My research, which lies at the intersection of feminist media studies and popular culture, takes the form of critical-cultural qualitative analysis of the relationships between media industries, technologies, and producers and audiences. I am primarily interested in the production and consumption of popular culture, especially comedy and content made for and by young people, and these processes’ material and discursive relationships to identity and power.
More specifically I am currently engaged in work on gender and stand-up comedy, activism and satire, and social media fandom. What unites these projects is an exploration of the slippery relationship between technology, industry, fans, and performers and the ways in which identity and power shape whose voices and stories dominate popular media.
Methodologically, I draw on the critical discourse analysis, textual analysis, and ethnographic methods to explore identity, power, and representation within media industries, texts, and audiences. I am also starting to explore a range of digital humanities tools including social media scrapers and network analysis software.
Gender, Gatekeeping, and Authenticity in the Stand-up Comedy Industry
My dissertation, and now book project, research theorizes authenticity and meritocracy as ideological discourses through which the boundaries of precarious cultural industries are policed in ways that mask underlying structural sexism, racism, and homophobia. My secondary aim with this project is to theorize stand-up comedy not only as an aesthetic form or unique type or rhetoric or discourse, but also as a media industry with its own subculture.
Debates over authenticity have become a hallmark of the production and consumption of art, performance, and media under late-capitalism; my research explores how these debates play out with regards to gender and stand-up comedy. More specifically, I argue that gender plays an integral role in the (in)validating of authenticity and merit in the cultural and industrial spaces of stand-up and that women, operationalized as an industrial identity category, are constructed as outsiders who must continually prove their worth through a shifting and slippery set of aesthetic and cultural norms and conditions. Further I make visible the emotional and material labor women must perform to achieve success within the field from their first open mic to their first Netflix special.
I draw on a variety of qualitative methodologies including ethnographic interviews with stand-up comics, an autoethnographic examination of my own experience performing stand-up, discourse analyses of social media conversations, and textual analyses of television and television reviews