Belinda Middleweek is a senior lecturer in journalism and media studies at the University of Technology Sydney, Australia. She has worked as a segment producer for Australia’s top rating breakfast television programs Sunrise and The Morning Show and for the nightly current affairs program Today Tonight (Seven Network). She has also worked as an associate/field producer and researcher on a range of local and internationally broadcast documentaries for production houses Beyond International, Shadow Productions and iKandy Films. Her PhD explored the ways in which gender and fantasies of intimacy were projected onto the media images of so-called ‘deviant women’. Her research on intimacy, gender, deviance and media has been published in the international journals Feminist Media Studies, Sexualities and Crime, Media, Culture. Her co-authored book Real Sex Films: The New Intimacy and Risk in Cinema (2017), explored intimacy, desire, risk and transgression in films of the extreme cinema movement. She is currently researching sex journalism as well as mediations and technologies of intimacy, in particular, intimate interactions between humans and robots.
Can supervise: YES
Within the domain of film studies, the recent surge in films depicting graphic and high-impact sex and sexualized violence has been variously classified under the terms transgressive, brutal, provocative, real sex, and extreme cinema. These classifications, however, tend to underplay the films’ sociohistorical contexts and reflexive struggle for meaning. We argue that the similarities and differences between these real or simulated sex films are determined and mediated within geographical space and historical time. But every film book has its own personal historical starting point: in our case, this is the coming together as intertexts of the real sex film Intimacy with a major academic text, The Transformation of Intimacy, and as authorial agents of a television and documentary film producer and a media academic. This book argues that the meanings we attach to “real sex” cinema are discursively constructed not only by academic experts but by filmmakers, performers, audiences, and film reviewers. Debates about the meaning of real sex cinema are best understood in dialogue, and for the first time in interdisciplinary studies, we foster “mutual understanding” and “critical extension” among new risk sociology, feminist mapping theory, feminist film studies, and film reviewers, while also embracing film/media studies concepts of production, social audiences and spectators, genre, narrative, authorship, and stars. Above all, this is an interdisciplinary book, which engages with, supports, critiques, and extends each of these professional fields of discourse, each with its own schema of filmic understanding
Middleweek, B 2020, 'Pussy power not pity porn: Embodied protest in the #FacesOfProstitution Twitter network', Sexualities: studies in culture and society, vol. 23, no. 3.View/Download from: Publisher's site
The use of selfies as a political tool is critical to the form, shape and expression of online activist networks. In the trending Twitter #FacesOfProstitution, such self-presenting practices challenged the prevailing politics of anonymity around sex work and articulated new modes of political organizing, agency and information dissemination within a networked online community. Analysing the sex worker online campaign using feminist materialist approaches to the body this interdisciplinary article contributes to current discussions about selfies and embodied forms of activism in online spaces and addresses a gap in sex advocacy literature on digital protest cultures.
Middleweek, BM 2017, 'Deviant Divas: Lindy Chamberlain and Schapelle Corby and the case for a new category of celebrity for criminally implicated women', Crime, Media, Culture: an international journal, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 85-105.View/Download from: Publisher's site
In the field of celebrity studies much has been written about the superficiality of contemporary celebrity culture in which ordinary individuals are recognised as exceptional or worthy of public attention in the absence of any particular talent, contribution or achievement (Bell, 2010; Boorstin, 1972; Gamson, 1994; Langer in Edgar, 1980; Marwick and boyd, 2011; Redmond, 2013; Rojek, 2001; Turner, 2004, 2014; Turner et al., 2000). Much less has been written about the link between celebrity and criminality and the types of categories into which celebrified criminals fall (Jenks and Lorentzen, 1997; Penfold-Mounce, 2009). In the scant studies that do exist there is a thinness of attention to gender despite persuasive arguments within feminist criminological studies that crime is a gendered concept in news discourse (Jewkes, 2011; Smart, 1977). Using a qualitative content analysis of a selection of news articles on two high profile cases involving women convicted of a crime, Lindy Chamberlain (now exonerated) and Schapelle Corby, as well as recent work in the sociology of risk on desire and transgression, this research suggests that the current naming practices surrounding criminally implicated women do not adequately capture the constellation of gender-inflected media messages and the meanings with which they are imbued by sections of news workers. The implications of this research warrant a re-think of the customary labels ascribed to women convicted of a crime and the addition to existing taxonomies of a new category of celebrity, the ‘deviant diva’.
