Away from prying eyes: Queer spaces and the performance of intimate relations in contemporary supernatural television

Joyleen Christensen

The University of Newcastle, Australia


In 2002, Kathleen Battles and Wendy Hilton-Morrow noted that early attempts to place gay characters in the foreground of mainstream television often lead to a “failure to acknowledge the social consequences” of being gay in a heterosexual culture (p.99). Fifteen years later, I would argue that, perhaps more than any other genre, the modern supernatural television show allows for a complex and engaging re-negotiation of the kinds of narrative spaces through which queer relations can now be performed. As this analysis of the construction of queer spaces in Shadowhunters and In The Flesh will demonstrate, contemporary television shows that exist in the realm of fantasy are in a unique position. Significantly, these shows are able to displace the application of stereotypical labels through the creation of story worlds in which characters are routinely marked as ‘other’ on the basis of characteristics that exist outside explicit references to their sexuality. Furthermore, as the depiction of same-sex relationships within this genre has increased exponentially in recent years, we can also track a curious development in the representation of domesticated queer spaces that effectively remove limitations upon expressions of gay desire and intimacy. Indeed, these shows appear to actively encourage the establishment of ‘safe spaces’ – designated settings in which characters are free to fully express themselves.

2018 National Conference
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