Three Satiric Television Decoding Positions

Document Type

Article - Merrimack Access Only

Publication Title

Communication Studies


Central States Communication Association (CSCA)

Publication Date


Abstract/ Summary

This essay explores viewer meaning-making with an ironic and satiric television text, analyzing focus group discourse from Chappelle’s Show viewers. Participants’ interpretations of Chappelle’s Show’s representation repeated historical mediated stereotypes of a ‘‘Black and White’’ world that includes violent Black characters and ‘‘dorky’’ White characters. Despite nearly uniform identification of the show’s stereotypes, focus group participants made varying meanings from the show using three primary decoding positions: refusing to acknowledge the show’s ideological implications, attending to the text’s ‘‘realistic’’ stated meanings, or actively deriving higher meanings from the humorous exaggerations. Explicating these decoding positions encourages viewers to be more conscious of their own interpretive practices and illuminates how critical television scholars can more thoroughly explore the interactions between viewers and satiric texts.