Defending the norm: Exploring sites of tension in audience engagement with AIDS-related television

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This paper explores the tensions that exist between young adults' understandings of `official' safe sex advice and their common-sense understandings of the practices thus advocated. Some of the ways in which these tensions are negotiated are explored; particularly the ways in which audiences negotiate television messages that challenge their lived understanding of sexuality. Since young adults gain much of their knowledge of safe sex through media and popular culture, these issues are addressed here via analyses of audience conversations about AIDS-related teen television programmes. Twenty audience focus groups viewed an episode of the American teen-drama Beverly Hills 90210 and another ten groups viewed Sex, Girls and Kiss Curls, an Australian public health video made in the style of a teen-drama. Conversational analyses indicate that audiences draw on several genre-related discursive devices to create a distance between their lived understandings of AIDS/safe sex and contradictory television representations. Change to the social norms surrounding these issues becomes a greater possibility as these distance-producing devices are closed-off to audience groups. Reprinted by permission of Lawrence & Wishart.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-132
Number of pages29
JournalInternational Journal of Critical Psychology, 15: Neoliberal Subjects
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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