University of Tasmania
whole_McIverDamianJohn2010_thesis.pdf (13.61 MB)

Popular political documentaries : case studies of magnetic media

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posted on 2023-05-26, 16:51 authored by McIver, DJ
The last decade has witnessed an astonishing increase in the popularity and profitability of documentary film. Nine of the top ten grossing documentaries ever have been made since 2002 and a common feature across many of them is their distinct political focus. These films, which include the likes of Fahrenheit 9/11, Super Size Me and An Inconvenient Truth, offer a provocative blend of entertainment and political advocacy while also achieving unprecedented levels of commercial success. This thesis investigates how these popular political documentaries contribute to public knowledge. Utilising methods drawn from textual analysis and media sociology, this research is structured around three case studies focusing on the films listed above. It analyses the production of these films, their textual qualities, and the way they interact with other media, particularly the Australian press. Such an approach brings both a trans-media and trans-national perspective to these films which is sensitive to the increasingly chaotic and convergent media environment we now experience (Jenkins 2006; McNair 2006). The findings of this research suggest that the contribution popular political documentaries make to public knowledge is defined not so much by what the films themselves contain, but by the type of discussion and debate they trigger within the broader media environment. The commercial success of these films and the way they interact with other media encourages new ways of thinking about the relationships between popular culture and political culture, between audiences and media, and between different media forms. In this thesis, the term magnetic media is introduced to describe the complex and ambivalent ways that these films have come to occupy prominent and influential positions within our culture.


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Copyright 2010 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (PhD)--University of Tasmania, 2010. Includes bibliographical references

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