British Consumers and the American Dream: A Study of American Media Production and British Consumption Trends Post 9/11.
The objective for this research has been clearly outlined as an attempt to refute Dell’Orto’s claims. She suggests that Europeans will continue to buy into the American dream ideology regardless of the state of relations between the Unites States and the rest of the world. As has also been established, the approach that will be taken is to pursue an alternative methodology to that applied by Dell’Orto. A study of British consumption of American television production should thus produce contrasting and quantifiable results.
The first element in this approach has been to ascertain whether televisual drama can be relied upon as a source of social commentary. This has been achieved in the Statistical Overview by use of the BARB figures. Drama has consistently ranked eminently as regards its popularity, particular amongst the intellectual ‘users’ that now account for an important segment of the UK viewership. Furthermore, it has also been established that American television production is not being consumed in the UK to any significant measure – at least insofar as through the reception of mainstream broadcasts. However, it remains important to also establish what American television productions can convey to those that actually do receive them. This research, then, will further consist of an online survey and a case study to expand on the interpretation of the BARB figures in the Statistical Overview. They could provide qualitative insight into whether or not British television audiences – as a cross-sectional representation of European consumers – continue to buy into the American dream through cultural products, as traditionally understood or otherwise.
The case study will be based on the popular American television series called ‘The Wire’. An analysis of the discourse presented to its viewers throughout the five seasons of production could identify how the American dream has been represented in contemporary American cultural products, and therefore, be indicative as to what the current state of the American dream actually is. This phase can be deemed the most important element of this research since it could potentially establish the degree to which American interests are being disseminated through such products. From this analysis one can then, further derive what credibility UK viewers might ascribe to such ideology. These are key considerations if one is to understand what exactly British audiences are appropriating when consuming such production. Furthermore, the online survey could test and corroborate the BARB statistics and case study results when contrasted against each other, thus constituting a triangulation of all the acquired data. A multiple-choice questionnaire presented to a cross-section of British television viewers might reveal what opinions are actually formulated through the consumption of American television production, with specific regard to the American dream. Since the programme at the centre of this study is rated for adult audiences only, participants in the survey will be subject to similar restrictions. Additionally, the fact that the survey itself will only be accessible online suggests a participatory age group that will have to at least be technologically competent – thus further defining the audience cross-section being tested. With these filters applied, the ‘user’ age group identified, for the most part, should adhere with the target demographic for such programmes.
Semester 6 (January – May 2016) : Final Major Project.