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University proposal, for writing an essay, written in 2005, for a Media Studies paper.   Graded A-.

The completed essay can be found here: Sexuality in Science Fiction TV.   The following is the proposal I needed to get approval to write the essay.

Proposal for Research Essay 

Sexuality in Science Fiction TV: Space, the final frontier - it's continuing mission to seek out new sexualities?

Title:

‘Sexuality in Science Fiction TV: Space, the final frontier – its continuing mission to seek out new sexualities?’

Media Texts:

Star Trek and Stargate

Intro:

Science Fiction Television continues to give an extremely heteronormative representation of their realities.   While this is the same with most television today, the continuing invisibility of non-heterosexuality in science fiction television is surprising.

  1. The nature and aims of my research project:

There are very few, if any, instances within sci-fi TV that allow for anything beyond the typical heteronormative picture.   I plan to research whether or not ‘other’ sexualities are visible in sci-fi, and to consider why not.   I also hope to make a case proving that sci-fi is an ideal genre to address some of the issues surrounding sexuality.

I first considered this idea in February this year, after finding a random article on the Internet, ‘Sex, Gender Issues, and Stargate SG-1’.   Since finding this article I have been wondering about this whole issue, and hope to shed some light on it through this research project.

  1. Why this work is necessary or desirable or matters:

I believe it would be useful to consider why non-hetero sexualities are not seen in sci-fi.   But more importantly, to point out why they should be there, to encourage more texts addressing sexuality on television, and maybe help a wider variety on television, stretching beyond the heteronormative.   There needs to be a more encompassing picture of today’s society and less of the shows, like Queer Eye For the Straight Guy, which are so stereotypical, and still continue to reinforce heteronormativity.

  1. Objectives ad questions / obstacles you expect to face in researching this topic:
  • To find out whether Sci-fi TV is heteronormative, and look for existing examples dealing with sexuality.
  • Why hasn’t sci-fi approached issues of sexuality more?
  • Sci-fi has often been cited as a great genre for addressing cultural issues, such as race and creed, and encouraging the viewer to see the issues from a different perspective.   So, make a case for this, and consider whether the same could work for issues surrounding sexuality.
  • Since the genre seems to attract a large number of ‘slash’ fans, sci-fi fans may be more receptive to an opener discussion of ‘other’ sexualities.[1]
  • By limiting the media texts to just two series (franchises) of the sci-fi TV genre, there is bound to be examples missed, but the constraints of this project demand that the texts be kept to a minimum.
  • Sourcing academic texts on issues involving both sci-fi TV and sexuality may be problematic.
  • Being a fan of both, Star Trek (mostly The Next Generation) and Stargate SG-1, I have a whole set of assumptions about the shows.   Mostly that they are brilliant shows, and I need to take that into account in my research.
  1. My approach to the topic:

As a fan of the genre, and someone who has looked closely at television and sci-fi TV in my studies over the last few years, I have approached this project with a few assumptions.

  1. Sci-fi TV is heteronormative, except for a few minor examples.

  2. Sci-fi is an ideal genre for addressing sexuality.   Taking issues like race, outside of reality and placing them in a different guise, in the sci-fi ‘reality’, encourages the audience to look at the original issue from a different perspective, and hopefully an opener perspective.   Examples: Star Trek addressed racial issues frequently, considering their alien races as another guise for races from Earth, like Romulans as Russians.   And the original series had one of the first interracial kisses seen on television in the United States.   Stargate SG-1 has also portrayed various alien races in such a way that can be aligned to contemporary examples; the Tok’ra versus the Jaffa race can be viewed as Israel versus Palestine.

I will attempt to review particular episodes from Star Trek (et al), and Stargate SG-1, that may deal with issues of sexuality.   I plan to then consider some of the various theories surrounding sexuality, queer theory, and television studies, in relation to these two sci-fi texts, and see whether my assumptions hold up, or not.   I may also consider novels also written based on the series, particular one novel that is considered a prequel to the movie First Contact; this novel includes a gay character.

