The Velvet Light Trap Issue #85
Title: Bad Objects
The concept of a “bad object” has long been a moving target in media studies. Although the term is rarely defined with any specificity, a “bad object” is typically a text that is used in critical analysis with the implicit or explicit acknowledgement of its perceived violations of “good” taste. Excess, camp, escapism, the abject, and negotiations of the margins of mainstream culture often mark these objects. The concept is important in feminist and psychoanalytic theories, as well as in genre studies, in which it is mobilized to justify the examination of B-horror, exploitation film, or pornography, for example. The term has helped challenge hierarchies of medium specificity. For example, Michele Hilmes has written that television was treated as a “bad object” of media studies, a sentiment echoed by many other scholars. These uses of the term reflect the fact that age, class, gender, and race have often been motivating factors in the construction of evaluative canons.
Yet the applications of this term have rapidly diversified in the past decade. With the increase in scholarship on new media, social media, video games, and global flows, together with greater attention to diverse identities behind/on/in front of the screen, the conversation on taste cultures has shifted significantly. This issue seeks to expand or question the boundaries and applications of the “bad object” as an analytical framework. We welcome pieces that challenge the foundations of this divide. How can we re-calibrate these and other approaches to address purported bad objects within our contemporary media landscape? Can we approach bad objects beyond the text itself in issues of production cultures, distribution, and consumption?
This issue welcomes submissions that push beyond the binaries of "good" and "bad," "serious" and "ephemeral," and “high” and “low” culture, exploring some of the following themes:
• Malleability of cultural hierarchies through time and place
• Consumption of bad objects (hate-watching, “so bad it’s good,” cringe-pop, etc.)
• Teaching with bad objects
• Discourse as bad objects (trade press, fake news, toxic fandoms, etc.)
• Perceptions of formats and genres as bad objects
• Diversity of reception contexts (mainstream, cult, fan, subversive, revolutionary, and so on)
• Definitions of “bad” in relation to queer media, gender, race, class, and ability
• Distribution, exhibition, and transnational flow of bad objects
• New takes on paracinema, trash, kitsch, and camp
• Afterlife of bad objects (recirculation, remixing, preservation)
Submissions should be between 6,000 and 7,500 words, formatted in Chicago Style. Please submit an electronic copy of the paper, along with a separate one-page abstract, both saved as a Microsoft Word file. Remove any identifying information so that the submission is suitable for anonymous review. Quotations not in English should be accompanied by translations. Send electronic manuscripts and/or any questions to [log in to unmask] by January 25.
About the Journal
TVLT is a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal of film, television, and new media. The journal draws on a variety of theoretical and historiographical approaches from the humanities and social sciences and welcomes any effort that will help foster the ongoing processes of evaluation and negotiation in media history and criticism. While TVLT maintains its traditional commitment to the study of American film, it also expands its scope to television and other media, to adjacent institutions, and to other nations' media. The journal encourages both approaches and objects of study that have been neglected or excluded in past scholarship.
Graduate students at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and the University of Texas at Austin coordinate issues in alternation, and each issue is devoted to a particular theme. TVLT's Editorial Advisory Board includes such notable scholars as Hector Amaya, Ben Aslinger, Caetlin Benson-Allott, Aymar Jean Christian, Lisa Dombrowski, Dan Herbert, Lucas Hildebrand, Deborah Jaramillo, Roberta Pearson, Debra Ramsay, Bob Rehak, and Avi Santo. TVLT's graduate student editors are assisted by their local faculty advisors: Mary Beltrán, Ben Brewster, Jonathan Gray, Lea Jacobs, Derek Johnson, Shanti Kumar, Charles Ramí¬rez Berg, Thomas Schatz, and Janet Staiger.
Online resources for film/TV studies may be found at ScreenSite