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December 1996, Week 2


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"Edward R. O'Neill" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 13 Dec 1996 00:00:53 -0800
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        The topic of recent work on reality tv came up not long ago on this
list.  I believe all the "back issues" (so to speak) can be accessed at the
Screen-L website.
        In any case, I'll reiterate what I said then, which is that there's
an entitled "The Seen of the Crime:  Violence, Anxiety and the Domestic in
Police Reality Programming" by Edward R. O'Neill which appeared in a special
issue of *CineAction* called "Murder in America" (no. 38).
        O'Neill's main thesis seems to be (I say "seems" because he has a
number of theses, and their relationship isn't always altogether clear) that
police reality programming represents a particular configuration of the
public space of the media and the private space of the home, a configuration
which is anticipated by structures within melodrama.
        In particular, O'Neill sees in police reality programming an
invitation to the spectators to identify with an intrusive policing force
and its gaze.  The spectator  identifies with this position of power, even
though it is anxiogenic--anxiogenic insofar as the penetration into the
private domestic sphere that we witness could in principle happen to anyone
sitting at home watching the show, and the very explicit invitation of shows
like *America's Most Wanted* is for the viewer to be alert for suspicious
activity on the part of neighbors.
        No doubt O'Neill's argument is marred by a kind of fashionable
pessimism and irony which pose as being beyond pessimism and irony, but
there may be some interest in his argument.
R. Mutt
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