LGBT Film Distribution Companies and the Gay Media Niche, 1985 to Present
- Author(s): Wuest, Bryan
- Advisor(s): McHugh, Kathleen A
- et al.
This dissertation examines the history and operations of niche LGBT media distribution companies in the past three decades. Since the rise of gay and lesbian film festivals in the 1970s, several distribution companies specifically devoted to LGBT media have made over a thousand titles available in theaters, on home video, or via digital streaming. By focusing on five companies (Ariztical Entertainment, Here Media, Strand Releasing, TLA Entertainment, and Wolfe Video), my research breaks new ground as a large-scale analysis of a sector of media largely unexplored by queer media studies. The texts produced by LGBT distributors are often perceived as conventional and uninteresting formally and politically. However, my project takes these “bad objects” seriously, recognizing their economic, cultural, and historical significance for a minority group and their larger impact on mainstream understandings of LGBT identity and politics. Partly an industrial history, this project deprioritizes textual and representational analysis of the niche media itself, attending instead to the industrial and discursive circumstances surrounding these media and treating distribution as a collection of meaning-making practices revealing insights impossible through textual analysis alone. Each chapter demonstrates how LGBT texts circulate and activate differently in different contexts, focusing on the contingency of a text’s categorization as LGBT, the signification of business practices with liberal LGBT politics, and the complexity of evaluating LGBT media based on differing expectations about what LGBT media should do and what LGBT viewers need. This project provides an untold history of a minority group’s cultural production, and in doing so raises larger questions about LGBT media’s contemporary and future relationship to categorization, identity, politics, economics, value, and affect.