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Mostly, do no harm: Representations of morality in the television medical drama The Resident

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Television programmes continue to impart ‘narratives, consumer choice’ and ‘moral predispositions’, although there is conjecture among scholars over the influence of television on the formation of a moral viewpoint in audiences. These components allow consumers to evaluate the content of television shows in the light of their own cultural understandings of morality and then either accept or reject them. This article uses thematic analysis to reveal patterns in the representations of moral ambiguity in the first season of the television show The Resident (2018–present), a contemporary US-based television series that is broadcast to global audiences in a number of international territories. The series explores the intricacies of hospital management, patient care and medical ethics particularly in light of increasing commercial pressures within a US context. Our analysis shows that the series grapples with four main themes: do no harm, experts and egos, money muddies morality and good versus evil, and in doing so, interrogates the basis of implicit knowledge about right, wrong and individual responsibility in western culture.
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Keywords: The Resident; medical drama television; moral ambiguity; morality; scripted television; thematic analysis

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Auckland University of Technology

Publication date: September 1, 2019

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  • The Australasian Journal of Popular Culture is a peer-reviewed journal devoted to the scholarly understanding of everyday cultures. It is concerned with the study of the social practices and the cultural meanings that are produced and are circulated through the processes and practices of everyday life. As a product of consumption, an intellectual object of inquiry, and as an integral component of the dynamic forces that shape societies. The journal will be receptive to articles which focus on Australasian examples, or broader comparative and theoretical questions viewed through an Australasian lens.
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