Bitter living through science
Melodramatic and moral readings of gay conversion therapy in A Place to Call Home
in Diagnosing history
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A Place to Call Home is a televised serial family drama set in post-WWII Australia (1950s–1960s) that chronicles the lives of the Bligh family from the fictional rural town of Inverness, New South Wales, Australia. A key storyline of the series is that of eldest son James who has returned from England with his new bride while hiding his homosexuality. James ultimately attempts to change his sexual orientation, also called sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), at a private clinic. This chapter critically examines the televisual depiction of James’s SOCE through several lenses that draw upon critical scholarship about melodrama and period drama as media genres for depicting LGBTQ+ histories, studies of post-WWII family and society (e.g., the rise of science/medicine as a cure-all for perceived social ills), and postcolonial theories of race and sexuality (e.g., the propagation of the white European heteronormative family). Depictions of James’s SOCE experience are read through historical accounts of individuals who have survived SOCE to address issues of realism and how televisual frames change how we understand SOCE, specifically how the elements of melodrama are used to accentuate affective and psychological aspects of James’s experience to elicit audience empathy/sympathy and thus social acceptance of homosexuality. The chapter considers the impact that the series could have had on Australia’s same-sex marriage debate and plebiscite that were occurring as James’s storyline was playing out on Australian television.

Diagnosing history

Medicine in television period drama

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