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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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19. “Got a Secret. Can You Keep It?”—Pretty Little Liars, Friendship, and Privacy Management



“Got a Secret. Can You Keep It?”—Pretty Little Liars, Friendship, and Privacy Management

Alysa Ann Lucas

The TV show Pretty Little Liars highlights both a valued function and troublesome aspect of friendship. Friends, our trusted confidants, are expected to conceal our secrets. However, a betrayal of confidences is always a risk. The friends on Pretty Little Liars, Aria, Emily, Hanna, and Spencer, know this risk well, after sharing their secrets with “frenemy” Alison. Specifically, after an accident called “The Jenna Thing” binds all five friends together, the girls are uncertain if Alison will use their private information against them, if they do not keep the “Jenna” situation a secret.

When Alison goes missing, it appears the constant threat of her sharing their secrets has also disappeared. But, when Alison’s body is discovered one year later, and the girls receive texts from a stalker named “A,” the threat returns. Did Alison share their secrets? Who is “A”? Does “A” know about “The Jenna Thing”? Most importantly, will “A” reveal their secrets to others? These questions about owning and controlling private information reflect the theory of Communication Privacy Management (CPM). The purpose of this chapter is to apply CPM to the interactions in Pretty Little Liars, where concealing and revealing private information can be deadly.

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