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March 1996, Week 1


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Meryem Constance Ersoz <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 1 Mar 1996 07:07:04 -0800
text/plain (131 lines)
about the term discourse community--I don't think current usage
necessarily implies the kind of homogenous reading practices to which
Mike Frank's model seems to be leading (either towards or away from or
both, the point being that homogeneity prevails). I don't remember where
I read this --Community of Writers? Shape of Reason? One of the comp
pedagogy books. But part of my understanding of the discourse community
model was that we have our tentacles in multiple discourse communities,
and our allegiances to both/and/or our different communities can cause
conflicts in our own reading practice. I don't think this model
necessarily dictates that all readers share the same readings, only that
they share some common discursive interests. This list, of course, is a
prime example of how a single discursive community can provide multiple
readings. We all share a common discourse--film--although even that
varies in terms of expertise, approach, methodologies, breadth of
knowledge. But that certainly doesn't lead to the conclusion that a
hegemonic reading of film *necessarily* prevails. I see plenty of
conflict here.
I would say, however, that in terms of representation, this list tends to
be more male in terms of who takes advantage of speaking, of owning the
voice. But that doesn't mean that its members are incapable of reading
against this grain or are somehow helplessly inhaled into its hegemonic
In my experience, little girls tend to read against the grain quite a
bit. The so-called subversive reading of Beauty and the Beast comes as no
surprise and doesn't seem all that subversive--young girls are also known
to torture Barbie--cut the hair, invert the breasts, throw them into a
box with Ken *or* Skipper and shake them violently and call it having
sex. The secret world of girls is not what our culture advertises.
Anybody ever read Margaret Atwood's "Cat's Eye?" It's more like that. I
think the discourse commmunity of male film academics trying to figure
out whether young girls protesting the end of Beauty and the Beast is
subversive or not *may* be doing so without adequate information or
insight into the discourse community under scrutiny because the discourse
community may be a community, but that does not necessarily make its
discourse legible or its voice heard.
The implication of what I'm saying is *not*, by the way, that male
academics should not be doing this's just the opposite...I love
the image of Jerry chatting up a bunch of little girls about what they
thought about the movie...what I *am* saying is that if we want to work
with adequate information about this discourse community, what Jerry is
doing is essential. It' gives them voice and him important information
that allows him to know the discourse community he is studying,
without assuming that they are passive vessels into which culture is
Meryem Ersoz
University of Oregon
On Thu, 29 Feb 1996, Mike Frank wrote:
> with reference to my comments on "correct" readings of disney's "b & b,"
> jerry says . . .
> "Frank reasons that the girls' readings [those common among adolescent girls]
> > (being different from our own) are not correct within 'the discourse
> > community subsumed by the film.'
> >
> >"I was waiting for somebody to fall in this trap.  Why is THIS discourse
> > community (the 500 are so cinephiles who are obsessed with film on
> > Screen-L) THE community subsumed by this particular film.  C'mon, we
> > represent a slim sliver of the viewing audience.   At least 20 million
> > pre-adolescent girls have seen this film, and I have not found one yet who
> > saw the heterosexual coupling at the end of it as a positive
> > representation."
> >
> being very grateful for the kind words jerry adds in his conclusion, i'm more
> than happy to oblige him by falling into his trap . . . but i think the
> matter may be a bit more complex . . .
> . . . for starters i certainly don't think that film critics and scholars are
> even remotely the discourse community that movies aim at . . . we're just a
> bunch of wierdos, and that's fine with me . . . but in my own wierdness i DO
> think that disney was not shaping a movie for an audience that would see the
> resolution as an unsatisfactory one, and that the implied audience of the
> film (implied both in the wayne booth sense of the audience created by the
> narration of the text as its ideal reader, and implied in the $$$ sense of
> catering to audiences that pay for happy endings) is one that WOULD read the
> ending as "happy" . . .
> . . . i haven't seen the film, so i can't comment on it sepcifically . . .
> but i take it that the implicit discourse of disneyism is conservative with
> a reassuring recuperation into the dominant ideology serving as closure . . .
> from what i gather this film falls nicely into that sort of narrative
> politics . . . and thus other readings are, if not incorrect, at least
> deviant . . .
> now  . . . and this is the good part . . . if in fact it's true that loads of
> adolescent girls have responses that are, at least in these terms, "deviant" .
> . .  if, that is, these kids have--without ever having read a page of
> feminist film theory--started (in modleski's terms) to read these hegemonic
> films "against the grain,"  then, boys and girls, something VERY  intersting
> going on . . .
> a more cynical and pessimistic view, though, might be that the movie allows
> the girls to act out, as it were, latent deviant impulses, while the
> hegemonic [patriarchal, if you insist] resolution of the plot reasserts the
> normative force of the manifest . . . in other words, they like the dream
> but, if pressed, would have to admit that they really need to wake up from it
> . . . something like this coming to terms with the necessities of the real is,
> after all, what bettleheim sees as the classic function of all fairy tales .
> . . and that is why fairy tales, for all of their dark side, are never
> subversive texts
> . . . my own cynical guess is that the bettleheim explanation works best . .
> . but wouldn't it be lovely if in fact disney has really missed the boat on
> the kind of politics these films actually articulate for their main audiences?
> . . . we certainly need to know more, and think more, about this
> mike frank
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