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Kelly Kessler

A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, Kessler's research engages with issues of gender, sexuality, and genre in American television and film, most commonly surrounding the musical. She is the author of Destabilizing the Hollywood Musical: Music, Masculinity, and Mayhem (Palgrave, 2010) and Broadway in the Box: Television's Lasting Love Affair with the Musical (Oxford, 2020) and editor/curator of Gender, Sex, and Sexuality in Musical Theatre: He/She/They Could Have Danced All Night (Intellect, 2022). Kessler is currently co-editing an anthology that that explores raising kids in today's media saturated world from the perspective of media studies parents. She also served as the editor and contributor of a special issue of Studies in Musical Theatre, unpacking the iconic image of the musical diva. Her work on the mediated mainstreaming of lesbianism can be found in such publications as Cinema Journal, Television and New Media, & Feminism at the Movies, and Televising Queer Women. An OpEd Project Fellow, her public scholarship ranging from Hamilton's TV premiere to missing queer and liberal voices in the politicization of religion have recently appeared on sites like PrimetimerThe Advocate, and Wired. When she's not writing, teaching, grading, or hustling around the university, she's likely to be found wrangling twins, hanging with one of her many cats, or binging sitcoms or television melodramas.
Kessler was also a member of the Television Academy Foundation's 2014 Faculty Fellowship program in Los Angeles.

Select Publications


  • Gender, Sex, and Sexuality in Musical Theatre: He/She/They Could Have Danced All Night (2022)
  • Broadway in the Box: Television's Lasting Love Affair with the Musical (2020)
  • Destabilizing the Hollywood Musical: Music, Masculinity, and Mayhem (2010)

Book Chapters

  • “Salaciously Family-Friendly: The Unlikely Porousness of Sin City and the American Boob Tube" in The Possibility Machine: Music and Myth in Las Vegas (2023, forthcoming)
  • “Trash Talk and Virtual Protests: The Musical Genre's Personal and Political Interactivity in the Age of Social Media" in The Routledge Companion to the Contemporary American Stage Musical. Eds. Elizabeth Wollman and Jessica Sternfeld, Routledge (2018)
  • “Temporarily Kissing Jessica Stein: Negotiating (and Negating) Lesbian Sexuality in Popular Film" Feminism at the Movies, Eds. Hilary Radner and Rebecca Stringer, Routledge (2011)
  • “Mommy's Got a Galpal: The Victimized Lesbian Mother and the Made-For-TV-Movie" Televising Queer Women: A Reader, Ed. Rebecca Beirne, Palgrave (2007)
  • “Politics of the Sit-Com Formula: Friends, Mad About You, and the Sapphic Second Banana" The New Queer Aesthetic on Television: Essays on Recent Programming, Eds. James Keller and Leslie Stratnyer, McFarland (2005)

Journal Articles

  • “How Can the Small Screen Contain Her: Television, Genre, and the Broadway Diva Onslaught" Studies in Musical Theatre, 12.1 (2018); Refereed, International Musical Theatre Studies Journal
  • "Primetime Goes Hammerstein: The Musicalization of Fictional Television in the Post-Network Era" Journal of E-Media Studies (2015); Refereed, Online History and Theory of Electronic Media Journal
  • “Broadway in the Box: Television's Infancy and the Cultural Cachet of the Great White Way" Journal of Popular Music StudiesVol. 25.3 (2013); International Refereed Music Studies Journal
  • “Showtime Thinks, Therefore I Am: The Corporate Construction of 'The Lesbian' on's The L Word Site" Television and New Media Vol. 14.1 (2013)
  • “They Should Suffer Like the Rest of Us: Queer Equality in Narrative Mediocrity" in “In Focus: Writing and Producing TV in the Post-Network Era" Special Topics Section Cinema Journal, Vol. 50.2 (Winter 2011)
  • “Bound Together: Lesbian Film That's Family Fun for Everyone" Film Quarterly, Vol. 56.4 (Summer 2003)

Scholarly Website/Blog Articles

Media Appearances

  • “Violence in American Culture" – Invited Panelist on WBEZ, Chicago Public Radio's The Morning Shift with Tony Sarabia (2012)
  • “How We Maintain Privacy in a More Public World" – Invited Panelist on WBEZ, Chicago Public Radio's Eight Forty-Eight (2010)​