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Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Communication

Year Degree Awarded

2016

Month Degree Awarded

February

First Advisor

Morgan, Michael

Subject Categories

Critical and Cultural Studies | Mass Communication

Abstract

Since the mid to late nineteen eighties, the television world has been showing an increasing number of programs that are presented as “reality programs,” or “reality shows.” Court Shows, which are also known as Judge Shows, or Syndi-Courts, can be considered to be part of such a mega-genre. These programs (Court Shows) are offered as an alternative way for people to find a quick solution to some legal problem they may have. Meanwhile, millions of people tune in and watch those shows on a daily basis. Working within the Cultural Studies tradition, this research analyzes, on one hand, Judge Judy and La Corte del Pueblo comparatively to understand the way in which these programs operate ideologically. On the other hand, and most importantly, it focuses on how audiences (Latino and White Americans) read these shows; given the experiences, knowledge, feelings, (and intertexts) the two different audiences carry with them, they approach discourses with different “tools” and consequently read them differently.

This analysis allows us to reflect on theoretical matters that refer to the complex notion of meaning and how it relates to the notion of power (on the side of production), and to problematize the three theoretical reading positions proposed by Hall in his seminal work Encoding/Decoding. It is suggested here that if, as Hall stated, the negotiated reading is what most people do most of the time, then the concept loses its explanatory capacity and therefore, it needs to be rethought (mostly in connection to how hegemonic processes work).

In sum, the present study ultimately intends to accomplish a further purpose beyond its specific interest: the exploration of the problematic notion of reading positions and other related concepts. Delving into the possibility of distinguishing hegemonic from non-hegemonic readings amongst the array of negotiated readings, and exploring the connection between pleasure and resistance are examples of such interest. And as a byproduct, there is the hope of making a humble contribution towards a better understanding of the role that media messages play in the process of meaning making in modern societies.

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