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Title page for ETD etd-07182012-143138

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Gao, Yang
Author's Email Address yang.gao2011@gmail.com
URN etd-07182012-143138
Title TV Talk: American Television, Chinese Audiences, and the Pursuit of an Authentic Self
Degree PhD
Department Sociology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Steven J. Tepper Committee Chair
Bill Ivey Committee Member
Laura M. Carpenter Committee Member
Richard D. Lloyd Committee Member
  • identity
  • authenticity
  • China
  • television
  • media consumption
  • sociology of culture
Date of Defense 2012-07-11
Availability unrestricted
This dissertation examines the ways educated urban Chinese youth seek out and engage American scripted TV as a vehicle of self-reflexivity and as a symbolic tool for identity work. Based on 29 one-on-one interviews with college students in Beijing, I found that Chinese youth engage American TV shows in a deeply reflexive manner. In particular, they are drawn to American television primarily because it provides an experience of “authenticity” that is largely absent in their own lives. This perception of authenticity involves 1) seeing American television as an authentic cultural representation featuring honest and sophisticated storytelling and 2) seeing personal authenticity — an idealized existential state of being true to oneself — as a distinct and admirable aspect of the American national character. By situating student narratives against the socio-cultural context of transitional urban China, my analysis highlights how cross-cultural media consumption is both highly reflexive and strategic. The study advances a more sophisticated notion of audience agency by demonstrating that viewers not only engage and interpret media through their own cultural lenses, but they dynamically use media to interrogate notions of self and society. The study also provides insights into the preoccupations and value orientations of educated urban Chinese youth, a relatively small but important cohort whose ideas and cultural orientations may shape the intersection of media and politics in China for years to come.
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