Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Degree

Spring 2017

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 07/13/2019

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Mass Communications

First Advisor

Venise Berry

Second Advisor

Tim Havens

Abstract

From a critical perspective, this study interrogates issues of representation and relevance among Twitter fans. Sitcoms are a satirical reflection of everyday life. Studying audience response on Twitter can offer insight into the connection between a television show as a text and its responding fans. There has been a variation in engagement when it comes to television viewership. Some viewers are no longer passively watching their favorite shows. They are engaged on social media offering comments and questioning what they see and hear. This comes at a time when television has evolved with a renaissance of programming and technology, but still covets rating success and the ability to cultivate captive audiences.

This research applies textual and discourse analysis in an examination of three episodes each from Modern Family and Family Guy while linking direct commentary in response on Twitter. Specifically, representations of masculinity, race/ethnicity, class and sexuality are explored. The findings indicate an active audience that is supportive of both of sitcoms and an extension of their enjoyment beyond the texts themselves into personal, communal and societal experiences.

Each text was analyzed based the context of the episode in connection with the discourse of the corresponding tweets. Tweets were singled out based on their context in connection with the defined categories of inquiry; masculinity, race/ethnicity, class and sexuality. The findings indicate that the nature of parody/satire itself prompted cultural exchanges of discourse on Twitter in specific areas of personal, communal and societal relevance. More specifically, personal relevance meant an intimate connection between the person tweeting about the text and the context of the text itself. Communal was more about shared experiences between members of the Twitter fandom and societal was defined by projected comments beyond the isolated nature of the shared community on Twitter.

The result is a negotiation of audience members with the text as it unfolds in front of them. There is a range of commentary from acceptance to disgust. This study reveals the rich data that is available in response to popular sitcoms. It investigates how an audience negotiates and rationalizes hegemonic forces at work alongside progressive modes of representation. The result is not a monolithic response to the text. Instead, this work revealed a more complex level of responses given the polysemic nature of the audience (Fiske, 2010).

Negotiation works as a constant cyclical process between the producers, the text itself and the audience’s interpretation. Popular sitcoms like Modern Family and Family Guy were shown in this study to exist upon an important base of fan support because of the predictability of the existing narratives. Whether audience members chose to love, hate or compromise for each text, as demonstrated by their tweets, there was active participation including their choice in viewership and activity on Twitter.

Participation occurred at multiple levels. First, their choice to view the text in the first place. Second, their negotiation concerning how to engage with the text, and third, their resulting reaction to the text on Twitter. This study examines that participatory experience during the spring 2013 television season. This in-depth analysis found that over a 24 hour period the tweets surrounding each episode included personal, communal and societal relevance for Twitter fans, especially when it came to issues of masculinity, race/ethnicity, sexuality, and class.

Keywords

Class, Gender, Race, Sexuality, Social Media, Television

Pages

vii, 159 pages

Bibliography

Includes bibliographical references (pages 137-159).

Copyright

Copyright © 2017 James Robert Carviou

Available for download on Saturday, July 13, 2019

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