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Communication Theory and Millennial Popular Culture

Essays and Applications

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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5. Winning Isn’t Everything—Credibility, Leadership, and Virtue in HBO’s Game of Thrones



Winning Isn’t Everything—Credibility, Leadership, and Virtue in HBO’s Game of Thrones

Elena C. Strauman

HBO’s popular drama Game of Thrones takes place in the fantasy world of Westeros. As the title suggests, the show focuses on the struggle of various players to win the Iron Throne and rule the seven kingdoms of the realm. As the show has progressed, we have learned more and more about these characters, chosen favorites, and made our own theories and predictions. Of course, we have had all of our expectations upended, by George. R. R. Martin’s often startling and disconcerting storytelling. At its core, Game of Thrones is a character-driven drama. The show is richly populated with suitors to the throne, as well as their supporters and detractors, all of whom strategically position themselves to take or maintain power.

One theory of communication maintains that narratives represent good reasons for audiences to understand and embrace social and moral lessons (Fisher, 1984). If that is the case, then what can audiences learn or understand from Game of Thrones? A central question of the show, beyond who will win the Iron Throne, is who should win it. As a text, Game of Thrones does not provide easy answers. Often, traditionally good or heroic characters meet with disaster, while characters with questionable character, characteristics, morals, or motives (or downright bad guys) seemingly succeed. As such, Game of Thrones addresses a central concept in communication theory: credibility....

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