Older people, sexualities and soap operas: representations of lesbian, gay, bisexual sexualities and transgender identity in television soap operas, and older audiences’ responses.

Humberstone, Nicola (2010) Older people, sexualities and soap operas: representations of lesbian, gay, bisexual sexualities and transgender identity in television soap operas, and older audiences’ responses. PhD thesis, Middlesex University. [Thesis]

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The thesis investigates the responses of older audiences to representations of lesbian, gay, and bisexual sexualities and transgender identities in British prime time television soap operas between1986 and 2002. It combines cultural research, in relation to theories of soap opera and audience engagement and social research into the responses and views of older audiences to such representations and the life experiences of the participants which inform their views. The thesis recognises that the voices of older people are underrepresented in socio-cultural research, especially when investigating sexuality. Soap opera constitutes a genre which functions as a vehicle for social issues, including sexualities. Soap operas draw large audiences across generations and gender; they have high profile publicity and intertextual material to engage viewers’ interests, and broadly accessible scheduling. They therefore provide an accessible means of engagement with these issues with older people.
Chapter 1 outlines the social context of the research and reviews selected discourses and research, noting that much recent research is directed to issues of care and therefore tends to address the needs and preferences of older people rather than their active engagement with, and potential contribution, to popular culture and issues of sexualities and gender identity. Chapter 2 identifies and evaluates cultural theories and issues around textual analysis. The relevance and validity of these general themes are examined in Chapter 3 by means of ‘close readings’ of two selected episodes with relevant narratives and
representations through textual analysis and in relation to everyday social interaction.
Chapter 4 addresses the epistemological issues involved in combining cultural research into the meanings and significance of these representations and narratives with social research into the meanings, associations and value derived from them by older audiences. The methodological framework for social research and the qualitative research methods are discussed and evaluated. The research focuses upon five groups of older people, two from an Inner London Drop- in Centre and an Outer London Day Centre and three from Campaign groups who identify as members of a London based Older Lesbian Group,
Older Gay Men’s Group and Male to Female Transgender Group. More self-conscious readings of the narratives and representations could be expected from groups with a campaigning history or trans-gender identity than the other two groups. Differences and commonalities between and within groups are noted and analysed in Chapter 5 and the analysis of the data is structured by the theories and themes identified and demonstrated in Chapters 2 and 3.
The thesis supports and develops recent research which recognises that older people are diverse and demonstrate strong opinions. It also shows that as television audiences and in conversation older people actively engage with issues of non-normative sexualities which are too frequently regarded as peripheral for older people, if not taboo. This could usefully be further investigated.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: A study submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Research Areas: A. > School of Law > Criminology and Sociology
B. > Theses
Item ID: 6517
Depositing User: Repository team
Date Deposited: 16 Sep 2010 15:39
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2021 16:43
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/6517

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