In the TV show Transparent, food and the family are intertwined with identity, the complexity and changing nature of relationships, Jewishness and queerness. For the protagonists, the Pfeffermans, the table is a place where food is shared but also where revelations are regularly aired, resentments surface and the emotional dimensions of the family are revealed (Alpert, 2017). Because of this, the family table is one of the affective cornerstones of the show and one that is a deliberate narrative device. This paper offers a queer reading of the family meal through key scenes from Transparent to illustrate the family meal as a site of failures. These failures should not, however, be read negatively but rather as a spaces through which to escape the "punishing norms" of heteronormativity (Halberstam, 2011). Such norms regularly present the family meal, situated at a table, as a declining pillar of society – and one whose resurgence could bring about an end to a myriad of social problems (Gray et al. 2017; Pike and Leahy, 2014; 2017). Conversely, a queer reading of the family meal allows us to fail, try again, fail again and find comfort in food, the familiar and, most importantly, in the strange. We reconfigure the shared table as a generative, affective space within which we acknowledge that there are no simple solutions to ‘social problems’ related to food, family and identity.
Originally from Walsall, UK, Emily and is a senior lecturer in Education Studies at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. Her interests within both research and teaching are interdisciplinary and include sociology, cultural studies and education. She is particularly interested in questions of gender and sexuality and with how these identity categories are taken up and lived within social institutions. Her key research interests therefore lie with questions related to gender, sexuality and wider social justice issues within educational discourse and practice. She also researches within the field of popular culture and audience studies, particularly with online ‘fandom’ and with media and popular culture as pedagogical tools.