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Punishment in Popular Culture$
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Charles J. Jr. Ogletree and Austin Sarat

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781479861958

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479861958.001.0001

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Better Here than There

Better Here than There

Prison Narratives in Reality Television

(p.55) 2 Better Here than There
Punishment in Popular Culture

Aurora Wallace

NYU Press

The second chapter, by Aurora Wallace, offers a close reading of the National Geographic Channel’s Locked Up Abroad, which chronicles the conditions in prison systems outside the United States. The series, Wallace contends, revels in the salacious depiction of debauchery before arrest and of torture after. Replete with the reality television mainstays of first-person address, melodramatic reenactments of past events, and suspense-building editing and music, it promotes, she suggests, complacency about the American penal system by suggesting that for all of its faults, it is much better by comparison. Oddly, Locked Up Abroad seems to show foreign prison systems rehabilitating prisoners, yet leaving them with greater appreciation of the United States. Wallace documents the effect of the series’ American exceptionalist tone by citing Netflix reviewers who write about how the show brings them to a deeper appreciation of America and its criminal justice system.

Keywords:   Locked Up Abroad, reality television, penal system, American exceptionalism, Netflix, criminal justice, foreign prisons

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