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EcopietyGreen Media and the Dilemma of Environmental Virtue$
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Sarah McFarland Taylor

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781479810765

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479810765.001.0001

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“I Can’t! It’s a Prius”

“I Can’t! It’s a Prius”

Purity, Piety, Pollution Porn, and Coal Rolling

(p.68) 3 “I Can’t! It’s a Prius”

Sarah McFarland Taylor

NYU Press

Chapter 3 explores Toyota Corporation’s hybrid automobile, the Prius, as a consumer icon of green virtue, charting media representations that portray the Prius as a vehicle of ecopiety as practiced through acts of consumopiety. It then sharply contrasts these eco-pious cultural readings of the Prius with ones that are intensely hostile and resistant. Drawing insight from “moral foundations theory” and its theorized connections to political disparities in environmental attitudes, this chapter’s media analysis of the Prius provides an opening into the complex incongruities between media “encoding” and media “decoding,” as messages of the Prius as icon of “environmental piety” get filtered through different power dimensions of class, gender, sexuality, and race. The resulting oppositional narratives give rise to the new and fascinating “subgenre” of pornography called “pollution porn.” This chapter probes seemingly unlikely, but nonethelessoperative, class-based media interventions into a dominant environmental discourse that is often perceived to be elitist, self-righteous, and smug.

Keywords:   Toyota, pollution porn, encoding, decoding, moral foundations theory, oppositional narratives

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