Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Casting for Change: Tracing Gender in Discussions of Casting through Feminist Media Ethnography

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Abstract:  The moment of casting is a crucial one in any media production. Casting the ‘right’ person shapes the narrative as much as the way in which the final product might be received by critics and audiences. For this article, casting—as the moment in which gender is hypervisible in its complex intersectional entanglement with class, race and sexuality—will be our gateway to exploring the dynamics of discussion of gender conventions and how we, as feminist scholars, might manoeuvre. To do so, we will test and triangulate three different forms of ethnographically inspired inquiry: 1) ‘collaborative auto-ethnography,’ to discuss male-to-female gender-bending comedies from the 1980s and 1990s, 2) ‘netnography’ of online discussions about the (potential) recasting of gendered legacy roles from Doctor Who to Mary Poppins, and 3) textual media analysis of content focusing on the casting of cisgender actors for transgender roles. Exploring the affordances and challenges of these three methods underlines the duty of care that is essential to feminist audience research. Moving across personal and anonymous, ‘real’ and ‘virtual,’ popular and professional discussion highlights how gender has been used and continues to be instrumentalised in lived audience experience and in audience research.

Keywords:  audience research; casting; ethnography; feminist media studies; feminist method; gender; humour



© Joke Hermes, Linda Kopitz. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.