Enron's perp walk: Status degradation ceremonies as narrative

Gray Cavender, Kishonna Gray, Kenneth W. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The collapse of Enron and revelations about the widespread financial wrongdoing of other corporations prompted congressional hearings in 2002. The hearings culminated in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, legislation that regulates the accounting industry and imposes prison sentences on executives who lie on their corporations' financial statements. There was extensive media coverage of Enron and the other high-profile corporations and of the congressional hearings into their wrongdoing. In this paper, we analyze the media representations of these matters. We focus on media coverage of the political language that was offered during the hearings, on the media's own characterizations of these events, and on how the coverage represented corporate wrongdoing and its control. Our analysis is in three parts. First, we track the 'bad apples' language that shifted blame from the corporations onto individuals. Second, we consider the angry denunciations from Congress that resemble status degradation ceremonies. Third, we analyze the hearings as representations of the scandal story using a critical dramaturgy. We argue that the hearings became a spectacle that deflected critique from the economy and shored up the legitimacy of the government and the economy. The usage of critical dramaturgy helps us to make sense of criminological research about the public's sensibilities of corporate crime.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-266
Number of pages16
JournalCrime, Media, Culture
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2010


  • corporate crime
  • critical dramaturgy
  • political news
  • status degradation ceremony

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Law


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