When YouTube was founded in 2005 and streaming technology became more feasible with broader bandwidths, indie media production took notice. Content creators looked to the internet as a way of cheaply financing, promoting, and distributing media content. Web series or web television boomed. In 2009, web series made it big with Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog earning a special category Emmy, and the format started its own award show, The Streamys.
Graduate student Tanya Zuk founded Virtual Lesbian Looks (VLL) while working as a programming curator for the 2010-2011 film series. Having recently discovered the web series Anyone But Me, she pitched the idea of highlighting web series as part of Lesbian Looks. LGBTQ web series were not only gaining traction at traditional streaming services like Hulu, Vimeo, Amazon Prime, and the ever-present YouTube, but new platforms were being created like Open TV, lesbianmedia.tv, Revry, and tellofilms. VLL was created to celebrate indie web series that are by and for queer women.
For the first year of Virtual Lesbian Looks the creator of The Real Girl’s Guide to Everything Else, Reena Dutt, came to Tucson for a screening of the first few episodes and a roundtable discussion. From 2010 to 2019, we collected a group of innovative, authentic, sometimes educational and always entertaining web series for our audience. In 2019 VLL added podcasts, video games, and other digital media stories.
Virtual LL Archives
Tanya Zuk: BIO
Tanya D. Zuk earned her bachelor’s degree in Integrated Media from Simmons College in 2005, completing an internship with Fish in the Hand Productions and several short films. After graduating, she worked in photography and marketing in Boston, Massachusetts. She returned to academia in 2009 to earn her master’s degree in Media Arts from the University of Arizona.
While in Tucson her research focused on queer female fandom in Grey’s Anatomy (a portion of which you can read at Transformative Works & Cultures). Since completing her master’s degree, Tanya has worked as an instructional designer, application specialist, and adjunct instructor. She’s published work on Big Love in the Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, an ethnographic piece on web series creators in the anthology It Happens at Comic-Con, and is currently co-editing an anthology on Carrie Fisher for Wayne State University Press. She is also the Managing Editor of In Media Res, a MediaCommons Project.
She is now working on her doctorate at Georgia State University in Moving Image Studies. Her work there continues examining LGBTQ+ self-representation, indie production, fandom, and digital media. Her dissertation project is examining audience and indie creatives as co-authors in digital media as a form of multi-dimensional self-representation and queer production culture that ultimately attempts to queer capitalism. The project’s methods include audience and creative surveys, interviews, social media analytics, and textual analysis. Case studies for the project include Carmilla (web series), Welcome to Night Vale (podcast), and Undertale (video game).