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A Social Semiotic Discourse Analysis of Film and Television Portrayals of Agriculture: Implications for American Cultural Memory
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The U.S. farm populace is declining rapidly, and the majority of Americans are generations removed from food and fiber production. Society now receives the majority of its information about agriculture-related topics from sources removed from the industry itself, including entertainment media such as films and television programs. To better understand how these entertainment media influence societal perceptions of the food and fiber industry, the researcher sought to explicate the content of entertainment media texts related to agricultural production and to compare that content to previously recorded public perceptions of the industry. Using themes outlined by the Kellogg Foundation’s 2002 survey of perceptions of rural life—the pastoral fantasy, the traditional family farm, and the decline of the agrarian tradition—a social semiotic content analysis of 23 films and television programs released between 1950 and 2012 was conducted to identify parallels between the content of those media texts and the findings of the Kellogg study. Films and television programs released between 1950 and 1990 contained narrative and visual elements that closely linked those texts to the three themes identified by the Kellogg researchers, indicating that those perceptual elements could have been influenced by pervasive images of traditional agricultural production practices. Films and programs released after 1990 also contained components strongly tying them to the Kellogg study themes with added emphasis on the decline of the agrarian tradition theme.
Specht, Annie (2013). A Social Semiotic Discourse Analysis of Film and Television Portrayals of Agriculture: Implications for American Cultural Memory. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from