Normporn: Queer Viewers and the TV That Soothes Us

NYU. Nov. 2023. 224p. ISBN 9781479846511. pap. $19.95. TV
Tongson (gender and sexuality studies, English, and American studies and ethnicity, Univ. of Southern California; Why Karen Carpenter Matters) dissects the essence of television “dramedies” and their unexpected appeal to queer audiences. The book begins with the groundbreaking thirtysomething and moves to This Is Us, Gilmore Girls, and others. Interweaving pertinent commentary on social, political, and world issues—from presidents to pandemics—the book delves into the core concepts and storylines of these shows and the characters who comprise the various family-type groupings. Tongson suggests that the underlying aesthetic emphasis on the boring minutiae of everyday life is the compelling, unifying factor, and it is one that reflects a collective audience longing to take refuge in the ordinary. This book offers comfort, emotional release, and a reassuring viewing experience amid the world’s turbulence. Tongson also probes into why queer audiences are drawn to these shows and asks how they (and all viewers) come to terms with the perpetually shifting boundaries of normalcy and privilege as played out onscreen and off.
VERDICT A complex study, in content and in presentation. Those who take the time to read in depth will be rewarded with meticulous analyses and perceptive insights that have universal relevance.
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