Perhaps no form of popular art has appeared as poised to resist subversive sexual themes as the television situation comedy. But Tison Pugh
writes that the sitcom’s historic dogmatic insistence on an earnest innocence was doomed to fail, and that the weight of this strain reveals itself under close scrutiny. In The Queer Fantasies of the American Family Sitcom
(Rutgers University Press, 2018), Pugh looks at six beloved sitcoms throughout television history in a way you have probably never viewed them before.
“Sexuality and queerness can never be banished from family sitcoms but instead percolate throughout various story lines that attempt to quell their disruptive force," Pugh writes. “In brief, queerness as a critical concept fractures cultural constructions of gendered and erotic normativity, dismantling rigid binary codes of licit and illicit desires and identities. Queer refers to contested sexual and gender identities but extends further to include identities that challenge regimes of normativity. More so, queerness exposes how deeply heteronormative narrative frameworks, such as that of the family sitcom, are structurally incapable of suturing over their aporias and contradictions, such that their surface normativity cannot withstand the steady erosion of their symptomatic queerness.”
Pugh is a professor of English at the University of Central Florida, and the author or co-author of several books on sexuality and literature, including Precious Perversions: Humor, Homosexuality, and the Southern Literary Canon
(Louisiana State University Press, 2016).