Going to Work at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch. Potentials of Rhetorical and Ethnographic Methods for Cultural Studies

Abstract
Most studies of media focus on production, representation, or audience. Using rhetorical analysis and ethnographic field methods, my article offers one way to study media production contexts, representations, and audience interactions in relation to one another. For this project, I conducted a narrative rhetorical analysis of the reality docu-series Cathouse that takes place in a legal brothel in Nevada, the Moonlite Bunny Ranch. In addition, I visited the brothel and used ethnographic field methods of participant observation and interviewing to investigate the lived experiences of the women working at the Ranch. My analysis revealed a web of intertextual discourses of prostitution that I could not have accessed had I not used these methods in conjunction with one another. By bringing perspectives from rhetorical inquiry, cultural and media studies, and ethnography into conversation with one another, I provide a framework for analyzing production, representation, and audience for the Cathouse series, while attending to both the content of the women’s stories and how these participants rhetorically constructed and performed their identities. Finally, my analysis offers insights into ethnographic and textual “crises of representation” in relation to the concept of “rhetorical authenticity” in media representations, the relationships between audience members, production, and representation in reality television, and material impacts for the women who work at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch that I could not have accessed without using these methods together.
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