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Queering the research

Bad-ass – Suzy Wrong in Hungry Ghosts. Photo: Sarah Enticknap

Stephen Corvini spoke to PhD candidate Damien O’Meara about his research project Queering Australian Screens.

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My research looks at how do queer stories get on Australian screens, focusing on scripted television. This very much came from a personal place and something I’ve always been interested in. I grew up very isolated in a small country town in Victoria and the realisation of my own sexuality as a queer person was in a place that was very religious and very conservative. The only images I ever saw of gay people were on television. I remember Queer As Folk being this kind of revolutionary moment that made me realise that being queer or being gay wasn’t a death sentence, which was kind of my understanding of it before I ever told anyone who I was or how I identified. That kind of lit a bit of a fire in me because the medium television was the only way I was going to access who I was as a teenager.

“I think one of the things that I’m seeing in the people I interview is that television production as a business and as a creative field is an evolutionary process and that by using queer representations on screen it’s a really good way to see how that revolutionary process works. When you look at the development of a queer storyline or a minority voice storyline, we’ve gone from no-one in the room with lived experience to getting consultants in to the writer’s room where they share stories from their own perspective and that evolution is evident right across the board.

The only images I ever saw of gay people were on television

“People are feeling we’re in a really good place and we have potential to take it further and that is coming through a lot and we are at this great inflection point where we’ve seen all this representation and it’s growing, it’s changing and it’s allowing us to push boundaries in ways that we never thought we’d be able to.”

“A lot of people talk about a watershed moment being Please Like Me. I think some of the most striking representations in terms of Australian projects we’ve had are like All My Friends Are Racist, which was hilarious and well done and it was centred on a queer indigenous perspective and put forward stories that really haven’t ever been told before. I love horror and Hungry Ghosts was a stand out and to have a character like Roxy Ling – and actor Suzy Wrong has been interviewed about this a lot – about her experience of getting to portray a trans person who is not centring their story or portrayal on how it’s a trauma but rather as a bad-ass woman around Melbourne, which I think is really part of that evolution.”