Critical incident 13/06/21
Gippsland Campus closed Friday 11 June Click here for more information.

School of Arts

Dr Lesley Speed

Lesley Speed

Position: Program Coordinator (International Studies), Senior Lecturer
Study area: Humanities and Social Sciences
Location: Mt Helen Campus, H Building, Room H220
Phone: 5327 9759


Doctor of Philosophy – Monash University - 1997
Bachelor of Arts (Honours) - Monash University - 1991



  • Bachelor of Arts
  • Bachelor of Arts (Honours)


  • Research Design, Management and Methods (BAHRS 4034)
  • Hollywood Cinema (FLMGL2201/3302)
  • Australian Cinema (FLMOL2001/3001)
  • Adaptations: Literature and Screen (BAXDC 2106/3106)
  • Media and Screen Texts (FLMES1001)
  • Media and Screen Contexts (FLMES 1002)
  • Advanced Studies in Literature and Screen (BAHRS4102)
  • Documentary Film and Video (FLMGL 2207/3307)
  • Asian Cinema (FLMOL2200/3300)
  • Gender and Representation (FLMOL2201/3301)
  • Applied Research Methods and Analysis (BAHRS4031)


Lesley is a Senior Lecturer and researcher in Media and Screen Studies. She joined the University of Ballarat in 2004 and became part of Federation University in 2014. Previously, she taught at La Trobe University, the University of Melbourne and three campuses of Monash University. While specialising in Screen Studies, she has also taught courses in Media Studies, Communication Studies and Cultural Studies.

This wide range of experience is reflected in Lesley’s research, which encompasses various aspects of popular screen texts and has been published in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom. Her research is required reading in tertiary courses in numerous countries. Her publications include the books Australian Comedy Films of the 1930s: Modernity, the Urban and the International and Clueless: American Youth in the 1990s. In 2010, Lesley was a Scholar in Residence at the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia. She has been a judge in the ATOM (Australian Teachers of Media) Awards for several years.

Areas of expertise

Lesley’s work includes an emphasis on popular screen narratives, while extending to areas of independent cinema, exploitation film and genre mixing. Her research often centres on social aspects of screen narrative texts, with an emphasis on wider social values and historical shifts as well as contexts of production and reception. Her major research projects have focused on comedy film and youth culture. However, the ideas that underpin her research are less about genre than about wider relationships and distinctions that span a range of areas of popular screen narratives. While some of her research can be situated within Cultural Studies, her work is more strongly aligned with Screen and Media Studies. Lesley’s research interests can be encompassed by the following categories.

(1) Contemporary and early screen comedy

Lesley’s research about teen comedy and early and contemporary Australian comedy focuses on social aspects of popular genres. Although often not taken seriously, comedy and humour serve important social functions through having a capacity to challenge our views of the existing world, explore challenging ideas in ostensibly frivolous ways, and envisage developments that have not yet occurred. Lesley’s research about comedy has explored differences of gender, ethnicity and class. She has also demonstrated how comedy films reflect on shifting social relationships in interwar and contemporary Australia.

(2) Youth cinema, television and popular culture

From her doctoral research about spectacle and utopia in teen comedy films, Lesley’s research subsequently became influenced by sociological approaches to the study of youth culture. Her research responds to historical shifts in definitions of youth vis-à-vis adulthood and the increasing diversity of popular youth culture since the 1990s. As a result, her research about youth cinema has focused on various ethnic identities, extending from American to British to Australian films and encompassing a range of historical periods. Lesley’s research also seeks to explore the historical, social and industrial contexts of films and their receptions.

(3) Generational difference in relation to screen texts

Lesley’s research encompasses ways in which narratives are fundamentally shaped by experiences of generations. This is particularly evident in youth films in which age difference and intergenerational relationships are central themes. However, any depiction of a period, including contemporary events or recent history, can be understood in relation to age cohorts. Narrative forms such as film and television are rich areas for examining values, attitudes and experiences of age groups and generations, which in turn are linked to historical contexts and developments. These ideas have informed Lesley’s research about generation and age difference in youth films, and about comedies in which adult characters behave as though they have not grown up. Spanning contemporary, recent and early screen works, her research can be characterised as cultural analysis with historical dimensions.

(4) Cultural value in relation to popular culture

The significance of ideas of value in relation to film and television is a recurrent element of Lesley’s research. Ideas and frameworks of value are important for understanding the relationships between popular genres and their contexts of production and reception. That comedy and teen film have traditionally been taken less seriously than other genres can be understood in terms of conventions and institutions that apportion value. By examining these genres in relation to contexts of critical reception, existing histories and academic analysis, Lesley’s research has contributed to a shifting cultural landscape in which previously maligned categories of screen narratives can not only be taken seriously but understood as barometers of popular awareness, topical issues and shifting social values.

