Fast friends and queer couples: Relationships between gay men and straight women in North American popular culture, 1959–2000

2003 2003

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Abstract (summary)

The idea that gay men and straight women have much in common has a long cultural history, as seen in the work of sexologists, feminists, sociologists and cultural historians from the late 19th onward. Stories of relationships between gay men and straight women have been a significant, recurring phenomenon in American popular culture throughout much of the twentieth century, and the period from the late-1950s onward marks a time when such relationships became increasingly prevalent. With the weakening of Hollywood's self-censoring Hays Code and the maturing of television as a mass-market medium, the late-1950s/early-1960s saw the development of openly gay male characters who frequently shared friendships with straight women. Films and television shows featuring this dynamic grew more numerous and circulated more widely as time passed, but these developments progressed differently and at different rates for film and television.

This study investigates the development, circulation and reception of representations of the gay-man/straight-woman duo as a cultural figure in North American film and television during the latter half of the twentieth century. As a set of texts in which sex and gender mediate each other in powerful ways, these gay-man/straight-woman stories produce rich analytic possibilities. Drawing on textual analysis, socio-historical context, and audience research, the project outlines the major relationship dynamics found in these gay-man/straight-woman texts (mother-and-son; perfect-couples; gals-and-pals), the historical shifts in their production and popularity, and the implications they hold for the ways our culture imagines relationships between men and women. Despite their gay cachet, the majority of these texts re-circulate normative clichés about gay male and straight female subjectivities and relationships, patterns that reproduce conventional, conservative thinking about who holds and deserves power and respect in our culture.

Yet a few of these texts also provide alternative models for relationships between men and women, gay and straight, that contribute to more expansive possibilities for all: a culture of queer variations and relations. These examples affirm the emotional, social and affective value of relationships that cannot be neatly categorized into familial or romantic models, and argue for the importance of friendship as a form of social practice.

Indexing (details)

Mass media;
Motion Pictures;
American studies;
Canadian studies
0708: Mass media
0900: Motion Pictures
0323: American studies
0385: Canadian studies
Identifier / keyword
Communication and the arts; Social sciences; Friends; Gay; Men; North American; Popular culture; Queer; Straight women; Television
Fast friends and queer couples: Relationships between gay men and straight women in North American popular culture, 1959–2000
Allan, James L.
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 64/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Henderson, Lisa
University of Massachusetts Amherst
University location
United States -- Massachusetts
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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