Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2017

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Film Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Melinda B. Barlow

Second Advisor

Dr. Ernesto Acevedo-Munoz

Third Advisor

Stephen Graham Jones

Abstract

Throughout the history of the entertainment industry, the competitive pursuit of market share has dictated a consistent reproduction and employment of those whose narratives mirror the cultural dominant, constructing a dynamic whereby the popular film and television of America overwhelmingly recreate a single social perspective, regardless of the plurality of cultural backgrounds among members of the audience. The recent introduction of streaming original series into the landscape of popular entertainment, however, has radically altered this paradigm.

As the traditional platforms of national entertainment such as film, broadcast television, and cable television struggle to adapt to the new conditions placed upon the market by streaming companies Netflix and Amazon, the original series produced by these streaming studios unabashedly embrace difference, a strategy that is aided by their alternative profit models. Indeed, these streaming studios actively compete to become positioned as the purveyor of narratives predicated upon minority perspectives through programming and marketing. Additionally, Netflix and Amazon employ a greater plurality of underrepresented voices among the creative staff producing original series. Streaming platforms thus not only portray and interrogate the experiences of minority communities, they additionally employ those whose cultural perspectives mirror the narratives appearing in streaming content. The series and films produced by Netflix and Amazon can thus demonstrate the manifestation of the audacious representation of underrepresented voices on streaming original content. Additionally, a close analysis of Netflix’s original series Grace and Frankie and Amazon’s Transparent will investigate the differing approaches to the representation of difference employed by each streaming studio.

In this way, streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon represent a new frontier within the entertainment industry in the representation of minority identities, a potential enabled by the very profit structure of streaming services. This thesis will therefore seek to investigate the quickly approaching horizon of altered dynamics of minority representation created by the production of Netflix and Amazon original series which are predicated upon representations of cultural difference.

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