The European Journal of Humour Research

Vol 4, No 3 (2016)

Gender bender agenda: Dame Edna, k. d. lang and Ivana Trump

Adrian Hale


This paper asserts that we accept or reject humorous texts discursively on the basis of what we perceive as authorial agendas. This “authorial agenda spotting” is activated by discursive “triggers”, which identify, filter, reject, endorse, or otherwise subjectively interpret the discourse of a textual author. This study was prompted by observing the negative reception of a humorous text by a predominantly Muslim postgraduate student cohort who signalled cultural identity and social cohesion by rejecting a text which subverted gender performance according to their discursive expectations. The study sought to compare this triggered effect with the reception of the same text by a distinctly pre-disposed audience comprised of same-sex-attracted bloggers. This reception in turn was contrasted with the reception of the text by mainstream media reviewers. The text itself seems to spark these discursive triggers in all three audiences. It is taken from “The Dame Edna Treatment” (2007), a TV-media entertainment programme, which features the celebrity guests k. d. lang and Ivana Trump being “interviewed” by the Australian comedian Barry Humphries in character as “Dame Edna”.


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