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Queer Representation in Media - Interview Research Paper

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Media has changed people’s perception about different kinds of ideologies. One of the most powerful visual media that shapes our society is advertisement. It is almost inevitable to ignore advertisements and attempt to remain unaffected, butadvertisements both reflect and shape society norms. Compare to when society was more restricted by conservative regulations, such as Hayes Law, increasing numbers of advertisements in western culture allow queer people to represent in ways that are inclusive and respectful. Many companies have chosen to target on homosexual people who comprised a large potential market. Companies provide positive queer images in exchange for queer people’s good will and support.

An example is Expedia’s Find Your Understanding, an ad released on Oct 2nd, has gained more than 2.2 million views. It is a moving tale told by Artie Goldstein, a retired business owner who described his emotion and reaction while traveling to his daughter’s, Vickie’s marriage with another woman. “That startled me. I told her, this is not the dream I have for my daughter,” said Artie when his daughter first asked his permission for marrying another woman. His arrival at his daughter’s wedding and witnessing how happy his daughter is were the turning points. “ You come to terms with it and say this is the nature order of things in your life, and it is supposed to be this way,” he said. His apprehension turned into true acceptance.
I decided to pick this video as my analysis not only because it has wide audience and releases in the recent period, but also because this touching story is told from the third-person perspective, the father. Through analyzing my interviewee’s interpretation of the father’s experience, I can see how different audiences respond to the media representation of non-normative sexuality differently with respect to family and culture values. In my paper, I argued that even though this advertisement presents positive image of homosexuality, it fails to address homosexual representations with respective to the different culture background and ethnicity, two significant factors that may lead to different interpretations of media.
I choose to use audience response as a form of analysis to depict homosexual representation in media. In order to more accurately conduct this study, I control some of the factors. First of all, both interviewees are Taiwanese, lesbians, middle-class, and currently studying at University of Washington. I interviewed them both in my house individually, and I asked my questions with almost the same wordings. My first interviewee, Serena, double major in Political Science and Economics, grew up in Taiwan until she came to United States for university. Her parents are both from and currently live in Taiwan. My second interviewee, Diana, major in Chemistry, has grown up in Washington state. She and her parents are both US immigrants and move to United States since she was small. Therefore, even though they are both originally from Taiwan, Diana has grown up with strong influenced by western culture. Her parents, living here for over twenty years, have been assimilated by the United States’ culture. Diana is an Asian American representative. On the contrary, Serena and her family are an example of typical Asian family.
Some similarities are found between these two interviewees. Both interviewees have strong emotional connection with the advertisement. Watching the video with the smile, both respondents claim that they can relate themselves easily with these two women. They believe this advertisement speaks out their minds and empowers the images of lesbians. They both claim that after seeing this video, they are more likely to support Expedia. Serena implies in her conversation that this advertisement makes her feel relief because through this advertisement, she feels like her relationship with Diana is getting acknowledgement in western culture. However, the issue became more sensitive and responses became difference when I started to ask questions, such as “ Is this promotion, possible to release in Asia?” and “ Do you think the parents’ reaction realistic?” Serena and Diana’s different backgrounds make their answers for these two questions distinctive. Despite the fact that Serena feels connected with the video, she thinks the story is more as an escape from reality instead of portraying her situations. Her parents are offensive to non-normative sexuality that she does not even have the courage to tell them that her partner is a girl. She mentioned that she does not believe that this ad can play in Taiwan before I asked her the question. She explains that, in current Taiwanese culture, media are still conservative about the images of sexuality. On the contrary, Diana does not consider this video unrealistic. Since the family and culture represented in the advertisement are similar to her real life experience, she does not take into account of culture as a factor. “ Even in Asia, do you think the advertisement will also be popular?” It was until when I asked her the question that she suddenly realized and said “ your right. I don’t think so.” From both interviews, we have discussed Asian representation of homosexuality in media and I concluded that both interviewees think Asians culture remains restricted and conservative in media representation. Homosexual are usually depicted in negative images, whether as subjects of ridicule in soap opera or as sexual characters in Japanese pornographic and comic.
This Expedia advertisement supports positive images of representing queer population, showing a unique trip that a father attending his daughter same-sex wedding, a journey that will test, challenge, and ultimately change him in an unexpected way. The father, being the one who narrates the whole stories, like many other parents who follow the mainstream, has “great expectation for children, [and that] expectation.... include an husband.” The perspective from a typical father and the story’s happy ending give both Serena and Diana either hopes or an excuse to escape from reality because both claim that if the advertisement is shown from the perspective of married couple, this advertisement will be viewed as more subjective in portraying positive lesbians’ images. Therefore, heterosexual audience will feel less persuasive and homosexual audience will not feel as much supports and encouragements compared to the story told from father’s perspective. Despite the fact that my interviewees are both lesbians, the movie is target for the general publics. There are no insider jokes or symbols hidden within the context, but instead uses obvert language to speak out the issue of homosexuality.
Homosexual targeted campaigns are commonplace in advertisement these days, and they already have their set clichés (white and middle class family). Like many of our readings and The Celluloid Closet, this advertisement has failed to address different races in representation of homosexuality. However, race is an important factor to consider in analyzing media. America is considered as more progressive and avant-garde in homosexual images and the importance of norm and convention lies in the existence of plurality. “The visual media… offer an excellent tool …to encourage sexual tolerance, and in particular to promote a supportive attitude towards queer...” Even though there are still inequality and disagreement among people on homosexuality, the overall images of same sex relationship have increased and improved in America through continuous visibility of queer people in gay prides events or representation in media. Through interviews, both Serena and Diana have the different responses to this advertisement because they grew up in the different culture. Compare to Diana, Serena is less optimistic about homosexual situation because, in Asian culture, queer people is still underrepresented and negatively represented in the media.
“Lack of media visibility of a minority group reflects and reproduces inequality and accordingly these groups should seek great power through increased visibility.” Serena and Diana have different respond to the ad because of cultural difference. In order to change Asian images on media, society needs to display more positive images of queer representation.

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