Satiric infotainment TV shows
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This dissertation analyzes the discourse of three infotainment television shows built around their hosts – characters who have gained considerable importance and influence in their respective countries: American Jon Stewart (host of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart); British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (the actor who incarnates the popular characters Borat, Bruno, and Ali G in the Da Ali G Show), and Peruvian Jaime Bayly (host of the Peruvian TV show El Francotirador/The Sniper). These three shows responded to their specific national, cultural, social, and political contexts, while simultaneously demonstrating important similarities: they parody journalistic genres while questioning traditional journalism authority and arbitrary media norms; they use humor to develop political, social, and cultural critiques; and they revolve around a talented character who is a media celebrity. Drawing upon theory and literature related to media spectacle, infotainment, tabloidization, celebrity, and the carnivalesque, this research analyzes the three media characters’ discourse and critiques within their respective national and cultural contexts in order to understand their role in those societies and how they negotiate discursive power in the public sphere. This analysis also seeks to reveal how Stewart challenges the mainstream news media by exposing the difficulties of debate in the U.S.; how the subaltern voices of Ali G, Bruno, and Borat position Sacha Baron Cohen to confront hegemonic culture and identity; and how ambiguity and contradiction allow Bayly to be a transgressor in a society where entertainment has a particular political history. This research establishes commonalities and differences among these three representative cases in relation to the broader, global phenomenon of satiric infotainment, and introduces the notion of “critical infotainment” to characterize this satiric trend that combines entertainment, comedy, journalism, popular culture, and politics to develop social critique. Critical infotainment is interpreted as a result of and a transgressive reaction to the process of tabloidization and the cult of celebrity in the media spectacle era. Finally, this dissertation includes recommendations for future critical infotainment experiments to fill the gap left by the traditional press in today’s mediascape.