by Karen Tongson

About Karen Tongson

Karen Tongson is Associate Professor of English and Gender Studies at the University of Southern California, and author of Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries. She is series editor for Postmillennial Pop at New York University Press, and has two books in progress: Normal Television: Critical Essays on Queer Spectatorship after the “New Normalcy” and Empty Orchestra: Karaoke in Our Time.


Queer media is an emergent category acknowledging that media forms, from film and television to an ever expanding digital sphere, are no longer just “playing to Peoria” (and the many Peorias since established) as the standard of demographic normalcy and desirability. The early 2000s saw the emergence of LGBTQ-focused programming on cable networks like Logo, and gave rise to Bravo as the unofficial home for queer programming ever since it turned queer eyes to straight guys. More recently, queer methods for storytelling have come to prominence on streaming platforms like Amazon and Netflix (which launched queer shows like Transparent), and social media sites like YouTube and Instagram, which provide platforms for queer and transgender people to auto-document their lives, struggles, and transitions. In short, queer niches have sprouted up across the media landscape since the beginning of the new millennium, even as LGBTQ characters have become more prevalent on prime-time network programming—ABC’s sitcom Modern Family the most frequently cited among them.