Reply to: RE>Psychology - and TV
On Fri, 24 Jun 1994 14:16:39 CDT Robert Hanczor said:
>Anyone interested in a discussion of the applicability of psychoanalysis
>as a method of television criticism?
Perhaps this is not the place for such a discussion, but let me make a stab
It happens that I am a TV producer and my lovely wife is a psychologist and
we have had many discussions recently on two areas being brought up in
Screen-L this past week.
First off, she tells me that both television and psychology seem to suffer
from what Carl Jung called a problem of familiarity. People think they
know something about psychology even when they don't because it involves
them directly. They think that first-hand experience counts for
understanding. Television also suffers from this. People feel that they
know all about television, and its effects, simply because they have
experienced so much of it.
Secondly, the use of archetype images and references in popular programs is
growing and providing a lot of satisfaction in our home viewing. A
Canadian program called "North of 60" puts a mystical slant on a few of
their stories when the lead character "dreams" (in the manner aboriginal
peoples mean) a series of visions. We also have enjoyed the "odd" episode
of Northern Exposure (which we believe refers to the north end of a moose
heading south) when it makes use of the subterranean psyche.
Personally I have felt that very good interview technique in television is
very closely related to very good therapeutic technique for clinical
psychologists. Allowing a "guest" to explore ideas before the audience and
to go into areas of their personal experiences while "guided" by a host
provides some of the most fascinating and illuminating television that I
have ever put to tape. I have only had one host who could perform that
well with their guest.
In my work as a producer of other people's messages I find that my biggest
hurdles are with the client's perceptions about the capability of the
medium to carry their message. This 'problem of familiarity' makes all my
clients into amateur producers just as the proliferation of self-help books
has promoted the notion that a person knows enough about psychology to
construct their own solutions.
As well, some have discussed (and Robert referred to it obliquely) the
difference in the viewing experience between Film and Television.
I prefer to regard the "light on" and "light through" perspective as the
most enlightening of the wide range of opinions. I believe it was Marshall
McLuhan who first suggested that television was tactile because of it's
mosaic construction of the image and the very involving work of the visual
cortex in "constructing the image" from the flying spot on the screen.
This differs greatly from the flash projection of an entire photographic
image in film transmission. The neurological investigations I have skimmed
seem to suggest that television involves more areas of the brain in a
generalised level of activity than film. Film appeals to the linear,
literate, all-at-once image processing activity of the brain that goes with
almost all the "visual arts".
I can only assume that different psychological relationships exist between
TV and its viewers and between those of film and its audiences.
This also has implications on the socializing process. People more
intimately involved with their TV images respond differently to the
communal experience of a film. Those more intimately involved with film
images tend to "view" television quite differently than they do film.
As I work more in the area of media effects I learn that there are direct
psychological consequences from watching films and from watching
I wonder if this leads toward the use of psychological "principles" to
analyze the content of the messages (for which I can only presume the
subtlest of differences as the storytelling forms converge) or to analyze
the "response" of the viewer to the experience. I much prefer the latter.
That 95 million people watch OJ Simpson take a drive on the freeway is more
indicative of the psychological state of the nation (to me) than what it
says about live news coverage or even Mr. Simpson himself.
Literary criticism has contributed much toward the analysis of film and
film style. I believe that the "form" of television requires that it be
analyzed through the disciplines of anthropology, medicine, and semiotics
instead of through psychology or psychiatry.
I see television as the tribal fire around which we gather to hear the
myths of our age. To the extent that these stories have roots in the
psyche of the tribe makes them no more permeable than film stories.
TV Producer, Instructional Technology Centre
Faculty of Education, University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
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