The Life Cycle of Transparent: Envisioning Queer Space, Time and Business Practice
Abstract: The queerness of the series Transparent (2014–2019), both textually and extratextually, offers a paradigm for understanding just how flexible and revolutionary digital TV can be. Queerness becomes a mechanism freeing both the television text and the business practices supporting it. The result is a radically reformed life cycle for both the television text and the attendant commercial structures. Launched in 2014 from Amazon Studios, Jill Soloway’s Transparent suggests that narrative ruptures in the life cycle are as significant as the technological or business shifts. Unlike the traditional US broadcast/cable model, the economics of the show merely reflect Amazon Prime’s desire to be both a means of delivery and an original content provider. In this way, original series add value to the company and hopefully the stock price. Business practice, methods and revenue are reformed, allowing for television “product” that need not adhere to the traditional models of commercial television. Narratively, the radical way through which Soloway connects the two disparate stories in Season Two requires viewers to set aside their expectations on cause and effect in television storytelling. Time, space, and causation are also altered within Soloway’s text. Certainly, there are specific links in terms of the characters’ lineage, but the creators of Transparent also seemingly want us to consider “life cycle” in a much different and queerer way than is usual for television programming.