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GH 301: Political Communication: Entertainment Politics

For most of the 21st century, we have seen increasing awareness, concern, and curiosity about the role of entertainment programming in the public discourse about politics and the conduct and consumption of the political.  Entertainment Politics examines the powerful intersections of popular culture, television, and citizenship in the United States and, to an extent, globally.

Course work begins with understanding political communication as a foundation for our focus on Entertainment Politics.  We move to popular culture as a primary site to examine the social forces of culture and we examine the singular role television occupies in the production of popular culture as a result of its ubiquity, persistence, mundaneness, and efficacy as a source by and through which we are constituted as cultural actors.  We recognize the increased intersections of comedy and politics in the 21st century, played out mostly through televisual programming. Television viewing is a structured social practice that engages viewers in complex interactions with questions of human agency, identity, and social life.  Television programming functions pedagogically, instructing us in daily life, and produces social material that animates daily interactions.  We will spend time with programs, examining content, comedic devices, inventions, and the public discourse of politics shaped by entertainment politics.

Our work will engage the status of the public discourse of politics critically, respecting its complexity and power.  We will take up current questions about the efficacy of politics, the integrity of “news” or, even, “facts,” morality, confusions in the narrative of politics we hear daily from individuals and sources that represent a collective.  We will study the creative leaders in entertainment politics and their programs, especially Jon Stewart and his band—Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, John Oliver.  Our work will include examining their political communication practices, which exploit developments in communication technologies that have changed nearly everything about our daily lives.  We will examine how the comedy “works” and some of the narrative structures they created (e.g. hypocrisy montage, interrogation interview, researched take-down, etc.) as well as traditional comedic forms of parody, satire, and sarcasm.  We will consider how other televisual programming intersects with politics. We will question the practices, purposes, and efficacy.  We take as axiomatic that television is not innocent; it is a profit industry—a site of consumption and exchange.

We will learn more about politics and the political. We will question and consider.  We will laugh (lots).

Instructor: Dr. Darlene Hantzis

Please email Dr. Hantzis if you have questions about this course.