Date of Award

Summer 5-16-2016

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Eric E. Peterson

Second Committee Member

Joshua Roiland

Third Committee Member

Nathan Stormer


Looking is a gay-themed dramedy produced by and broadcast on HBO. This thesis examines the representation of the three major characters based on the theoretical frameworks of queer theory. The thesis also looks at the influence of heteronormativity on narratives and gay characters on television. The method of textual analysis, including ideological criticism and discourse analysis, lays the groundwork for the understanding of the construction of gay identity and gay sexuality in the program.

Analysis suggests that gay identity and gay sexuality are constructed through the ways that the three major characters of Looking perform their talk: sexually crude, and campy and catty. The performance of their speech is also achieved through the feminization of their language. Looking deploys an array of common stereotypes to develop and present the sexual identity of its characters. Gay sexuality and relationship are influenced by heteronormative ideologies. The major characters work within heteronormative ideologies to discipline their behaviors and to understand and construct gay identity. Still, the analysis demonstrates that Looking works to resist, renegotiate and destabilize heteronormative representations of gay sexuality and gay relationships on television. The show’s narrative rearticulates gay characters by resisting labeling, redefining domesticity, and exposing heteronormative flaws. While not a commercial success, Looking evokes the possibility of making representations of gay sexuality more challenging and realistic.