Date of Award

5-2010

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication

Advisor

Laura Lindenfeld

Second Committee Member

Eric E. Peterson

Third Committee Member

Nathan Stormer

Abstract

NBC sitcom 30 Rock tempts its audience to peek behind the scenes of fictional television show The Girly Show (TGS) as it portrays the inner workings of NBC studios at 30 Rockefeller Square. This thesis is an in-depth study of how 30 Rock functions politically and how it constructs specific representations of identity, and my analysis is a historically grounded ideological critique of 30 Rock's neoliberal politics. Neoliberalism has become a prominent political, economic, and social force over the last 20 years. Neoliberal discourses privilege individual empowerment over public responsibility for social needs. 30 Rock emerged within a distinct neoliberal television environment and is indicative of a neoliberal cultural shift that began in the 1980s and triumphed in the 1990s. The culture industries of film, television and other media are central to neoliberal models of identity and consumption. Television's participation in neoliberal discourse goes beyond merely airing commercials, as television programs themselves advertise a specific, consumer-oriented, neoliberal lifestyle. 30 Rock's format, themes, and structure rely on a prominent ensemble cast and a sophisticated multi-layered satirical narrative to interrogate neoliberal issues. I argue in this thesis that hegemonic devices in 30 Rock's encourage a dominant reading of the text that is neoliberal in its underpinnings. This study examines different neoliberal themes in 30 Rock and seeks to chart the historical significance of the show's unique postfeminist, post-racial, and "green" response to global warming. Specifically, I offer 30 Rock as a case study to elucidate points of rupture within contemporary neoliberal discourses. In chapter two, I analyze how 30 Rock's postfeminist discourse highlights a fissure in popular postfeminist discourses that emphasize superficial makeovers and transformation as the scope of female agency. In chapter three I argue 30 Rock uses male drag to highlight the central black character's deviation from whiteness, to suggest that this difference does not matter while presenting blackness as a spectacle, contradicting its post-racial message of ethnic equality. Last, in chapter four, I discuss how 30 Rock's privileges consumer-choice solutions to global warming, and represents a prominent rupture that faces commercial environmental campaign: is it possible to effect sustainable change without impacting the patterns of consumption. The ability of 30 Rock's satire to critique neoliberal politics relies upon the whether its audience discerns the politics of representation embedded within the show's satire (Haggins, 2009). Thus, what is at stake here is the contribution of criticism to problematic social stereotypes and racist, sexist, unsustainable behavior. 30 Rock's satiric criticism is often overshadowed by the sheer outrageousness of its humor. Ultimately, this study finds that neoliberalism is the dominant perspective that shapes 30 Rock's political and social meanings.

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