Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of the Arts


School of Communication and Media

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Christine Lemesianou

Committee Member

Todd Kelshaw

Committee Member

Philip Bakelaar


Music is everywhere and so is its influence. Like all media, music can help us express ourselves, but it also can impact our lives. The following study investigates pop music by female artists and how this genre impacts the lives of young audiences. The research asks what images of women and relational scripts are offered through this genre, but this study also asks what audiences are doing with it.

Media studies have taken us from “The Magic Bullet” to “Uses and Gratifications” and almost everywhere in between. Somewhere in the middle of all of these theories lies Hall’s view of encoding and decoding (1980). From a critical/cultural studies background, he describes how audiences can be empowered by their interpretations, or readings, of media. Specifically, he illustrates the value of dominant, negotiated, and oppositional readings.

Here we asked which readings are most prevalent and also how audiences can enact and benefit from different readings. We also raised the question of reflexivity within audience members. The results show that young audiences can be reflexive of their consumption and the products, production, and byproducts of media. Specifically, they are aware of both positive and negative images. Though hesitant to admit the influence of media, participants were also able to identify relational scripts within this genre and beyond.

The most prevalent readings among all participants were dominant. While this may seem discouraging, we have to remember that many of pop music’s messages are negotiated or oppositional in themselves. Therefore, a dominant reading does not have to be disempowering. The second most prevalent readings were oppositional. It was interesting that these readings outnumbered negotiated readings, but it makes sense when we consider the amount of reflexivity that goes into these processes.

We concluded this study with an overview of results, a summation of pop music today, and a look toward the future (both of pop music and media studies). Results indicate that while we should be cautious of the ways in which media influence us, the media and young audiences are moving in the right direction.

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