College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

Graduation Date


Document Type


Department/Program Conferring Degree

Interdisciplinary Studies


screenwriting, film and television, queer and feminist theory, Killing Eve, Sense8


This thesis takes the recent increase in on-screen and behind-the-scenes representation in Hollywood film and televison as a launching point for a critique of the manner in which contemporary screenwriting paradigms discipline and control progressive representation. It is my contention that narrative and (most) generic conventions operate as straightening, whitening, and masculinizing devices, so that, even when female/of color/queer characters are plugged into traditional narratives, they become normalized, disciplined, and more in line with cis, white, heterosexist patriarchal logics. For the purposes of this study, because I am a screenwriter thinking within the discipline of media and communication studies, my methodology crosses disciplinary boundaries from media studies to queer-feminist theory to the fundamentals of screenwriting. Towards this end, this project will analyze two contemporary television series that have been praised for progressive representation and storytelling, particularly at the intersections of gender and sexuality: Killing Eve (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) and Sense8 (The Wachowskis). Through an analysis of each texts’ signifying practices—as influenced by contemporary screenwriting paradigms—I will demonstrate how Killing Eve’s adherence to traditional storytelling standards around character-building, narrative structure, and genre inhibit the liberatory potential of placing two female characters (an Asian-American, straight woman and a white, queer woman) at the center of the typically masculine spy thriller. In contrast, I will show how Sense8 moves beyond progressive representation by not only centering the series around eight protagonists of varying genders, sexualities, and racial identities, but also expanding its emancipatory potential by subverting and reimagining the rules of character, narrative structure, and genre.