Middleweek, BM 2017, 'Dingo media? The persistence of the “trial by media” frame in popular, media, and academic evaluations of the Azaria Chamberlain case', Feminist Media Studies, vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 392-411.View/Download from: Publisher's site
In the bulk of popular, media, and scholarly discourse on Azaria Chamberlain’s disappearance there is overwhelming consensus that the sensationalist reporting of the event convicted parents Michael and Lindy of their daughter’s murder outside official court processes. In feminist scholarship in particular, the infant’s disappearance in August 1980 has been read according to a “trial by media” frame. This frame persists despite altered perspectives about the role of the Australian public whose punitive and collectively hostile response to a media-driven hysteria has been replaced with the portrait of a kinder and more compassionate nation. The objectives of this article are threefold: to demonstrate the persistence of the trial by media frame in popular, media, and academic discourse; to consider assumptions of a monolithic and hostile media; and by examining a previously unanalysed archive to suggest that these arguments overlook the existence of sympathetic voices in mainstream media as well as the dialogic connection between media and counter-publics mutually supporting the Chamberlains’ bid for innocence. This research offers an alternative view to scholarship on a landmark event in Australian history and has broader implications for the way we view the media in trial by media situations.
What precisely is sex journalism? Belinda Middleweek interviews 10 freelancers specialising in the field to find out. And she concludes that if, as researchers agree, the accurate coverage of sex could well improve people’s sexual health, a greater understanding of the professional identities of sex journalists will go some way towards that goal.
Tulloch, J & Middleweek, B 2019, 'Talking of Terror: British Television Intellectuals and Bridging the Gap between Celebrity and Intellectual Culture' in Huddy, WP & Marshall, A (eds), Popular Culture and the Intellectual: Media Trends and Social Change, Waterhill Publishing, Toronto, New York, pp. 103-117.
This paper explores the conference theme ‘bridging the gap’ between
celebrity and intellectual culture through a parallel analysis of terrorism
reportage across television genres. Drawing on the British television series
Atheism, the documentary series I Survived and a selection of British and Dutch television news interviews we illustrate the varying ways in which public scholars negotiate the institutional constraints underpinning national and international approaches to terrorism reportage. The final section of this paper offers a personal and professional example of ‘bridging the gap’.
Middleweek, BM & Tulloch, J 2018, 'Afterword: Tacit Knowledge and Affect - Soft Ethnography and Shared Domains' in Batty, C & Kerrigan, S (eds), Screen Production Research: Creative Practice as a Mode of Enquiry, Palgrave Macmillan, USA, pp. 233-249.
The Afterword highlights the range of creative methodological approaches and practices in screen production research explored in this book. While the majority of contributors reflect on the production phase of their research projects, the Afterword suggests an alternative approach in the absence of ‘being there’ on set. Using ‘soft ethnography’ to analyse the controversial film Blue Is the Warmest Colour, we focus on some key ‘authors’ (including performers) to examine the flow and feedback between different authorial ‘signatures’ revealed by after-the-event interviews and textual reading. Whether properly ethnographic, ‘cognitive two-step’, or our own case study of ‘soft ethnography’, we share an important contemporary upsurge in research that emphasizes a reflexive approach to tacit knowledge, embodiment and affect
Middleweek, BM 2012, 'The Media and Lindy Chamberlain and Reporting Criminal Matters in the Northern Territory Today', ABC.
The Media and Lindy Chamberlain, and Reporting Criminal Matters in the Northern Territory today (2012) is a 30-minute radio documentary co-produced for ABC Radio National’s ‘The Media Report’.
Hosking, J & Middleweek, B 2011, 'I'm Not Dead Yet', iKandy Films Pty Ltd and Umbrella Entertainment.
Chad Morgan: I’m Not Dead Yet (2011) is a feature length documentary that builds on mistaken media reports of the death of country music legend Chad Morgan, presenting a living eulogy of him.
Middleweek, B 2019, 'Book review: Sex Robots: The Future of Desire', Abramis Academic, Suffolk, UK, pp. 43-45.
Middleweek, B & Tulloch, J 2018, 'Real sex films capture our changing relationship to sex', Oxford University Press.
Research interests include intimacy studies, sex journalism, human-robot intimate interactions