This article reconstructs queer popular culture as a way of exploring media production studies as a trans history project. It argues that queer and trans insights into gender are indispensible to feminist media studies. The article looks at The Ugliest Girl in Town series (ABC, 1968–69), a satire amplifying a purported real-life fad in flat chests, short haircuts, and mod wigs, to restore texture to the everyday landscape of popular entertainment. Approaching camp as a genderqueer practice, the article presents the program as one of many indications of simultaneously queer and trans representation in the new media moment of the late 1960s. Behind-the-scenes visions of excavated archival research inform an analysis of the series as a feminist text over and against its trans misogyny, which evaluates and ranks women based on their looks, bodies, and appearance while excessively sexualizing and even more stringently appraising, policing, and punishing trans women, women perceived to be trans, and oppositional forms of femininity. The program captures both the means of gender regulation and detachment from it, the experience of gender embodiment, and the promise of presenting and being perceived as many genders. Ugly is an awful word in the way it is usually wielded, but it can be reclaimed. Examining this rarely cited and often misconstrued Screen Gems series helps to demonstrate a more equitable distribution of creative credit for queer trans content across the television industry and the subcultures it commodified in the 1960s.
Mod Pop Methods: This Year's Girl
Quinlan Miller is an assistant professor in the English department at the University of Oregon. His publications include “Queer Recalibration,” Cinema Journal (February 2014); “How to Queer Television,” in How to Watch Television, eds. Ethan Thompson and Jason Mittell (New York: New York University Press, 2013); “Queer Exteriors: Transgender Aesthetics in Early Gay and Lesbian Advertising,” in Transgender Migrations: The Bodies, Borders, and Politics of Transition, ed. Trystan Cotten (New York: Routledge, 2011); Quinn Miller and Marty Fink, “Trans Media Moments: Tumblr, 2011–2013,” Television and New Media 15, no. 7 (October 2013): 611–26; and “Television,” TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 1, nos. 1–2 (May 2014): 216–19.
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Quinlan Miller; Mod Pop Methods: This Year's Girl. Feminist Media Histories 1 January 2015; 1 (1): 64–88. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2015.1.1.64
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