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December 1996, Week 1


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Chris Worsnop <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 29 Nov 1996 11:17:29 -0500
text/plain (120 lines)
Thanks, Jeremy, for your thoughtful response to the NAomi Klein column. It
caused quite a bit of discussion on the different lists where I posted it.
The Toronto Star, by the way, is one of the few Canadian papers not owned by
a conglomerate. It is, however, its own huge entity, encompasing a lot of
small weeklies across the country and the entire empire of Harlequin Romance
books and videos.
>Naomi Klein writes:
>>The mergers have bred a monster race of slick and safe entertainment
>>caricatures. Through carefully timed releases of movies, magazines, video
>>games, CDs and CD-ROMs, they can now hijack our culture on every front and
>>feed all the profits into the same pockets.
>>In this era of so-called information choice, synergy has emerged as a means
>>of controlling consumption so thoroughly that choice is practically taken
>>out of the equation.
>I'm always intrigued to read criticism of one medium by another--as in news
>stories *about* news coverage of sensational trials or Naomi Klein's
>analysis in the TORONTO STAR of the web woven by Time Warner around its
>release of SPACE JAM (thanks to Chris Worsnop for reprinting it for us).
>Klein's piece charts one example of contemporary intertextuality and media
>commerce and I enjoyed reading it for that, but I also am wary of newspaper
>articles that attack film and other media industries as if they [newspapers]
>were somehow separate from those industries and could not be tarred by the
>same brush. Is the TORONTO STAR itself not owned by a larger media concern
>(this is not a wholly rhetorical question; I really don't know)?  Why are
>newspapers left out of her list of "carefully timed releases"?  Could the
>TORONTO STAR not be liable to the same sorts of criticism as Klein levels at
>the "Time Warner-Turner empire"?
>In her efforts to chronicle the inner workings of this empire (a term with
>interesting connotations of imperialism and colonialism), Klein overstates
>her case with regard to ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY's participation in the SPACE
>JAM hegemony:
>>The current issue of Entertainment Weekly - owned of course, by Time Inc. -
>>plugs the Space Jam website and the Warner Music Space Jam soundtrack. An
>>interview with R. Kelly, who performs on the album, asks such hard-hitting
>>questions as: ``So what does R. Kelly have in common with Bugs Bunny?''
>>The fawning review declares that the soundtrack ``is more than just another
>>all-star Jam session - it's a play-by-play of contemporary R&B.'' It's a
>>bold musical claim, considering that the disc contains a song by one Bugs
>>Bunny, making his debut as a gangsta rapper.
>I hesitate to defend EW (which aspires to be a media watchdog, but clearly
>is not), but I do want to point out that its following issue (22 November
>1996) contains a review of SPACE JAM by Lisa Schwarzbaum that excoriates the
>film.  She rates it a D+ and ends with the following:
>"This mediocrity disguised as entertainment, this greed promoted as
>synergy--this, to paraphrase that seminal media study, BROADCAST NEWS, is
>what the devil looks like.  It's Tasmanian and it's coming to a multiplex
>near you."
>My point is not that EW--"owned of course, by Time Inc."--is free of
>corporate hegemony, of helping to "control consumption."  Clearly it is not.
>However, I think that a more accurate view of the mediasphere must allow
>that "synergy" does not control consumption and eliminate viewer choice, as
>Klein maintains.  Rather, synergy fits into certain media discourses and
>that those discourses frequently contain *contradictory* values.  One week
>EW validates SPACE JAM, the next week it attacks it.
>The viewer/reader's consumption is not fully determined or controlled by
>these discourses.  Instead, his/her viewing/reading is a process of bringing
>his/her discourses into contact with the discourses of the text--as Stuart
>Hall and other ethnographers would put it.  In this manner, values are
>constantly negotiated and re-negotiated.
>The mergers of media giants are dangerous things, I believe, and can have
>very real effects on texts, values and discourses--as when mogul Ted Turner
>steps in and stalls the release of Cronenberg's CRASH (reported,
>incidentally, in EW--owned of course by Time Warner-Turner)--but it is
>dangerous to presume that financial mergers necessarily lead to discursive
>ones.  Ideology, as Althusser maintains, has a life of its own even though
>it's bullied around by economics.
>Jeremy Butler
>[log in to unmask]
>Telecommunication & Film/University of Alabama/Tuscaloosa
>To signoff SCREEN-L, e-mail [log in to unmask] and put SIGNOFF SCREEN-L
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Chris M. Worsnop
Consultant, speaker, workshop leader
media education, assessment, writing
2400 Dundas Street West
Unit 6, Suite 107
Ontario, Canada
L5K 2R8
Email:  <[log in to unmask]>
Phone:  (905) 823-0875
"The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds: and
the pessimist fears this is true."
James Branch Cabell
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