HAVE SOME SELF RESPECT!: A CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF 30 ROCK’S NEOLIBERAL DISCOURSE

First Name: 
Eleanor
Last Name: 
Seitz
Field of Study: 
Communication

HAVE SOME SELF RESPECT!: A CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF 30 ROCK’S NEOLIBERAL DISCOURSE

By Eleanor J. Seitz

Thesis Advisor: Dr. Laura Lindenfeld

A Lay Abstract of the Thesis Presented

in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the

Degree of Master of Arts

(in Communication)

May, 2010

 

NBC sitcom 30 Rock tempts its audience to peek behind the scenes of fictional television show The Girly Show (TGS) as it portrays the inner workings of NBC studios at 30 Rockefeller Square.  This thesis is an in-depth study of how 30 Rock functions politically and how it constructs specific representations of identity, and my analysis is a historically grounded ideological critique of 30 Rock’s neoliberal politics. Neoliberal discourses privilege individual empowerment over public responsibility for social needs.  30 Rock emerged within a distinct neoliberal television environment and is indicative of a neoliberal cultural shift that began in the 1980s and triumphed in the 1990s. The culture industries of film, television and other media are central to neoliberal models of identity and consumption.  

30 Rock’s format, themes, and structure rely on a prominent ensemble cast and a sophisticated multi-layered satirical narrative to interrogate neoliberal issues.  I argue in this thesis that 30 Rock ultimately reinforces neoliberal points of view.  This study examines different neoliberal themes in 30 Rock and seeks to chart the historical significance of the show’s unique response to social issues like sexism, racism and global warming.  Specifically, I offer 30 Rock as a case study to elucidate points of rupture within contemporary neoliberal discourses and the role of satire within political commentary.

            30 Rock’s satire allows viewers to interpret a critique of neoliberal politics, but this interpretation depends upon whether its audience discerns the politics of representation embedded within the show’s satire (Haggins, 2009).  Thus, what is at stake here is the contribution of criticism to problematic social stereotypes and racist, sexist, unsustainable behavior.  30 Rock’s satiric criticism is often overshadowed by the sheer outrageousness of its humor. Ultimately, this study finds that neoliberalism is the dominant perspective that shapes 30 Rock’s political and social meanings.