Reception Studies is the practice of studying audiences in relation to the media they consume. Traditional film theory assumed an idealized audience and focused on analysis of the internal components of filmmaking, e.g. montage or composition. Reception studies potentially includes the confusion of personal histories, political dynamics, and socio-economic realities. For a brief history of it’s development please read this article, online here.

A popular subject of early reception studies in the American academic context was the sitcom “The Cosby Show.” This show presented an upper middle class African American family as if it were a common place in an era when race was (and is) still a large factor in economic and social life. In “Media Reception Studies” By Janet Staiger, she points out a study by Justin Lewis on the Cosby show wherein upper middle class viewers related to the show as uniquely relevant to their position and lower class viewers viewed it as “classless and universal” (Staiger, 163).