianism with Rosie O'Donnell's season on The View. Another three young scholars examined what they called television's mixed messages: in one case observing similar treatment between the gay and straight couples on Brothers and Sisters, all except in the instance of showing the pairs in bed, which occurred much more often with the straight couple Kevin and Scotty.
The Katy Perry paper sparked a lively discussion as audience members expressed simple pleasure from the video to outright disgust with its "using" of lesbianism. A comparison of the Perry video with the one by Denver-born singer-songwriter Jill Sobule's video for "I Kissed a Girl," floored most of the audience. Sobule's over-the-top 50's imagery, use of Fabio as her husband, and the evident enjoyment expressed by the two female kissers, made Sobule's video a big hit.
Additional presenters discussed the passing of the transgender Alex on Ugly Betty, the purported bisexuality of Tila Tequila, and the until recently unconsummated romance of Luke and Noah on the soap opera, As The World Turns.
Other areas also addressed issues of interest to the GLBTQ community. A film session featured queer readings of The Wire and Little Miss Sunshine. While a discussion on masculine icons of the current day featured a challenge to normative gender roles.