Blame attributions and mitigated confessions: The discursive construction of guilty admissions in celebrity TV confessionals

2019-06-12T08:48:35Z (GMT) by Wendy Archer Ruth Parry
Drawing on insights from conversation analysis, discursive psychology and social psychology, this paper describes some interactional features of two celebrity TV confessionals and the resources used by the TV interviewers and celebrity guests to attribute, accept or deny responsibility for their transgressions. The analytic interest lies in how confessions are locally and interactionally managed, i.e. how ‘doing confessing’ is achieved in the television interview context. We show how the host’s opening turn constrains the celebrity guest’s contribution and secures overt admission of guilt, whilst simultaneously inviting the celebrity guest to tell their side of the story. We also show how celebrity guests produce descriptions which minimise the extent and severity of their transgressions, reduce agency and transform the character of their transgression. In doing so, we argue that celebrity interviewees can convey mitigations and extenuations which diminish the extent of their responsibility - calling into question the very nature of their confession. We propose that our findings demonstrate the hybrid nature of interviewing in the celebrity TV confessional and contribute to our understanding of how ‘doing confessing’ in the public eye is discursively and interactionally negotiated.