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Dr Rebecca Beirne


School of Humanities and Social Science (Film, Media and Cultural Studies)

Queer distinctions

Lesbian representation in popular culture is explored in the work of early career researcher Rebecca Beirne.

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Thinking it sounded like fun, Beirne went along and delivered a paper on Willow, a gay character in the Buffy cast. When she started to receive "fan" emails praising her discussion, she realised the subject had struck a chord.

Beirne, now a lecturer in Film, Television and Cultural Studies, has since devoted her academic pursuits largely to media studies and the representation of queer women in popular culture.

Although still an early career researcher, she has already published a monograph, Lesbians in Television and Text after the Millennium, and she is working on a follow up, this time devoted to the big screen, titled Lesbians in World Cinema. A second edition of her popular 2007 edited collection Televising Queer Women is due for release in April 2012. She has also co-edited the book Making Film and Television Histories with colleague Dr James Bennett, a History academic.

Televising Queer Women was hailed as the first book to address the portrayal of lesbians on the small screen in an overarching way. The collection of essays analysed lesbian and bisexual representation in popular shows such as The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, ER, Queer as Folk, Sex and the City, The L Word, The O.C. and Prisoner.

While Beirne's book notes much evidence of stereotyping- queer women portrayed as criminals, tough women, vampires, evil stalkers and so on - she says that in revising the edition she was encouraged to find there had been a shift in recent years towards a more diverse representation of gay female characters.

"There is a relative wealth of new programming that either focuses on lesbian characters or has them as significant secondary characters, shows like Lip Service and Sugar Rush from the UK, South of Nowhere (US) and the American reality show The Real L Word," Beirne says.

"There can be a bit of tokenism - I think there is increasingly a sense that shows need to have a queer character in the cast - but even the storylines of these characters are much more developed than what we have seen in the past."

"I have found about 300 films from all around the world dating back to 1931 that have some level of lesbian content," she says.

"My favourite example is Show Me Love, a low-budget Swedish film featuring two teenage protagonists which, on its opening weekend in Sweden, actually beat Titanic at the box office.

"The number of lesbian-focused films released has radically increased in the past 10 years. I think that is a really positive thing, both for lesbian and mainstream audiences."

Queer Distinctions profile

Queer distinctions

Lesbian representation in popular culture is explored in the work of early career researcher Rebecca Beirne.

Read more

Career Summary


Research Expertise

  • Culture, Gender, Sexuality
  • Media Culture


  • Comics and graphic novels
  • Cultural studies
  • Film studies
  • Gender and sexuality studies
  • LGBTIQ Studies
  • LGBTIQ studies
  • Political economy of media
  • Postcolonial studies
  • Television studies

Fields of Research

169999Studies in Human Society not elsewhere classified10
190299Film, Television and Digital Media not elsewhere classified90

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

DatesTitleOrganisation / Department
1/01/2015 - Senior LecturerUniversity of Newcastle
School of Humanities and Social Science


Keynote Speaker

YearTitle / Rationale
2009'The Role of Music in Queer World-Making for LGBTIQ identified Youth'
Organisation: Musicologial Society of Australia Description: Dear Rebecca, The 32nd National Conference of the Musicological Society of Australia ( is being held 26-29 September 2009 at the University of Newcastle. A Gender and Sexuality Forum exists within the MSA with the intention of fostering scholarship in these areas. As part of the event, we are planning a Gender and Sexuality Study Day preceding the conference, on Friday 25th September 2009. The purpose of the study day will be: - to engage in critical thinking about the construction of normative and non-normative gender and sexual identities and their representation; - to think beyond the conventional discourses of musicology; - to review significant thinking (both contemporary and historical) on matters of gender, sexuality, culture and society; and - to encourage 'embodied' music scholarship. We would be delighted if you would be interested in being a keynote speaker for our study day. We envisage having three scholars in all, two from other humanities disciplines and one from music, to give presentations of 20-30 minutes in length at our first session, 9.30-11am. We are hoping you would be willing to discuss your work, reviewing your use of gender and sexual identity theories (be it from a queer and/or feminist and/or other perspective), by way of illuminating how you've tackled these issues within your own scholarly praxis. We very much hope you will be able to join us for what will be a significant milestone for gender- and sexuality-related scholarship in Australia. Looking forward to your response, With kind regards, Dr John Phillips (Chair, MSA Gender and Sexuality Forum) Dr Jodie Taylor (Griffith University)

PhD Examiner

YearTitle / Rationale
2009Lesbian Language, Memory and the Social Construction of Inclusion
Organisation: University of Western Sydney Description: Dear Dr Beirne, I am writing to confirm your availability to examine Veronica Kleinert's thesis. I understand that you have had preliminary discussions with the candidates supervisor, Bruno Di Biase. Details of the thesis are: Course: Doctor of Philosophy Thesis title: Lesbian Language, Memory, and the Social Construction of Inclusion Expected to Submit: 20 January 2009 Could you please confirm your availability by return email? You are asked to complete the examination within six weeks of receipt of the thesis. We will send you a reminder two weeks before the report is due. We will post you details of the examination process with the thesis upon recept of your confirmation and will include instructions on the report requirements as well as how to claim the honorarium. We pay the AV-CC recommend honorarium of $383 for doctorates and $217 for Masters (Honours). Thank you for your assistance with this examination, UWS is greatly appreciative of the generosity of academic colleagues in their contribution to external research higher degree examinations. If you are not able to assist please let me know as soon as possible. Regards Michelle Collins Postgraduate Research Officer Student Administration, Office of the Academic Registrar Email: University of Western Sydney Building K.1.39 Kingswood Campus Locked Bag 1797 PENRITH SOUTH DC NSW 1797 Phone: +61 2 4736 0643; Fax: +61 2 4736 0013 Web:


For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.

