Fan-ning the flame: Representations of lesbian romance on cult television, from subtext to main text

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Dove-Viebahn, Aviva
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Film and Screen Media, University College Cork
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While promoting recent seasons of supernatural Western horror series Wynonna Earp (2016), cable channel Syfy released several fan-style videos championing the show’s resident lesbian couple: the protagonist’s sister, Waverly, and police officer Nicole Haught (celebrated via the portmanteau “WayHaught”). In 2019, a network “shipping” its own queer characters in service of fans contrasts starkly with the televisual landscape twenty, or even ten, years prior, when viewers invested in lesbian characters and/or same-sex couples relied on subtext and fan paratexts to fuel their enthusiasm for mostly unacknowledged or thwarted relationships between female characters. In this article, I engage in a two-part interrogation of the representation of lesbian romance on cult television shows in the last twenty-five years, with a focus on Wynonna Earp and its historical antecedents—supernatural, sci-fi, and fantasy shows featuring women and their female companion(s) (whether close friends or lovers). This includes a historiography of the development of lesbian fan communities around certain shows from the late 1990s and early 2000s, as well as an analysis of the narrative stakes and character development in both historical and contemporary shows, like Earp, in order to interrogate their representations of subtext or main text romantic pairings.
Fandomqueerbaiting , Subtext , Lesbian romance on television , LGBTQ television
Dove-Viebahn, A. (2021) 'Fan-ning the flame: Representations of lesbian romance on cult television, from subtext to main text', Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media, 20, pp. 87-103.