Also I intend to look through a few of the Internet sites dedicated to these two shows, particularly StarTrek.com, Stargate Solutions, and Gateworld.net.   These sites are a great source of fan discussion, since they encourage an open discourse on various issues raised by the series.   Hopefully they will give me an idea of the audience, admittedly only a portion of the audience, but I believe it is worth consideration.   Other sites such as Television Without Pity, Epguides.com, and TVTome, will also be a good source of information about the shows.

Using Fan-Fiction.net, and other fan-fiction sites, I want to have a look at the prevalence of ‘ship’ fictions written by fans, and more importantly the large number of ‘slash’ fictions.   (The predominance of female authors writing male ‘slash’ fiction is something I may consider, if I have the time and space).

  1. Literature Review:

Much of the material I have found has dealt with sexuality in television in general, and I will be using some of these articles as a basis for my research.   But on first glance the amount of literature dealing with sexuality in sci-fi TV seems scarce.   Several media studies textbooks have been useful in finding out more about each aspect of my research, sexuality, television and the sci-fi genre.   For example, Media, Gender and Identity (David Gauntlett); The Television Genre Book (Glen Creeber, ed); It’s All Done With Mirrors: about Television (Geoff Lealand and Helen Martin); and Media and Society: an Introduction (Michael O’Shaughnessy).    Hopefully these texts will help me to consider each separate aspect together.

Returning to the Internet article that first got me interested in the issue, I have found Lexis-Nexis to be a good source of finding other articles discussing sexuality in sci-fi TV, or more widely in television in general.   And I will be considering some of these in my research

  1. A persuasive argument that my approach is the 'best for the job at hand':

I feel it is only by looking at each of the factors involved: the strengths of the genre; the audience and the ‘fans’ perspective; the commerciality of television; and the existing examples of sexualities represented on television, that this research project will show how well suited sci-fi TV is for representing different sexualities on television.

I believe I am an ideal person for this task, since I am well versed in sci-fi, and even more so in these two franchises.   I believe in the issues, and in the need for a wider discussion on sexualities on television.   And I believe in the need for a more rounded approach to sexualities, stepping outside the same old stereotypes, and always returning to reinforcing the heteronormative.

Notes:

[1] ‘Slash’ – fan-fiction term, usually referring to stories involving sexual same-sex ‘ship’ (relationships).

Bibliography:

- Area 52.   Internet WWW page, at URL: <http://www.area52hkh.net/>

A fan fiction archive, dealing with adult ‘ship’ fan fiction, and ‘slash’ fics in particular.   Mostly ‘Stargate’.

- Cover, Rob.   ‘First Contact: Queer Theory, Sexual Identity and ‘Mainstream’ Film’.   International Journal of Sexuality and Gender Studies 2000, Vol.5, No.1, pp. 71-89.

Dealing with queer theory in media critique, and although this deals with ‘mainstream’ film, I think it will be worth looking at in regards to my research.

- Creeber, Glen (ed).   The Television Genre Book.   London: British Film Institute, 2001.

This book is a good source for Television Studies, and has a section discussing Sci-fi TV, and  ‘Star Trek’ more specifically.   It will help me consider the existing discussions on Sci-fi.

- Devito, Chris.   ‘Going boldly with Kirk and Spock: In the sci-fi world of limitless possibilities, Kirk and Spock are somehow meant for each other and homosexuality has nothing to do with it’.   The Vancouver Sun (British Columbia): April 2, 1994.

“This shadowy corner of the science fiction world,
known as Slash Lit, remains the best-kept secret of the Star Trek cottage industry. For more than 20 years, hardcore fans have been writing stories, poems and whole novels about a secret romance between Captain Kirk and Dr. Spock, and other characters as well.”   Addresses the world of ‘slash’ fic writing, ‘zines’ and queer readings of ‘Star Trek’.

- Dow, Bonnie J.   ‘Ellen, Television and the Politics of Gay and Lesbian Visibility’.   Critical Studies in Media Communication, 2001, 18(2): 123-140.

Though not sci-fi related, the situation of introducing a gay character to a commercial television show relates closely to the issues I will look at.