Research interests

  • Contemporary and early screen comedy
  • Youth film and television
  • Popular genres, including genre mixing
  • Social aspects of popular screen texts
  • Australian and international screen history
  • Historical youth cultures
  • Generations and popular culture
  • Emerging, including independent and hybrid, screen developments
  • Cultural value, including low value, of screen texts


Lesley has supervised 2 PhDs and 1 MA to completion and served as an examiner of Masters and Honours theses from various universities.

Current FedUni principal supervisions:

Duncan Hubber – “Digital Wounds: The Trauma Aesthetic of Found Footage Horror Films” – PhD.

Cale Hellyer – “Fulcian Incubi: The Nightmarish Depiction of Children and Youth in the Films of Lucio Fulci” – PhD.

Courtney O’Neill – “Policing the Boundaries: The Construction of Femininity in Contemporary Crime Television” – PhD.

Susan Coleridge – Geordie, creative work with exegesis – MA.

Completed HDR students:

Chloe Benson, PhD – “Bi what means: paratextual and filmic representations of bisexuality in contemporary cinema” – Principal Supervisor

Nicholas Moll, PhD – “Kemo Sabe: Tonto as a developing construction of the Indian character type” – Principal Supervisor

Marian Chivers, MA – “The Warrior Woman in Contemporary Romance Fiction” – Associate Supervisor



Speed, Lesley. Clueless: American Youth in the 1990s. Routledge, 2018. Cinema and Youth Cultures.

Speed, Lesley. Australian comedy films of the 1930s: Modernity, the urban and the international. St Kilda: Australian Teachers of Media, 2015. The Moving Image 13.

Book chapters and sections

Speed, Lesley. “Way Hilarious: Amy Heckerling as a Female Comedy Director, Writer, and Producer”. Refocus on the Films of Amy Heckerling, edited by Timothy Shary and Frances Smith, Edinburgh UP, 2016, pp. 218–239.

Speed, Lesley. “Comedian comedy”. Directory of World Cinema: Australia & New Zealand 2, edited by Ben Goldsmith and Mark David Ryan and Geoff Lealand, Intellect, 2015, pp. 79–8 1.

Speed, Lesley. “Director: Ken G. Hall”. Directory of World Cinema: Australia & New Zealand 2, edited by Ben Goldsmith and Mark David Ryan and Geoff Lealand, Intellect, 2015, pp. 41–44.

Speed, Lesley. “Comedy”. Directory of World Cinema: Australia & New Zealand, edited by Ben Goldsmith and Geoff Lealand, Intellect, 2010, pp. 159–162.

Speed, Lesley. “His Royal Highness”. Directory of World Cinema: Australia & New Zealand, edited by Ben Goldsmith and Geoff Lealand, Intellect, 2010, pp. 163–4.

Speed, Lesley. “Harmony Row”. Directory of World Cinema: Australia & New Zealand, edited by Ben Goldsmith and Geoff Lealand, Intellect, 2010, pp. 165–6.

Speed, Lesley. “A Ticket in Tatts”. Directory of World Cinema: Australia & New Zealand, edited by Ben Goldsmith and Geoff Lealand, Intellect, 2010, pp. 166–7.

Speed, Lesley. “Strike Me Lucky”. Directory of World Cinema: Australia & New Zealand, edited by Ben Goldsmith and Geoff Lealand, Intellect, 2010, pp. 168–9

Speed, Lesley. "Out of the Frying Pan: From Casual Teaching to Temp Work". Gypsy Scholars, Migrant Teachers and the Global Academic Proletariat: Adjunct Labor in Higher Education, edited by Rudolphus Teeuwen and Steffen Hantke, Rodopi, 2007, pp. 127–147.

Refereed journal articles

Speed, Lesley. “Renditions from the inside: Prison Songs, documusical and performative documentary”. Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, January 2019,.

Speed, Lesley. “Prurient exuberance: early Australian sex hygiene films and the origins of Ozploitation”. Screening the Past, no. 42, 4 October 2017.

Speed, Lesley. “Fishing the waters of life: Zane Grey’s White Death, exploitation film and the Great Barrier Reef”. Studies in Australasian Cinema, vol. 11, no. 1, March 2017, pp. 5–17.

Speed, Lesley. "The Virtual City in The Doctor Blake Mysteries". Metro, no. 187, Summer 2016, pp. 50–56.

Speed, Lesley. “‘In the best film star tradition’: Claire Adams and Mooramong”. Screening the Past, no. 39, August 2015.

Chivers, Marian, Lesley Speed and Meg Tasker. “The warrior woman in Harlequin’s Bombshell Athena Force series”. Australasian Journal of Popular Culture, vol. 3, no. 3, September 2014, pp. 335–349.

