Popular Culture, Moral Narratives and Organizational Portrayals: A Multimodal Reflexive Analysis of a Reality Television Show

Journal of Business Ethics:1-16 (forthcoming)

This paper contributes to the Business Ethics literature by unpacking the multimodal construction of moral narratives in popular culture and its portrayals of organizations and organizational roles. Understanding such portrayals and their construction is crucial to Business Ethics scholarship because they shape organizational imaginaries, influencing understandings and expectations of the ethical/moral responsibilities of organizations and the actors within them. In particular, we study the construction of moral narratives within a reality TV show that focuses on immigration and border control at an airport. We find that the immigration officers are depicted as rational and heroic figures whilst the travellers are presented as emotional and potentially dangerous characters. Our analysis highlights how this is achieved via five multimodal editing dimensions—the structure of interactional scenes, the ability to address the camera, the narrator’s comments, the visual and music effects—that are key in constructing clearly defined personae. We show how, through the intersubjective construction of clear-cut characters, the show downplays the moral complexity of its content. Portraying immigration officers as heroic, while presenting travellers as potentially dangerous, allows for a silencing of any ethical questioning of immigration officers’ organizational practices.
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DOI 10.1007/s10551-020-04460-1
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