A link symbol  With a special thanks to my boyfriend, Verdant!

Hey, guys! Azure here, back with more thinly-veiled queer liberationist propaganda.

So, media analysis! We've all done it. We've all been to a high school English class, after all. Qualitative media analysis is something that can be categorized into all sorts of different subgroups. For example, feminist media analysis is a popular one, and it considers how gender norms and the patriarchy guide the characters, their actions, and so on.

But what if I told you... It could be gay?

Queer media analysis!! Analyzing media for queerness, queer themes or a queer narrative. That's right, this sorta thing isn't just for your everyday fandom shipper. There are legitimate scholarly articles analyzing classic literary works to figure out if a character or two may be some flavor of queer. It's a real and respectable thing!

But how does one go about queer media analysis, you may ask? How exactly does one go searching for queer themes in media? What even is a queer theme, anyway? Well, I hope that this guide may be able to help YOU to analyze your favorite pieces of media to see if there's some sort of queer theming to be observed.


Now, this isn't going to be some cheesy list like, "The media in question! Your brain!" No, queer media analysis does require understanding of some other, related subjects! You can't just hop into it blind! Much like a lesbian's clothing, queer media analysis has layers.

These are the sorts of things you will need to properly and thoroughly analyze your favorite media for queer themes.


That's right, baby, you've gotta take some queer history lessons! Look into the portrayal of queerness in media throughout history. Understand the origin of common queer tropes today. For example, understand why the queer-coded villain exists through learning about the Hayes code! Learn about early queer filmmakers who were unable to make queer couples explicit, and how they, instead, implied it through subtext, and what signifiers are used. Learn these things, how to recognize them, how to love them!! They're a part of your history, after all, baby!


Different types of media criticism tend to bleed into each other. Who knew?

Historical media analysis is its own beast. But, in essence, seeks to understand a piece of media by learning about the social, cultural, and intellectual context that produced it. This oftentimes involves learning about the creator(s), the media's intended audience, popular ideas and political events at the time, and so forth.

How this applies to queer media analysis is pretty straightforward. For example, let's say that the creator of your favorite media was made in the early 1900s, by someone infamously insecure in their sexuality. That'll tell you a LOT about how that person may write a queer character or queer themes.


Finally, we get to something specific to your media, and it's an important thing, too! Us queer Americans tend to project our view of queerness across all cultures, but this isn't necessarily the case. Different countries have different queer histories and queer cultures, which is very useful to learn about if you're gonna analyze media from a different country of origin.

For example... Let's take Japan. I'm sure someone's gonna use this advice to analyze anime or manga, anyhow. In American culture, what is commonly considered 'queercoding' is often based off of the stereotypes of queer people, as they are viewed here (for example, feminine and artsy). This is due to our heteronormative culture and how this effects how we view queerness. (If a man likes men, that makes him 'like a woman'.) However, in Japan, a common stereotype about gay men is that they are extremely masculine. This is partially due to Japan's interactions with white men following the occupation of Japan in the postwar period. Queer Japanese men came to attempt to imitate the hypermasculinity that caused queer desire. This means that what would be considered a queercoded character by an American creator, or a queercoded character by a Japanese creator, would differ wildly! And that's just one of many such differences that could greatly change how you may approach queer media analysis.

But, if you have all of this down, then you're officially ready to analyze your media. But how, exactly, does one do that? Well, I'm happy to provide that information, too.


Queerness in media isn't just when someone claims an identity. It's a shared set of experiences, symbols and understood meanings. Ones that shift and change over time. These are some ways to recognize those!


There are multiple common themes, metaphors or story tropes that are viewed as being related to the queer experience. Some of these include the common "being stifled by tradition vs being free to do what one really wants" struggle, the inclusion of an oppressed group that hides in the shadows, or stories that end with a character embracing a part of themselves that they were previously ashamed of. These are all classic metaphors for queerness.

Let's use an example from pop culture. Pixar's "Luca" really hits hard in this department, mostly because it hits ALL of the above points in its narrative. Luca is a sea monster who secretly longs to visit the surface, but he is stifled by his parents. On the surface, sea monsters are hunted and killed, so Luca and his friend Alberto have to hide in plain sight, running the risk of being outed (... as sea monsters) at any point and putting their lives at risk. Finally, the movie ends with Luca going to a human school on the surface, and not hiding that he is a sea monster from the humans any longer. Queer people were drawn to Luca en masse because Luca's character arc can easily be seen as a metaphor for queer children's first experiences with discovering their queer identity, homophobia and coming out.


This one is a little more difficult to explain. Let me use an analogy. So, imagine that you are in theater class.


Total flamer moment, am I right? Hah! Okay, now that you understand, let's move on.

Okay. I'm not moving on. But I'm not joking about everything else. Recognizing queerness through cultural points is often referred to as looking for stereotypes in your character of choice. Which is often true. Some methods of queercoding in this manner can be harmful (which is why you have the power to reclaim that character as one of your own!). However, the way that I prefer to think of it is that certain characters lean into points that are recognized as a part of queer culture in real life. For men, this can be seen as the aforementioned interest in the theater and fashion (typically more effeminate than his het counterparts). In women, this can be written as masculine female truck drivers or more alt girls (typically more aggressive than her het counterparts).

Take, for example, Ryan Evans from High School Musical; the effeminate, theater-loving twin brother of the main antagonist. The creator of the movies and gay man, Peter Barsocchini, didn't think that Disney would be ready to have an openly gay character at that point. "So, I just took it upon myself to make choices that I felt that those who were watching would grab," he said. "They would see it, they would feel it, they would know it and they would identify with it. And that is what happened." This is an excellent example of how a character who, at first glance, could be seen as a walking stereotype, can be created with the intention of simply adding a queer character through subtext, and signifiers that queer folks can (and, as we saw with Ryan, will) pick up on.

Is the line between what counts as harmful stereotyping and what counts as harmless queer coding difficult to walk? Of COURSE it is. Does it likely warrant a whole article and discussion, all to its own? Of COURSE it does. But are we going to move on anyway, because this article is already long enough? Of COURSE we are.


If you've gotten this far, I'm sure you're familiar with this part of the process.

"Wow! Those two men sure are staring at each other for a loooong time." "Oh! She just looked down at that other girl's lips!" "Did someone turn on a scented air freshener? 'Cause it's smelling a little FRUITY in here!"

My rule of thumb, generally speaking, is that if you can imagine your queer pair as a het pair, with all of the exact same scenes in canon, nothing changed, and then forsee an outcome where those two characters end up together? Then that means a romantic take on these two character's relationship makes sense. And that there is an argument to be made that their relationship is a little, you know, queer.

And that's all you need to know! Queer media analysis is a very liberating practice that I recommend to all nerdy queers. Go forth, kill a transphobic politician, and analyze your favorite media!