- Elber, Lynn (AP Television Writer).   ‘TV Makes Room for Gay Characters, But not Sexuality’.   Associated Press.   January 12, 1996.

‘Television has discovered safe sex: Gay and lesbian characters are just dandy as long as you leave out the passion and substitute punchlines instead’.   Considering that the current gay characters on television fail to really address the issues, and instead are just cardboard cutouts, and comic relief.

- Epguides.com.          Internet WWW page, at URL: <http://www.epguides.com/>

A complete episode guide for each show, plus links onto other sites that give more detailed accounts of episodes.

- Fejes, Fred & Petrich, Kevin.   ‘Invisibility, Homophobia & Heterosexism: Lesbians, Gays and the Media’.   Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 10: 396-422.

- Gantz, Katherine.   ‘”Not that there’s anything wrong with that”: Reading the Queer in Seinfeld’.   Straight with a Twist: Queer Theory and the Subject of Heterosexuality, Thomas, Calvin (ed).   Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2000, pp. 165-190.

Gantz gives a queer reading of the Seinfeld sitcom, and this may assist me in seeing how many fans have done a queer reading of ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Stargate SG-1’.

- GateWorld - Your Complete Guide to Stargate!      Internet WWW page, at URL:

<http://www.gateworld.net/index.shtml>

A complete guide to ‘Stargate’, and some other sci-fi shows.   The site encourages discussion between fans, on many of the issues raised by episodes.

- Gauntlett, David.   Media, Gender and Identity: An Introduction.   Oxfordshire: Routledge, 2002.

Gauntlett deals with many of the issues I will be looking at, and on a quick glance there seems proof he believes in the strengths of sci-fi TV.   “… People used TV science fiction shows a way of thinking through their sense of ‘otherness’ –” pg.26.

- Gross, Larry.   ‘What is wrong with this picture? Lesbian Women and Gay Men on Television’.   Queer Words, Queer Images: Communication and the Construction of Homosexuality, Ringer, R. Jeffrey (ed).   New York: New York University Press, 1994, pp. 143-156.

Talking about the power of television, and the way in which gay men and lesbian women are portrayed so far.

- Gwenllian Jones, Sara.   ‘Starring Lucy Lawless?’   Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 2000, 14(1): 9-22.

Though not a sci-fi show, ‘Xena: Warrior Princess’ is a cult show, as are the two shows I’ll look at, and I think it could be helpful to read from this perspective.

- Heliopolis.   Internet WWW page, at URL: <http://www.sg1-heliopolis.com/>

Another ‘Stargate’ fan fiction archive.

- Heliopolis 2.   Internet WWW page, at URL: <http://helio2.sg1-heliopolis.com/>

The same site as ‘Heliopolis’, but this is the adult section, archiving ‘ship’ and ‘slash’ fics.

- Kay, Jonathan.   ‘Gay Trek; After Will & Grace, is it too late for Star Trek to cross the sexuality frontier?’   The Hamilton Spectator.   Hamilton, Ontario (Canada), September 1, 2001.

An interesting article that points out ‘Star Trek’ has so far avoided the issues surrounding sexuality, and also comments on Gene Roddenberry’s plans to incorporate a gay character, before his death.   And talks about how this show would be an ideal place to incorporate this, because of it’s position in the future, and in Roddenberry’s supposed utopian society.

- Lealand, Geoff and Martin, Helen.   It’s All Done With Mirrors: About Television.   Palmerston North: Dunmore Press, 2001.

Another Television Studies text, this has a small section dealing with sexuality and gender, talking specifically of examples where the boundaries were stretched in New Zealand Television.

- McCarthy, Anna.   Ellen: Making Queer Television History’.   GLQ, 2001, 7(4): 593-620

Again dealing with the issue of a commercial show ‘coming out’, and the effect that had should assist my research.

- Mondello, Bob.   ‘On-screen Homosexuality Gains Acceptance’.   National Public Radio show ‘All Things Considered (NPR 4:30 pm ET)’ (transcript).   January 29, 1995.

