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The Turkish Dizi Industry and Its Audience Imaginaries
Abstract by Zeynep Sertbulut On Session IX-28  (TV, Film, and Theater)

On Saturday, November 4 at 3:00 pm

2023 Annual Meeting

Based on twenty-one months of ethnographic research in the Turkish dizi (serialized television drama) industry, this article explores how dizi makers imagine, classify, and discuss their local audiences and how their creative decisions are predicated on an imagined act of consumption. It argues that beyond RTÜK, the state agency for monitoring and regulating radio and television broadcasts, dizi makers’ audience imaginaries become a constraining force in the production process, affecting dizi makers’ sense of what is acceptable and not acceptable onscreen. I illustrate how despite conflicts between dizi makers and RTÜK officials about what it means to be Turkish, they both share a paternalistic attitude toward audiences, specifically the idea that audiences can be swayed by what they see on TV. While RTÜK’s paternalism is apparent from cuts mandated after episodes have aired, dizi makers’ paternalism is evident in the production process. These paternalistic attitudes emerge from the political discourse produced by the modern Turkish state, whereby the “illiteracy and ignorance” of rural populations were seen as the main obstacle to the reforming missions of the new Republic. I argue that the ways RTÜK and dizi makers imagine their audiences are based on these long-standing notions of modernity and development, in which rural Turkish people are imagined as backward, requiring state institutions and the intelligentsia to civilize them.
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