Awkward comedy and performative anxiety
thesisposted on 22.05.2021, 17:25 authored by Alanna Goldstein
"As more and more of our daily social interactions are mediated and experienced through the screens of communication technologies, face-to-face moments of unmediated sociality has become the terrain for "awkward," unedited encounters, fraught with the potential for misunderstanding and communicative breakdown. Text messaging, instant messaging and social networking sites are increasingly replacing embodied forms of communication as the preferred method for building and maintaining even the most intimate of relationships. The ability to manage one's performance within these regulated and highly-edited communicative spaces consequently emphasizes the vulnerability of the embodied social self, engaging in real space and time. The potential for failure inherent to any embodied social interaction is increasingly prevalent as a theme across a variety of entertainment media, suggesting that concerns with embodied communication performances are widespread. In this paper I will illustrate how representations of this communicative breakdown and the resulting moments of "awkward" silence form the basis for a new sub-genre of television comedy that includes both the British and American versions of The Office, Peep Show, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Parks and Recreation and Modern Family, among others. I contend that the popularity of these programs is a function of their adoption of unique aesthetic elements that reflect and address anxieties surrounding changing communicative norms specific to life in a highly-mediated social environment"--From introduction.