To be a common hero.
To be a common hero
The uneasy balance between the ordinary and ordinariness in the subject position of mediated ordinary people in the talk show Jan Publiek
ABSTRACT • This article looks at the articulations of the subject position ‘ordinary people’ by analysing focus group discussions with audience members, and interviews with participants in a north Belgian audience discussion programme called Jan Publiek. In this talk show ordinary people are granted access to a prime-time, live television programme, in order to discuss one specific issue each broadcast. This feature positions Jan Publiek among what have been called ‘audience discussion programmes’ or ‘vox-pop’ programmes (in contrast to elite talk shows). The article focuses on the construction of the ordinary person as a complex and multi-layered subject position. We argue that this identity is relational, and positioned towards an alliance of power-blocs consisting of celebrities, experts, politicians and media professionals. Through this relational positioning, ordinary people become articulated in Jan Publiek as authentic, but also as unorganized, apolitical, powerless, unknown, spontaneous and unknowledgeable. Lefebvre’s distinction between the everyday and everydayness is then used to evaluate the political and emancipatory capacity of Jan Publiek and audience discussion programmes in general, which are sometimes criticized for their commodified and apolitical nature, but on other occasions valued for their democratic potential. •