DOI: 10.1075/jls.22005.non ISSN: 2211-3770

Affective distress and heteronormative futurity in American puberty video discourse

Sean Nonnenmacher
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Anthropology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Gender Studies


Since their inception in the years following World War II, American puberty videos have discursively manufactured affective distress in several generations of on-screen children. The patterns of talk found in eight films from 1947 to 2016 demonstrate that affect may de-link itself from specific talk and diffuse into a broader discourse through the recirculation of parallel structures in new semiotic spaces. I use queer critical discourse analysis (

Jones & Collins 2020
) and language socialization theory (
Ochs & Schieffelin 2011
) to argue that puberty videos first manufacture distress in the on-screen child before swiftly introducing a trusted adult to mitigate and recast distress as a normal part of growing up. Further, puberty videos reify cis- / heteronormativity and reproductive futurity in adulthood as the necessary outcomes of development. This paper explores the connection between affect and temporality in talk by critically attending to the historical stability of American puberty video discourse.

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