COPS: What is Really Being Televised?

Jennifer M. Burzych, Northeastern Illinois University

The television show COPS has been broadcasting since 1989, and has been embraced as one of the pioneers in the reality television explosion. COPS appears to be a television network's sensational ploy to boost ratings. However, I intend to demonstrate that COPS lends itself for an analysis of encounters between police officers and disputants. In this paper, by utilizing Lacanian Discourse Analysis, I will analyze the conversations of the participants on COPS. I will argue that each lexical choice is significant as for how individuals may gain insight into their personal biases and presuppositions as well as the opposing disputants'. Furthermore, I will argue that disputants feel the narratives they construct are significant for their interactional role in constructing and projecting a moral self. Through this analysis, I will demonstrate numberous instances in which personal biases become powerful elements within conversations between police officers and disputants, and how resolutions are actively pursued.

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Updated 05/20/2006