Movie critic Bob Mondello discusses Hollywood's new fascination with homosexuality and how this trend both feeds and fights stereotypes.

 - O’Shaughnessy, Michael.   Media and Society: an Introduction.   Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

This has several sections that may be of help, with many of ‘queer theorists’ mentioned; television genre is also discussed, as is sexuality.

- Reeves-Stevens, Judith and Garfield.   Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Continuing Mission (A Tenth Anniversary Tribute).   New York: Pocket Books, 1997.

This only addresses ‘The Next Generation’, but does so in depth, and covers individual episodes, and background to both the show and the episodes.

- Stargate Solutions.   Internet WWW page, at URL:  <http://www.savedanieljackson.com/>

As with ‘Gateworld’ this is a good site for discussions on ‘Stargate’ episodes, the issues and the fans.

- Star Trek.com.   Internet WWW page, at URL: <http://www.startrek.com/>

Another source of information on the whole ‘Star Trek’ Franchise, and the fans as well.

- Taormina, Agatha.   ‘Science Fiction Culture; Review; book review’.   Society for Utopian Studies.   Northern Virginia Community College: March 22, 2000.

This studies the fan culture of ‘Star Trek’ and sci-fi fans in general, the ways in which fans shape the culture of a genre.   This should be helpful in considering whether the fans would be receptive to issues of sexuality being addressed in their favourite show.

- Television Without Pity.   Internet WWW page, at URL: <http://www.televisionwithoutpity.com/>

Great website for discussion on shows, and episode reviews, not necessarily from fans, so possibly a less biased source of episode review.

- TVTome.       Internet WWW page, at URL: <http://www.tvtome.com/>

Another good source for information on episodes, often with extras, such as comments on the ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ episode ‘the Outcast’: “One of the ONLY episodes of Star Trek to ever deal with issues of sexual identity & orientation. Roddenberry promised to introduce a gay character soon after but after his death the idea was shelved by Rick Berman”

- Walker, Maxton.   ‘Out of the closet, into the universe’.   The Independent.   London: April 14, 1995.

“’2,4,6,8. How do we know that Kirk is straight?’ is the battle- cry for a
new breed of SF fans, the ‘Gaylaxians’, who in America have unsuccesfully lobbied Star Trek's producers over recent years for gay characters to be introduced to the series.”   This discusses how all the lobbying has failed, and ‘Star Trek’ still has not incorporated any gay characters.

Television Shows:

Stargate SG-1.   Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner.   1997- still in production (ninth season)

Star Trek (et al).   Gene Roddenberry.   1960s – 2005 (Enterprise, the latest spin off has just been cancelled).

The completed essay can be found here: Sexuality in Science Fiction TV

Note (2010):

Stargate SG-1 completed 10 seasons, and finished in 2007.  This was followed by two straight to DVD film releases, The Ark of Truth and Continuum, both in 2008.  The 1st spin-off, Stargate Atlantis (SGA), ran for 5 seasons, ending in 2009.  And Stargate Universe (SGU) began in 2009, and is currently filming it's second season.

The Star Trek franchise doesn't have any new spin-offs running on TV anymore, though all the the shows can usually be found in re-runs somewhere.   Star Trek (TOS - The Original Series) completed 3 seasons (1966 - 69); Star Trek The Next Generation (TNG) completed 7 seasons (1987 - 94); Star Trek Deep Space Nine (DSN) completed 7 seasons (1993 - 99); Star Trek Voyager (VOY) completed 7 seasons (1995 - 2001); Star Trek Enterprise (ENT) completed 4 seasons (2001 - 05).  There have been 11 movies to date.  Star Trek I: The Motion Picture (1979), Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), Star Trek V: The Undiscovered Country (1989), Star Trek VI: The Final Frontier (1991).  Star Trek VII: Generations (1994) (this film brought the TNG cast in, and said goodbye to the TOS cast), Star Trek VIII: First Contact, Star Trek IX: Insurrection, Star Trek X: Nemesis, and then the most recent movie Star Trek (2008) revolving around the characters of the original series (TOS), not the same actors, but it did feature the original Spock, Leonard Nimoy.

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