Soak up the goodness: Discourses of Australian childhoods on television advertisements, 2006-2012


Drew, Christopher. (2013). Soak up the goodness: Discourses of Australian childhoods on television advertisements, 2006-2012 [Thesis].
AuthorsDrew, Christopher
Qualification nameDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Childhood is represented on Australian television advertising so frequently as to be commonplace. Traversing childhood, cultural and media studies disciplines, this thesis works to disrupt and unsettle taken for granted and exclusionary cultural assumptions about childhood that emerge through contemporary television advertisements. I conduct social semiotic and discourse analyses across a corpus of 330 advertisements spanning 2006 to 2012, considering the ways the Australian childhood subject is discursively produced through the advertisements. The television advertisements are found to construct Australian childhood subjectivities in ways that are limiting in terms of race, space, gender and social class. Considering the role of consumption in the reproduction of subjectivity in the contemporary neoliberal context, the advertisements come to be read as addressing viewers as agentive actors exercising choice and aspiring to formulate subjectivities through consumption. In this sense, the advertisements work to encourage agentive viewers to consume in order to achieve idealised yet exclusionary Australian childhood subjectivities. The exclusionary discourses are employed and idealised by advertisers to secure consumption; however, it is also argued that the advertisements simultaneously reinforce and naturalise exclusionary understandings of Australian childhoods through their reiteration. From a post-structuralist perspective which considers cultural truths to emerge through discourse, I argue that the limited representations of Australian childhoods on television advertisements produce and foreclose cultural ways of understanding Australian childhood. Throughout the thesis, I work to challenge representational foreclosures of Australian childhood subjectivities within the advertising texts, in order that cultural truths about Australian childhood subjectivities might be unsettled and unjust representations challenged. Such a critique of limiting discursive representations of Australian childhood matters, I contest, because unjust and exclusionary discourses of Australian childhood can sustain symbolic and performative disadvantage for Australian children and adults alike, particularly those who continue to be excluded from public recognition in a nation that presumes to be inclusive and egalitarian.

Keywordschildhood; advertising; television; Australian
PublisherAustralian Catholic University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Research GroupSchool of Education
Final version
Publication dates01 Nov 2013
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