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Captive audience

Listeners or onlookers who have no choice but to attend. For example, It’s a required course and, knowing he has a captive audience, the professor rambles on endlessly. This expression, first recorded in 1902, uses captive in the sense of “unable to escape.”
Contemporary Examples

“This is kind of a captive audience,” explained Sgt. Sean Whitcomb.
Seattle Police Hand Out Doritos at Hempfest Winston Ross August 17, 2013

Drill Sargeants [sic] go out of their way to make fun of you for the captive audience.
Suicidal Soldiers Elspeth Reeve May 10, 2009

Asian slapstick humor does not translate well, and most of the captive audience agreed, although they grudgingly watched it.
Prisoners Get Cultural Fix with 8-Tracks and Bootleg Cassettes Daniel Genis August 17, 2014

There’s a captive audience for TV shows starring people who horrify us with their behavior.
Our Pop Culture Wish List for 2014 Kevin Fallon December 29, 2013

At its heart is a business model that keeps Jewish citizens a captive audience.
Israeli Attorney Suggests Common-Law Marriage As an Act of Civil Disobedience Irit Rosenblum November 7, 2013

A Wiig character invariably has a captive audience—including us—which they pummel with their own anxiety.
Kristen Wiig Blows Up Bryan Curtis May 17, 2010

Historical Examples

Happiness lifted some of the gloom from his face as he realized that he had a captive audience who would listen to his troubles.
Deathworld Harry Harrison

As you can see, I dearly love a lecture—and a captive audience.
This Crowded Earth Robert Bloch

In exchange for his generosity he intended to get some information from his captive audience.
The Ethical Engineer Henry Maxwell Dempsey

He thought sourly to himself: “I’m a captive audience without even an interest in the production tricks.”
Operation: Outer Space William Fitzgerald Jenkins


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  • Captivity

    the state or period of being held, imprisoned, enslaved, or confined. (initial capital letter) Babylonian captivity. Contemporary Examples If you found yourself on the losing side of a tribal war, odds are good you would be sold into captivity. Slavery As ‘Innovation’ and Other Provocative Ideas: What I Learned From Henry Louis Gates’s ‘Many Rivers […]

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  • Captor

    a person who has captured a person or thing. Contemporary Examples Reading his letter, I thought of the famous exchange between the Confederate soldier and his Yankee captor. It’s Time for Us to Go Christopher Buckley October 27, 2009 Innuendo: Two “punishers” strip down and start to seduce Theon as part of the mindgames enacted […]

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