Peripheral Connections: Turkish Audiences’ Reception to Popular Danish TV Series and Cultural Proximity

By Yesim Kaptan
Submitted to Session P5202 (Global Encounters: Transnationalism and the New Political Economy of the Turkish Television Industry, 2018 Annual Meeting
LCD Projector with Audio Patch or Speakers;
In the last decade, television drama series of Nordic countries have travelled worldwide and have become very popular among globally diverse audiences. The big success of Danish TV exports in Europe such as Borgen, Forbydelsen (The Killing), and Broen (The Bridge) have attracted attention of niche Turkish audiences who are well-educated, white collar, urban, middle age, global consumers of media products. Relying on focus group and personal interviews with the Turkish audiences of Danish dramas, I explore the cultural reception of these dramas in Turkey and strive to understand why some Turkish audiences passionately watch and value Danish dramas. Considering media texts as cultural transporters of social, political and economic features of a specific society, I ask which hybrid cultural dynamics in Danish dramas entail the Turkish audiences and touch their sensibilities. In this context, I investigate the significant role of transnational media consumption in the identity construction of national audiences at the age of global media.

In this paper, I also question the concept of cultural proximity (LaPastina and Straubhaar 2005) to analyze how perceived similarities and commonalities influence TV drama viewing choices of the global Turkish audiences. Straubhaar’s definition of cultural proximity, “the tendency to prefer media products from one’s own culture or the most similar possible culture” (Straubhaar 2003, p. 85), and even La Pastina and Straubhaar’s (2005) broadened definition of the concept including language, ethnic appearance, humor, historical reference, dress style etc., is not quite helpful to explain the Turkish audiences’ engagement with cultural politics of the Danish TV series. Therefore, cultural proximity, in its current form, cannot explain whether the diverse and heterogeneous perceptions of audiences that facilitate the sense of cultural intimacy and immediacy to the media text. Therefore, I try to extend the notion of cultural proximity by conceptualizing it as a dynamic process constructed in a historically specific context and grounded in active articulation of the sense of immediacy by the audiences’ expressions and experiences.