Faculty Sponsor

James Old


Arts and Sciences


Political Science

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 4-28-2022


In his The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1, Foucault demonstrates that since the 18th century, there has been an overwhelming increase in discourses surrounding sex, developing into the conceptualization and categorization of “sexuality” and the resulting imperative to speak about it to find and know its essential “truth.” The coming out imperative constitutes one such deployment of sexuality. Coming out has been conceptualized as a way of forming and realizing one’s queer identity and announcing it with pride to the world. However, under Foucault’s theoretical framework, we see that coming out falls within a vast power network that ultimately constructs an essentialized, fixed identity through which to surveil, organize, manage, and control queer and non-queer subjects. Given this understanding of coming out, the growing pervasiveness of coming out narratives in media about queer people becomes much more troubling. In fact, mainstream televisual media, as a method of power, contributes greatly to the normalization of queer coming out narratives and thus the construction of queer identity. Through the analysis of coming out narratives and queer representation in the superhero genre—DC television show Supergirl and Marvel film Eternals—I reveal these narratives’ problematic construction of an essentialized queer identity, compulsive confession, and the fashioning of queer neoliberal subjecthood. Additionally, I demonstrate the power dynamics at play in these constructions (using Foucault’s theoretical framework) and develop a conceptualization of a more fluid, resistant depiction of queer existence in media.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Maddie Henry is a senior English and Political Science major with an interest in queer studies, contemporary American literature and film, and political theory--interests which greatly informed their current project. Upon graduation this year, they hope to attend graduate school in pursuit of a PhD in English.