Laurena Bernabo, an assistant professor in the Department of Entertainment and Media Studies, won the Outstanding Published Article Award by the Organization for the Study of Communication, Language and Gender at its annual conference in October.
Her article, “Expanding Television’s Cultural Forum in the Digital Era: Prime Time Television, Twitter, and Black Lives Matter,” highlighted the communicative practices for current events and how entertainment programs critique larger social movements, such as Black Lives Matter. The paper outlines a study of the Twitter conversation involving three television dramas—“Law & Order: SVU”, “The Good Wife,” and “Scandal”—as they covered themes relating to the Black Lives Movement. Bernabo analyzed more than 1,900 Tweets and concluded that the Twitter discussion goes beyond traditional entertainment conversation and facilitates a commentary that brings issues to light and creates a space for people to reflect on their beliefs and positions.
“Television remains a central mode of entertainment and world-shaping for Americans,” Bernabo said. “Viewers’ reception of and interactions with television are important avenues for understanding the power of television in a democracy.”
“When entertainment media more honestly tells the stories of those whose voices often go unheard, it can help to change the conversation around what is happening in this country and whose version of reality is taken at face value.”
Bernabo’s article was published in the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media in January 2019, prior to the social unrest America experienced this past summer. Bernabo said that if she conducted the study today, she expects that Twitter would still provide an important platform for viewers to express their views of representations, much like people used do to around the office watercooler, but that scripted programming might change how they handle the representation of BLM and the systemic murders of Black Americans.
“One of the many things 2020 has illustrated is that people continue to feel the crushing weight of systemic inequalities, be they BIPOC, LGBTQ, and/or women,” Bernabo explained. “Entertainment media can play a role in addressing flaws in the American experiment, including through critical self-reflection, recognizing the ways media makers have been complicit in perpetuating a highly problematic status quo.”
Bernabo has participated in the OSCLG conference since 2013. She was awarded the Outstanding Dissertation Award at the conference in 2018 while she was a student at the University of Iowa. This past summer, she was elected to the board.
Bernabo said she appreciates the sense of community that OSCLG provides. “I have been honored and humbled to win these awards and be voted to the board. Being a part of this community has often given me the strength and energy to confront the hurdles associated with being a scholar.”
OSCLG brings together students, scholars, activists, artists and practitioners interested in the discussion of gender, language and principles behind feminism. Since its start in 1978, it has sought to provide a forum for professional discussion, presentation of research and demonstration of creative projects in the areas of communication, language and gender, as well as promote recognition of those doing work in this area. The theme for the 43rd annual conference was “Navigating Privilege.”
November 11, 2020 Author:
Sarah Freeman and Paaige Turner, firstname.lastname@example.org