Book (4 outputs)

2012Beirne RC, Televising Queer Women: A Reader, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 228 (2012) [A4]
2011Beirne RC, Bennett JE, Making Film and Television Histories: Australia and New Zealand, I. B. Tauris, London, 296 (2011) [A3]
Co-authorsJ Bennett
2008Beirne R, Televising Queer Women: A Reader, Palgrave Macmillan, New York & London, USA & UK, 272 (2008) [A3]
2008Beirne RC, Lesbians in Television and Text After the Millennium, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 233 (2008) [A1]
Show 1 more book

Chapter (10 outputs)

2015Beirne RC, 'Representing Lesbians', The Routledge Companion to Media, Sex and Sexuality, Routledge, New York and London pp.-TBA (2015)
2012Beirne RC, Habib S, 'Trauma and triumph: Documenting Middle Eastern gender and sexual minorities in film and television', LGBT Transnational Identity and the Media, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, Hampshire 41-58 (2012) [B1]
2012Beirne RC, 'Queer women on television today', Televising Queer Women: A Reader, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke 1-10 (2012) [B1]
2012Beirne RC, 'Mapping lesbian sexuality on Queer as Folk', Televising Queer Women: A Reader, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke 63-71 (2012) [B2]
2012Beirne RC, 'Interrogating lesbian pornography: Gender, sexual iconography and spectatorship', Hard to Swallow: Hard-Core Pornography on Screen, Wallflower Press, London 229-243 (2012) [B1]
2011Bennett JE, Beirne RC, 'Introduction', Making Film and Television Histories: Australia and New Zealand, I. B. Tauris, London xvii-xxiii (2011) [B2]
Co-authorsJ Bennett
2009Beirne R, 'Television Shows', LGBTQ America Today, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT 1184-1192 (2009)
2008Beirne R, 'Mapping Lesbian Desire in Queer as Folk', Televising Queer Women, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, United Kingdom 99-107 (2008) [B1]
2008Beirne R, 'Introduction: A History of Lesbian Television Criticism', Televising Queer Women: A Reader, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, United Kingdom 1-16 (2008) [B1]
2005Beirne R, 'Embattled Sex: Rise of the Right and Victory of the Queer in Queer as Folk', New Queer Aesthetic on Television: Essays on Recent Programming, McFarland & Company, Inc, Jefferson, North Carolina, United States 43-58 (2005) [B1]
Show 7 more chapters

Journal article (9 outputs)

2015Beirne RC, 'Piracy, geoblocking and Australian access to niche independent cinema', Popular Communication, 13 18-31 (2015)
2014Beirne R, 'New Queer Cinema 2.0? Lesbian-focused films and the internet', Screen, 55 129-138 (2014) [C1]
2012Beirne RC, 'Teen lesbian desires and identities in international cinema: 1931-2007', Journal of Lesbian Studies, 16 258-272 (2012) [C1]
CitationsScopus - 1
2009Beirne RC, 'Screening the dykes of Oz: Lesbian representation on Australian television', Journal of Lesbian Studies, 13 25-34 (2009) [C1]
CitationsScopus - 1
2007Beirne R, 'Dirty Lesbian Pictures: Art and Pornography in The L Word', Critical Studies in Television, 2 90-101 (2007) [C1]
2007Beirne R, 'Lesbian Pulp Television: Torment, Trauma and Transformations in The L Word', Refractory: a journal of entertainment media, 11 (2007) [C1]
2007Beirne R, 'Diamond of Darkness: Liberalism and Colonialism in Edward Zuwick's Blood Diamond', Scope: an on-line journal of film studies, (2007) [C3]
2006Beirne R, 'Fashioning The L Word', NEBULA: A Journal of Multidisciplinary Scholarship, 3 1-37 (2006) [C1]
2004Beirne R, 'Queering the Slayer-Text: Reading Possibilities in Buffy the Vampire Slayer', Refractory: a journal of entertainment media, 5 (2004) [C1]
Show 6 more journal articles

Review (1 outputs)

2012Beirne RC, 'Queer German cinema', Directory of World Cinema: Germany (2012) [D2]

Other (1 outputs)

2009Beirne RC, 'Sex Wars of the 1980s', LGBTQ America Today ( pp.1122-1125). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press (2009)

Report (1 outputs)

2013Grushka K, Bennett J, Parkes RJ, Beirne R, Donnelly D, Falzon C, et al., 'Visual media texts: Teaching and assessing the humanities & social sciences in a post-literate age', Centre for Learning and Teaching, 18 (2013) [R1]
Co-authorsChris Falzon, Robert Imre, Robert Parkes, Heather Sharp, Debra Donnelly, Kath Grushka, Josephine May, J Bennett

Grants and Funding


Number of grants2
Total funding$6,500

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.

20111 grants / $1,500

The Popular Culture Association of Australia and New Zealands Annual Conference, Auckland, 290611 - 1/7/2011$1,500

Funding body: University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts

Funding bodyUniversity of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project TeamDoctor Rebecca Beirne
SchemeTravel Grant
Funding Start2011
Funding Finish2011
Type Of FundingInternal

20081 grants / $5,000

Lesbian in World Cinema$5,000

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding bodyUniversity of Newcastle
Project TeamDoctor Rebecca Beirne
SchemeNew Staff Grant
Funding Start2008
Funding Finish2008
Type Of FundingInternal

Dr Rebecca Beirne


School of Humanities and Social Science
Faculty of Education and Arts

Focus area

Film, Media and Cultural Studies

Contact Details
Phone(02) 4921 5081
Fax(02) 49216933


BuildingGeneral purpose
University Drive
Callaghan, NSW 2308