Comparative Genre Analysis

Rebecca Skloot, a female American author, pitched her book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, in three similar yet very different television talk show forums.

Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report othing short of typical Colbert, about 75% focuses on the topic or piece of work that the guest has brought while the other 25% focuses on, who else, Colbert. The interview starts with Colbert running over to meet his guest instead of the guest traditionally coming out to meet the host, a satirical addition to a show already making fun of the tradition right wing talk show. As Skloot walks Colbert through some interesting points from her book and Lacks’ life, Colbert fires back with half sarcastic questions to get the real facts out of Skloot. pictures of Colbert’s own blood cells are shown on the screen, eventually being destroyed by Centipede (a reference to the old arcade game.) While portrayed in a comedic manner, Colbert still promotes the book in a positive light and to an audience that may otherwise never know about it.

Fox News’ take at an interview with Skloot came off as a standard professional interview. Dr. Manny, host of Health Talk, dives deep into the matter, including asking how long it took for the family to find out about the cells and what they were used for. Dr. Manny connects the dots between the lack of consent from Henrietta to the lack of compensation to her family. Skloot also mentions that she has set up a foundation, The Henrietta Lacks Foundation, to benefit the family. High resolution pictures of the Lacks family and Henrietta’s old medical records are occasionally shown on screen to give viewers a better visual of the situation. Lastly, Dr. Manny plugs the book once more and wraps up the segment.

PBS’ Tavis Smiley provides yet another variation on the standard book promotion interview. One major factor in the differences in this interview are that PBS is a public channel promoting education, and Smiley focuses on education-based questions during the interview. Higher level thinking topics and questions such as grants for the Henrietta Lacks Foundation and legal claims to cells are discussed. Smiley is also an African-American, and the only African-American host out of the three interviews shown. Some of the questions dive into that realm, which wasn’t touched on in the other interviews.

One thing I realized was that none of the hosts were women. Although the three interviews were all on talk shows, they were all presented differently: Colbert’s was satirical yet informational, Fox’s more serious and straightforward, and PBS’ educational and enlightening. All three presented the same information in different ways that would appeal to different people, and still managed to promote the book in a professional manner. Whichever style you prefer, one thing is certain: Rebecca Skloot knows her stuff, in front of the camera and on paper.


About kevinsmithaz

Freshman at U of A. Bear Down. Really into hockey and music. Jeremiah 29:11.
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One Response to Comparative Genre Analysis

  1. kwalker11 says:

    Nice, Kevin. This is a good parsing out of both the similarities and the differences. When you do this again, try to get more specific in your analysis of audience and connect all the good things you mention here to audience expectations, values, and knowledge on the subject. Great work. 9

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