Triumph, Tragedy, and Trailer Trash: The Moral Victory of 'Jerry Springer: The Opera'

By:
Francesca Marie Smith
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Shows like “Jerry Springer” have perpetually been cast aside as “the worst show[s] ever”, offering no artistic or cultural value other than as a guilty pleasure of primitive entertainment. “Jerry Springer: The Opera” seems to be even worse, reveling in shockingly offensive plotlines and glorifying ultimate depravity. However, a closer look reveals that such shows actually serve a highly potent social function: the reinforcement of traditional morality and gender roles. This article examines the structure and purpose of transgressions placed in the media spotlight, drawing upon interdisciplinary methodologies and theory from speech communication, theatrical rhetoric, sociolinguistics and critical discourse analysis.


Keywords: Transgression, Morality, Television, Theatre
Stream: Media and Communications
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
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Francesca Marie Smith

Student, Department of Linguistics, Stanford University
Stanford, CA, USA

Francesca first began her study of media and discourse from the inside, as a professional actress of seventeen years. She began to take a more academic approach to performed rhetoric by studying collegiate forensics (speech and debate), where she ultimately competed in impromptu speaking, critical communication analysis, dramatic interpretation and parliamentary debate, winning a national championship title in 2004. During this time, she began to discover her love of discursive analysis, beginning with a look at the structure and implementation of morally-guiding rhetoric. Her interests shifted further into the analytical realm upon her arrival at Stanford last year, where she began working closely with sociolinguists and discourse analysts to look at formulaic narratives included in women’s magazines. She continues to blend her love of artistry and performance with an insatiable desire to understand the nuts and bolts of mediated discourse, thriving on the blend of analysis, theatricality, academia and passion.

Ref: I06P0170