Dissertation Information for Graham McKinley
MPACT Status: Complete - Except Indecipherables
Title: Swimming with the tide : discursive identity construction as girls and young women talk about Beverly Hills, 90210.
Abstract: The prime-time soap opera Beverly Hills, 90210 commanded the airwaves for American girls and young women from the fall of 1990, when it debuted, to the spring of 1994, when this study was conducted (Carter, 1995). It was part of the lives of millions of American girls--perhaps most importantly in their passionate conversations about it. This study drew on cultural studies, social constructionist, and poststructuralist feminist literature to investigate what this talk accomplished. Women's talk about television shows has variously been theorized as active and empowered or as working to perpetuate conditions of oppression. This study found that the girls' and young women's talk about Beverly Hills, 90210 worked to construct identities for the viewers, and that often these identities reinstantiated and perpetuated dominant notions of what it means to be female in American society--notions that have been theorized by feminists as oppressive. It concluded that one of the key ways that television shows intersect with viewers' lives is in the process by which talk about them does and does not construct dominant identities and access alternative ones. Moreover, this talk involves activity and agency, whether the identity constructed is in line with dominant notions or whether it interrogates them. This study suggests that feminists must refine the notion of agency as exploration of alternate subjectivities, since even dominant identities require active exploration and instantiation to remain so.
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