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April 1995, Week 1


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Jajasoon Tlitteu <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 6 Apr 1995 14:59:10 CDT
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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----------------------------Original message----------------------------
>The trash i refer to is daytime talk shows and daytime soap opera, and tabloid
>tv and
>real life drama like
>Cops and Rescue 911.  my point is, why can't soap operas develop characters
>like Northern Exposure (or even E R which i have started to like).... or talk
>shows occasionally discuss politics,  environment, instead of private
>"confessionals" by paid amatuer actors?
I think it's interesting that the TV you label trash is the same TV that is
most associated with women audiences and lower class audiences.  While
certainly I see differences in "quality" between Ricki Lake and E.R., I
think that you will find more diversity, more difference of voices (and
faces), and more politically marginalized viewpoints on Ricki than on any
prime time show.  The marginal corners of society is more interesting
politically than the mainstream.  And there are many politically motivated
discussions on talk shows that are very frank, diverse, and exciting.
Of course I say this as an E.R. fan and someone who can only take so much
of the tabloid stuff.  But I think it's important to note that the label of
"trash" or "lowbrow" is not "natural" but politically constructed to
marginalize voices and audiences.  So even if you don't like it (and it's
certainly your right to hate whatever you want), don't condemn those who do
like it and assume that your taste is based on natural aesthetics rather
than political and social conditions.
>On sitcoms, for example, when a "serious issue" is raised, a new character,
>who one of our regular character is in love  (eldest teenage daughter, name
>any series) with  is introduced and the new character is befelled by disaster
>(killed by a drunk driver, stricken with HIV,etc.) all within in the same 30
>minute episode, to teach some moral lesson or educate on a social problem.
>how can anyone learn form this, or be affected by it, without having known
>the character, like in a good film, or a novel, or short story. there is no
>room for empathy (when that's the shows aim) when there is no character
>development--- i feel more "attatched" to the characters because they are
>more like real human--- they grow and change and learn.
Are you arguing that the form of a closed narrative is inherently
conservative?  I see that argument, suggesting that the notion that a
problem can be resolved and contained due usually to the power of the
individual devoid of social positioning is problematic.  But if this is
your point, consider the soap opera as a more progressive form, with
problems that never fully resolve, characters you know extremely
intimately, and no fixed position to view the narrative from (i.e. no
central character or situation to frame your reading).
>TV be can be entertaining, fine... but real entertainment is engaging,
>challenging, and somewhat informative...this is really "interactive" as you
>put it. There has to be style and substance in order to interacted with... i
>am Not entertained by leaning back and cynically mocking "full House" and
>"baywatch" (as some of my coffee-house college friends do) ....
I think you misunderstood my use of interactivity (or probably I didn't
explain it clearly enough).  I don't mean necessarily that people directly
mock a text (though this is one form), but rather that we pick & choose
("poach" to use deCerteau's term) the elements that we feel relate to our
social position and that give us pleasure, and then reject or ignore the
elements that contradict our position or we feel oppress us.
A clear example I've heard used is Charlie's Angels.  This is apparently a
very patriarchal text, with women as sex objects being rescued and defined
by patriarchy, clearly represented by the disembodied voice of Charlie.
But female viewers have reported that they seized the meanings of the show
that centered on the efficacy and power of strong women in a typically
masculine framework (driving fast cars, shooting guns, catching crooks,
etc.) and filtered out the "jiggle" elements.  Many reportedly turned off
the show at the end when Charlie would reinstil the patriarchal model by
calling them "good girls," clearly rejecting this dominant meaning.
Anyway my point is that making distinctions between media and genres within
a medium is a political act and we should consider what meanings we're
circulating by doing this.  Look forward to more discussion on this.
jajasoon tlitteu  ([log in to unmask])
"You've probably heard that Microsoft has recently taken over the Catholic
Church. The Vatican was pleased, saying, 'Well, we've been using icons for
over 2000 years, and Microsoft has only been using them for 3, so we figure
we'll be able to help them out a bit.'"