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May 1992


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"Benjamin L. Alpers" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 25 May 1992 17:01:09 EDT
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I write this with only a slight education in Brechtian theories of drama
but a far too extensive knowledge of (U.S.) television and film . . .
It strikes me that Keith Nightenhelser is quite on the ball in his critique of
some of the ascriptions of Brechtianism put forth on the list.  In thinking
about this question over the weekend (before having read Keith's posting), I
began to notice one gargantuan difference between Brecht's "epic theatre" and
all of the examples of direct address from such shows as _Moonlighting_,
_Garry Shandling_, _Parker Lewis_, and so forth:  while Brechtian theater aimed
at a kind of anti-illusionism, forgrounding the theatre as artifact and the
actor as actor, these shows forground the show as show, but present the actor
(or character) as a transcendent figure who is his/her own author.  While
perhaps creating alienation vis a vis the action in the show, the effect
tries to make the actor/character _more_ real in comparison and gives the
audience the impression that its  position as observer allows it a kind of
control through irony [NB:  I'm not sure that this sentence says what I want
it to say . . . does it make any sense?].  In short, far from being Brechtian,
direct speech on TV serves to further mystify production.  When an audience is
served the illusion of critical distance, particularly through the person of
a character with whom the audience strongly identifies (a la the Bruce Willis
character on _Moonlighting_ and again contra Brecht), it becomes that much more
difficult to achieve actual critical distance from the production.
Or something like that . . .
-- Ben Alpers
   Princeton University (for whom I dare not speak)
   [log in to unmask]