Speed, Lesley. “A handshake and a smile: Video-making, young people and mental health”. Screen Education, no. 59, Spring 2010, pp. 52–57.

Speed, Lesley. “Loose Cannons: White Masculinity and the Vulgar Teen Comedy Film”. Journal of Popular Culture, vol. 43, no. 4, August 2010, pp. 820–841.

Speed, Lesley. “Win and Lose: Subculture and Social Difference in Dogs in Space”. Metro, no. 162, 2009, pp. 160–165.

Speed, Lesley. “Strike Me Lucky: Social difference and consumer culture in Roy Rene’s only film.” Screening the Past, no. 26, December 2009.

Speed, Lesley. “The comedian comedies: George Wallace’s 1930s comedies, Australian cinema and Hollywood”. Metro, no. 158, 2008, pp. 76–82.

Speed, Lesley. "The possibilities of roads not taken: Intellect and Utopia in the films of Richard Linklater". Journal of Popular Film & Television, vol. 35, no. 3, Fall 2007, pp. 98–106.

Speed, Lesley. "When the Sun Sets over Suburbia: Class and Subculture in Bruce Beresford’s Puberty Blues". Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, vol. 20, no. 3, September 2006, pp. 407–418.

Speed, Lesley. "'No matter how far you run’: Looking for Alibrandi and coming of age in Italo-Australian cinema and girlhood". Screening the Past, no. 19, 2006.

Speed, Lesley. "Life as a Pizza: The Comic Traditions of Wogsploitation Films". Metro, nos. 146/147, 2005, pp. 136–144.

Speed, Lesley. "You and Me Against the World: Revisiting Puberty Blues". Metro, no. 140, 2004, pp. 54–60.

Speed, Lesley. "A World Ruled by Hilarity: Gender and Low Comedy in the Films of Amy Heckerling". Senses of Cinema, no. 22, October 2002.

Speed, Lesley. "Reading, writing and unruliness: Female education in the St Trinian’s films". International Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 5, no. 2, June 2002, pp. 221–238.

Speed, Lesley. "Moving On Up: Education in Black American Youth Films". Journal of Popular Film & Television, vol. 29, no. 2, Summer 2001, pp. 82–91.

Speed, Lesley. "Together in Electric Dreams: Films Revisiting 1980s Youth". Journal of Popular Film & Television, vol. 28, no. 1, Spring 2000, pp. 22–29.

Speed, Lesley. "Millennium Man: Comedy and Masculinity in the Films of Mike Myers". Metro, no 120, 1999, pp. 56–64.

Speed, Lesley. "Tuesday's Gone: The Nostalgic Teen Film". Journal of Popular Film & Television, vol. 26, no. 1, Spring 1998, pp. 24–32.

Speed, Lesley. "Pastel Romances: The Teen Films of John Hughes". Metro, nos. 113/114, 1998, pp. 103–110.

Speed, Lesley. "Kids". Metro, no. 105, 1996, pp. 4–10.

Speed, Lesley. "Good Fun and Bad Hair Days: Girls in Teen Film". Metro, no. 101, 1995, pp. 24–30.

Conference and seminar presentations

Speed, Lesley. “The fallacy of age determinism in screen comedy: Trainwreck and The Intern”. Cultural Enquiry Research Group, Federation University, October 2017.

Speed, Lesley. “Screen comedy and the fallacy of age determinism”. Australasian Humour Studies Network Colloquium, Federation University, February 2017.

Speed, Lesley. "'The Best Men in the Metrolopis [sic]': Speech and language in 1930s Australian comedy films". Cultural Enquiry Research Group, University of Ballarat, 2012.

Speed, Lesley. "Make us smile: Australian comedy film's early peak and its challenges to cultural values in the 1930s". National Film and Sound Archive, 2010.

Speed, Lesley. "George Wallace's 1930s comedies, Australian cinema and Hollywood". School of Behavioural and Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Ballarat, 2009.

Speed, Lesley. "Insights into mental health". DVD presentation. Grampians Mental Health Conference, 2009.

Boyd, Candice, and Lesley Speed. "Development and evaluation of a pilot film-making program for rural youth with serious mental illness". Psychology Colloquium, School of Behavioural and Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Ballarat, 2008.

Speed, Lesley. "Anti-intellectualism in the New Hollywood". School of Behavioural and Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Ballarat, 2007.

Speed, Lesley. "Life as a pizza: the comic traditions of wogsploitation films". School of Behavioural and Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Ballarat, 2006.


  • Australasian Humour Studies Network (AHSN), member
  • Cultural Enquiry Research Group (CERG), Federation University, member
  • ATOM (Australian Teachers of Media) Awards, judge