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This essay examines the visual rhetoric of HBOs reality TV program Taxicab Confessions, New York, New York (2005). Drawing on Burke’s rhetorical understanding of scene and Straw’s approach to scene as a category for the analysis of urban culture, I argue that the taxicab interior and nighttime street images of New York City structure a scene of indeterminacy, intimacy, and “reality,” thus framing the passengers’ self-presentations within a context of “authenticity.” The program’s visual structure locates passengers simultaneously outside of and within social norms and reinforces hegemonic notions of race, gender, and sexuality. Passengers are situated within a scene that positions them as both eccentric and ordinary, while audiences are provided with a symbolic other that works to contain stretched-but-not-broken norms and thus anchor the normality of the viewer.


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Imaginations: Journal of Cross Cultural Image Studies