Drama and Documentary: The Power of Nightmares

  • Andrew Hoskins
  • Ben O’Loughlin
Part of the New Security Challenges Series book series (NSECH)


In examining the television interaction order and the relationship between on-screen interactions and the off-screen perceptions of security of audiences and policymakers, the role of drama and documentary is particularly interesting. Woven into the schedules alongside news, these formats present renderings of many of the security salient events constituting news in recent years. Entertainment, as a cultural genre, is not antithetical to politics,1 despite Postman’s (1986) concern that we are Amusing Ourselves to Death (or to political stupidity). Elizabeth van Zoonen (2005) argues that entertainment can provide a context for viewers to contemplate their role as citizens and their political engagement; that entertainment can thereby make citizenship pleasurable (cf. Livingstone, 2005). Our audience analysis reveals the manner in which television viewers understand ‘actual’ events through analogy to television fictions. Some interviewees suggested they enjoyed being provoked to think ‘deeper’ about events by documentaries such as Panorama and the films of Michael Moore. If, as we argue in Chapter 8, citizens’ perspectives emerge from the interaction of their political, media, and experiential discursive realities, then drama and documentary are a part of anyone’s media discursive reality. This chapter features a comparative analysis, examining how drama and documentary remediate (critically or uncritically) actual security events present in news.


News Medium Television News News Coverage Terrorist Threat Split Screen 
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Copyright information

© Andrew Hoskins and Ben O’Loughlin 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew Hoskins
    • 1
  • Ben O’Loughlin
    • 2
  1. 1.University of WarwickUK
  2. 2.Royal HollowayUniversity of LondonUK

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