My Own State of the Union

First time trying a blogpost from an iPad, so please excuse any typos/autocorrect issues!

I’ve been slack on my blogging, as many of my blogposts begin, but I get the feeling that the blog is going to be more functional than inspirational for the next 12 months. I am now into the last 12 months of my PhD writing, which means I have a whole heap of writing to do, and am steadily running out of time in which to do it. Having said that, it’s also hugely exciting, as all the work I’ve put into the last 2 years starts to come together!

Continue reading “My Own State of the Union”


“Law and Order” as cultural history

I have recently begun the slightly odd project of watching Law and Order start to finish. Although I have watched the most recent several seasons of L&O, as well as the various spin-offs, the earlier 10-15 seasons really passed me by. I’m well aware that L&O is almost ubiquitous on US cable TV (I had a sick day in a US hotel where I watched nothing but), but in New Zealand, re-runs of earlier seasons have been fewer and further between. However, one of our PayTV networks recently started from season 1, episode 1, and seems to be intent on just running right through them. That, combined with a DVR, encouraged me to go back and experience the whole lot. A fool’s mission, maybe, but one I’m finding quite interesting.

What has struck me, 3-ish seasons in, is the way that L&O operates as an artefact, as a cultural historical record. Early seasons are filled with references to AIDS, to DNA, to mobile phones. Incident reports are being completed on type-writers, a foot cop runs to a pay-phone to call in a crime. Sexual harrassment seems to become a common trope as the series progresses. Females serving in the police force and the military becomes a theme. Homosexuality becomes more and more in the public eye, as does racism. I’m struck by the number of derogatory terms used in the show’s early seasons, especially n***er, which seems to be used in every second episode.

This is not the world’s greatest show. And as it is still a work of fiction, it answers more to the storyline than to culture. But I feel that the 20 years (running from roughly 1990-2010) saw massive shifts in technology and culture in the US, and L&O seems to be marking the importance of various issues as they come up. I expect to see more concerns around new technology, around the rise of the internet, around concerns of identity, around sexuality, race and gender, around politics and the rise of the religious right, around corruption, around terrorism. And I really feel that I am in some ways getting a glimpse back into the US’s cultural history, seeing the issues that were preoccupying people at a given moment, and seeing attitudes change and shift.

Sexuality and Idol paper

Following the excellent Gender Cultures and Reality TV symposium held in Auckland this past weekend (a follow-on from one held in Dublin earlier this year), I thought I would post the full text of the paper I presented. Obviously, I actually talked around it a little, and it is written for oral presentation, but I’m always interested in getting further feedback. The full text is after the jump. The suggestion was made that there might be enough of an idea here to work up for publication too, so that is also floating around in my mind.

Gender Cultures and Reality Television conference paper

Better late than never, I’ve got most of my conference paper together for the Gender Cultures and Reality Television conference I’m attending tomorrow and Saturday. Since almost noone who sees this blog will be there, I figured I’d put it up online. Feel free to make any constructive comments you might have, either before or after I deliver it 🙂


I’ve removed the link here, as it was to an old version. The final version of the paper delivered can now be seen at:

What Is Television? conference abstract

So, after much to-ing and fro-ing, I’ve decided to put an abstract together for the What Is Television? Conference in Oregon next year.

The current incarnation of the abstract can be seen at:

And the details about the conference can be found at:


As always, any comments, criticisms, advice, gratefully received.

Stepping outside my comfort zone

The abstract I posted last has been accepted. Which is excellent. But that now means that I need to write the paper. Which is scary.

Ever since I came back into the loving embrace of the tertiary institution, I have pushed myself, sure, but I have worked pretty much within my comfort zone. I have worked with texts that I know, well. I’ve stuck to areas that I have felt relatively comfortable in – the TV industry, fandom, new and social media. This is the work I’ve pretty much focused on over the past 5 years, meaning that I’ve grown with it.

But none of the work I traditionally do would have fit the CFP for this conference, that I really wanted to attend. So I took a deep breath, and I wrote the abstract. And imperfect as it might be, it was accepted. And now, I need to start from scratch with writing it.

Most things I write are based on a literature I know well. If I want to write about cult television, or quality, or televisual eras, I know the 5 or 6 key texts I need to turn to. But all of a sudden, I’m writing about sexuality and sexualisation. And I’m doing a whole new set of literature searches.

It’s incredibly disconcerting to not know the most basic level of academic research about this. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of academic work about my specific niche take on this (Idol and sexualisation), which is good – nice niche area for a paper, possibly means it’s even worth expanding it to a publication if I come up with something useful to say. But it also means I’m doing very broad Google Scholar searches, and trying to distil out some fairly broad concepts. And I don’t even really know what sorts of theoretical bases I could be using.

So it’s something that is very exciting, but simultaneously utterly terrifying. I have several months to work on this, and I get the feeling I’m going to have to devote a reasonable amount of time to this.

So, how do other academics feel about this? Do you ever have the feeling of stepping out of your comfort zone?

Symposium + Abstract

There is an excellent symposium being run at the University of Auckland near the end of the year. The theme is Gender Cultures and Reality TV, and there have already been some exciting speakers announced. If this is at all in your area, and you think you might be able to justify a trip to Auckland, then I strongly recommend taking a look. I’m a little late pimping this, so abstracts are due Friday! Details can be found at:

And so to me. As much as I do work with Reality TV, and enjoy listening to discussions and chiming in where I can on issues of gender and sexuality, this is a little outside my comfort zone. But this is too good an opportunity to pass up, so I have put together an abstract. I’m still pretty new to abstract writing, so any advice on it would be gratefully appreciated.

“You keep singing like that and you will be able to afford the rest of that dress”: Nascent sexuality in the Idol Franchise

In the first nine years of its run, American Idol was relatively careful to avoid overt sexualisation of the contestants, playing very carefully to a conservative family audience. Judging panel comments regarding appearance or wardrobe of participants frequently came from Paula Abdul, taking on a sisterly or motherly role towards most contestants. However, in the tenth season, the changes made to the judging panel saw the introduction of Steven Tyler, a rocker known for, amongst other things, his lasciviousness and history of promiscuity. Tyler’s presence on the panel saw a shift in the dynamic, with him frequently making comments of a sexual nature towards both male and female contestants. Tyler joining the panel only a year after the success of the most overtly sexual contestant on Idol, Adam Lambert, may not be a pure coincidence, and may indicate a shift to attract new demographics to the show in order to arrest falling ratings. Where this may be problematic is in its coincidence with the lowering of the age limit for competing in Idol, meaning that contestants Lauren Alaina and Thia Megia were both fifteen years old at the time of their auditions. This paper will analyse the increased sexualisation of contestants over the 2011 season, identify moments at which this sexualisation became uncomfortable or problematic, and will attempt to draw comparisons to Australasian versions of the format.