Over the past few years, Chinese viewers have regularly mocked a popular genre of television dramas for overly heroic portrayals of the War of Resistance Against Japan. Charging the dramas with distorting history, the viewers nicknamed them ‘Mythic Plays’ and instigated a national discussion on the dramas’ representation of the war. This article analyzes the public controversy about Mythic Plays through a Critical Discourse Analysis of online comments. It examines viewers’ expectation of televisual representation of Chinese history and perception of their own position in the cultural ecology. On the one hand, this article proposes a revision to Hall’s encoding/decoding model. It points out that audience resistance to a text should not automatically be equated with resistance to dominant ideology, since the resistance can be the consequence of the producer-audience conflict over how certain ideological meanings, rather than which ideological meanings, are encoded into the text. Meanwhile, the meanings perceived and opposed by the audience may not be the meanings intended by producers, due to the polysemic nature of the text. On the other hand, this article reveals that in addition to actively interpreting texts, audience members also interpret the power relations between text producers, regulators, and themselves. We call upon audience researchers to include thorough analysis of the audience’s perception of these existing power relations.

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Participations, Journal of Audience and Reception Studies (online)
Department of Media and Communication

Wu, S., & Bergman, T. (2019). An active, resistant audience – but in whose interest? Online discussions on Chinese TV dramas as maintaining dominant ideology. Participations, Journal of Audience and Reception Studies (online), 16(1), 107–129. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/122003