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July 23, 2018 | by  | in Podcasts | [ssba]

Podcasts Are For the Gays

Podcasts are for the gays. Though media representation is getting better and more queer creators are gaining mainstream appeal the situation is still far from ideal. In the midst of a media landscape where we are underrepresented and our stories not told, podcasting is a beacon of hope. It’s a medium where stories can be told with true creative freedom, and has the potential to be representative to queer audiences.

Welcome to Night Vale began one of the first interest booms in podcasting, and carved a niche for queer audio drama. Its casual integration of queerness within the narrative and its genuine empathy for the stories being told immediately resonated with audiences. However, audio drama was queer friendly before Night Vale. Podcasting is set up differently from every other form of media: all you need to get a podcast out is audio equipment and motivation. There are few expectations and restrictions on what kinds of content are produced. All you need to be noticed is an audience. The line between creator and listener is more direct than in any other media, and it allows for a clearer sense of what audiences really want — no focus groups or demographics needed.
Audio drama podcasts tell stories in the traditional radio drama genres of horror and noir, but finds a new home in science fiction. This is where queer podcasting shines. Audio drama generates more varied and creative visions of the future than TV and film because of the diversity at the its heart. The Penumbra Podcast combines horror, noir, and science fiction in the Juno Steel serial, where a trans and bisexual protagonist solves mysteries on Mars, where there is only one straight person. The predominantly queer team of creators has direct contact with their fanbase, so even identities they do not inhabit are able to be treated with care. The cast is as queer because the creators understand the significance of representation, and are not making media for trends or profits. The representation of queerness in Juno Steel is humanised in ways queerness in most media is not, even today, because they did not have to fight for it. Audio drama creators decided they needed queer characters, queer futures, and then they made it happen.
Though an increasing number of podcasts are being adapted for visual media, the balance of queer showsto non-queer shows that gets made into TV does not reflect the actual ratios in podcasts in general. The environment that fosters queer creators and content is not crossing over easily into other genres. Another problem halting the spread of queer podcasting is that most of it is audio drama, not the factual conversation or interviews that most people think of when they think of podcasts. This lack of attention to audio drama could be what’s keeping it queer, but if this phenomena is so self-contained, what’s to stop it from fading away once the nature of podcasting, or even its popularity, changes.


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