Disagreeing with Jack Valenti : a linguistic examination of prestigious media awards for film, television, and music

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McCullough, Hayley
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Electronic thesis
Communication and rhetoric
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My research contributes to both the greater research literature on predicting outcomes for media awards and the more specific literature on integrative complexity’s manifestations in pop culture and entertainment media. It justifies future research endeavors in several ways: (1) replication, (2) application of integrative complexity to other (currently unexplored) media awards (e.g., Country Music Awards, the MTV Movie & TV Awards, the BAFTAs, the Booker Prize, the prix Goncourt, the Hugo Award, Crunchyroll’s Anime Awards, the Game Awards, etc.), (3) application of integrative complexity to other quality metrics in the pop culture and entertainment media landscapes (e.g., box offices and sales, Rotten Tomatoes and other aggregate score websites, status as a cult classic, audience response, etc.), and (4) application of other complexity constructs and psycholinguistic variables to the study of media awards.
In my dissertation, I use integrative complexity to explore potential patterns of prediction and the underlying psychology of prestigious media awards for three types of entertainment media: film (Academy Awards and Golden Globes), television shows (Golden Globes and Emmys), and music (Grammys). Briefly, integrative complexity is a linguistic variable and psychological construct that assesses linguistic complexity at the structural level of texts. Because it analyzes structure – instead of content – integrative complexity provides insight into the less overt, more behind-the-scenes aspects of human psychology and culture. I compared a random sample of dialogue/lyrics from the winning films, television shows, and songs to a random sample of dialogue/lyrics from the other nominees. My results show a consistent negative relationship between integrative complexity and winning film and television awards. There are several possible explanations for this negative relationship including cognitive strain, the entertainment industry’s function as a profit-driven business, and the awards’ propensity to prioritize white, heterosexual, cisgender, male creators. For the Best Country Song category at the Grammys, my results show a positive relationship between integrative complexity and winning. There are many potential reasons for this positive relationship and divergence from the patterns seen in film and television awards including country music’s target demographics and political ideology.
May 2021
School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
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