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Communication Theory and Millennial Popular Culture

Essays and Applications

Edited By Kathleen Glenister Roberts

Theories help to troubleshoot gaps in our understanding, and to make sense of a world that is constantly changing. What this book tries to do, in part, is blur the lines between the differences between today’s college students – the millennial generation – and their professors, many of whom hail from the Boom Generation and Generation X.
In the following chapters, contributors build upon what both parties already know. Writing in a highly accessible yet compelling style, contributors explain communication theories by applying them to «artifacts» of popular culture. These «artifacts» include Lady Gaga, Pixar films, The Hunger Games, hip hop, Breaking Bad, and zombies, among others. Using this book, students will become familiar with key theories in communication while developing creative and critical thinking. By experiencing familiar popular culture artifacts through the lens of critical and interpretive theories, a new generation of communication professionals and scholars will hone their skills of observation and interpretation – pointing not just toward better communication production, but better social understanding.
Professors will especially enjoy the opportunities for discussion this book provides, both through the essays and the «dialogue boxes» where college students provide responses to authors’ ideas.
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2. Life as Performance—Dramatism and the Music of Lady Gaga

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CHAPTER 2

Life as Performance—Dramatism and the Music of Lady Gaga

Jake Dionne & Joe Hatfield

“I want your drama,” sang Lady Gaga in her hit song “Bad Romance.” Gaga’s need for “drama” marks a particular communication phenomenon. Rather than running from drama, which some might see as draining or destructive, Gaga embraces it as a necessary component of her life. Accordingly, life as drama becomes a metaphor, a vehicle through which we can explore Gaga not only as a pop star, but also a communication goddess.

Many years prior to Lady Gaga’s fame, Kenneth Burke, a literary critic, argued in favor of a new model for life: life as drama. He did not consider life itself dramatic, but rather thought that exchanges between communicators and audiences were similar to plots unfolding on stage. Every great drama needs a script, and Burke knew that. Consequently, Burke (1973) famously observed that literature was “equipment for living” (p. 61). In the context of this discussion, literatures, or artifacts, are not just books; they are also other creations, like movies, music, and speeches. What is most important is the fact that the artifacts we interact with reflect communication and society, train us how to communicate, and provide tools needed to adapt to different situations.

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