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Title: Torchwood’s supermen: bisexuality as a hyper-masculine superpower
Authors: Haslop, C
Keywords: Superheroes;Queer;Heteronormativity;Television;Masculinity;Bisexuality;Audience research
Issue Date: 2015
Citation: The Superhero Conference, Mansfield College, Oxford, UK, 06-08 July 2015
Abstract: Torchwood’s supermen: bisexuality as a hyper-masculine superpower The media and academics have celebrated the liberating and frank representations of fluid or bi sexuality in the BBC’s Doctor Who (2005-) spin off television series, Torchwood (2006-2011). At the time, few TV series in the UK had included a full cast of bisexual characters let alone one that rarely labelled its queer characters with a sexual identity. This paper presents audience research using focus groups exploring Torchwood’s (2006-) representation of queer masculinity. I analyse respondent’s responses focusing on the masculinity of the two leading male characters, Captain Jack Harkness and Captain John Hart, in one episode of the series. While not ostensibly superheroes or supervillains in the comic book sense, my research participants positioned them as super-human or god like. Indeed, the characters exhibited many superhero traits including immortality, super-strength and access to an array of time travelling technology. In the analysis, I use the notion of homonormativity, the pressure upon queer people to conform to norms in established LGBTQ communities that often borrow from heteronormative practices. I highlight that despite the foregrounding of the leading men as queer with fluid sexualities, the narrative, their identities as super-humans and costume suggests a homonormative hyper-masculinity that dominates much of Western gay male culture. In this way, ideologically reiterating homonormative notions of gender where it is acceptable to be queer if we maintain the structures and performances of dominant forms of traditional heteronormative masculinity. Moreover, this positions bisexuality as hyper-masculine potency rather than as part of loving and/or sexual relations. I suggest that we should keep a close textual watch on the development of queer male superheroes on TV to argue for a genuine radicalism in the way they are portrayed that does not retreat only into traditional hyper-masculine tropes.
Appears in Collections:Dept of Social Sciences Media and Communications Research Papers

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