Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Mass Communication and Media Arts

First Advisor

Metz, Walter


This project investigates the concept of the suburban spatial imaginary with regard to multi-camera sitcoms from the 1990s. I contend that the physical flatness of the multi-camera set construction is tied to the ideological presentation of suburban life. Through a textual analysis of moments in these sitcoms, I explore how they (through their representation and production design) flatten or distort real-world spaces to reinforce them as distinctly suburban. This investigation is interested in understanding the ways the materiality of architectural space in multi-camera sitcoms is related to real-world spaces. That certain moments—cars crashing, mothers spending their free time in bathrooms, adult characters learning to ride bicycles—occur in a similar manner across these shows indicates that they are part of a larger tableau of the American domestic spatial imaginary. These moments provide the richest sites to discuss the anxieties and tensions of the domestic space. They also demonstrate how the filming style reinforces an ideological view which is predominately suburban, regardless of where the shows are narratively set. To understand how the multi-camera shooting style “flattens” the representational space, I move through the various settings, focusing on moments and objects that highlight those spaces. I start my investigation into the suburban spatial imaginary with the most immobile of places, the living room. Turning to the representation of the bathroom creates a bridge between the private and the public. The following chapters embrace that mobility to focus on bikes and cars. Throughout, I use these moments to understand the ways in which the filming style flattens the representational space and reinforces a suburban spatial imaginary. Using these moments, I argue that these spaces cultivate an idealized vision of living that is distinctly suburban and that this vision serves as a nostalgic motor that helps fuel a suburban spatial imaginary.




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