Reading Media Culture Politically
The Case of A Handmaid’s Tale
Media culture can be read as a contest of representations and a contested terrain that reproduces existing social struggles. This study focuses on U.S. media culture in the 2000s, which has been a particularly turbulent and contested era of U.S. history and media culture reproduced its passionate polarization, intense political struggle, and often surprising and dramatic events. I am using the concept of transcoding to describe how specific political discourses and positions like liberalism or rightwing nationalism are translated, or encoded, into media texts. Specifically I take the television series A Handmaid´ s Tale as providing illuminating access to social and political realities of its period, which contributes to knowledge of the present age through contextualization, interpretations and critique of popular media culture artifacts. This form of political sociology and cultural studies provides theories and methods that situate media texts within the context of their production and reception, while deploying multiple perspectives to interpret the text and to show what popular media texts reveal about existing society, its modes of oppression and struggles to transform it.