Summary: At the 2015 Emmy Awards, Viola Davis won an Emmy for her role in the TV show, “How to Get Away With Murder,” making her the first African-American to win an Emmy for best lead actress in a drama series. Her acceptance speech was equally important, as she “placed her award within the larger context of diversity in Hollywood.” Davis’s win and acceptance speech reflect a situation that is simultaneously characterized by changing and static social dynamics. This resembles what sociologist Patricia Hill Collins has called the “changing-same” nature of contemporary social inequality, a situation in which new opportunities for change are presented as a result of dramatic shifts in the global political economy, yet where patterns of racial, gender, class and other inequalities nonetheless remain intact. This video clip provides another opportunity to consider the changing-same feature of social inequality in Hollywood. Focusing specifically on representations of queer characters on television, the clip illustrates how these representations have changed over the past several decades. As explained in this Slate article, “These days there are more queer TV characters than ever before, and television representations of gay life are increasingly rich and nuanced, even as the old lesbians-titilate, gays-entertain tropes sometimes remain in play. This video considers all the out-queers on the small screen—as well as all the gay wannabes, pretend-to-bes, and should-bes—taking stock of how far we've come and looking forward to where we might go next.” Yet, given Collins' insight on the changing-same nature of social inequalities, viewers are encouraged to consider how patterns of inequality around sexuality, queerness, and gender non-conformity remain entrenched in American popular culture. Thanks to Michael Miller for suggesting this clip.
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp