Popular Television and Visual Culture: Intentions and Perceptions of Aliens in America
This study examined the intentions of a group of individuals who created the sitcom Aliens in America broadcast on the CW Network in 2007-2008 and the ways in which three separate groups (bloggers, TV critics and local television viewers) perceived the show. In doing so I attempted to uncover the pedagogical implications of these intentions and perceptions for visual culture studies. I used a qualitative approach to conduct this study. I gathered interviews the creators of the show gave to media outlets in 2007 and 2008. I also gathered data from three other distinct groups for this study. First, I conducted focus group interviews with 13 individuals who watched and discussed their perceptions of Aliens in America. Second, I surveyed the perceptions of bloggers through a narrative analysis of postings published on the CW network website in 2007-2008. Thirdly, I sampled reviews of the show by TV critics to learn about their perceptions of the show. This study uncovered three key findings. First, the existence of a gap or disconnect between the ways in which the show was intended by its creators and how it was perceived by selected audiences. The second major finding was the unexpected level of engagement with the show exhibited by bloggers and focus group participants and their deep connection with some of the characters. The third finding involved the use of audio cues in some episodes of the series and its possible influence on viewers to react in a certain way to specific situations. These findings have specific implications for visual culture studies. First, the show presents an immense potential for use with seasoned educators during workshops. Second, these findings indicate that the use of audio cues in TV shows is problematic for younger audiences and requires more media literacy to take place in the art education classroom. Third, teacher education programs could use the show to train pre-service teachers and help them relate to the type of television programming their students are engaging with on a daily basis.