Comments on Blogs

10 Oct

Sorry, some of my blog comments haven’t been approved yet so I have some screen shots of them!

Comment 1:
In response to: http://jacksonrouse.wordpress.com/2011/08/30/youtube-the-new-tv/#comment-2

Comment 2:
In response to: http://teeveecultures.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/suspenseful-tv-cultures/#comments

Comment 3:
In response to: http://jesstvcultures.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/worldwide-yellow-fancies/#comment-6

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Final Report

10 Oct

Here is my final report:

Television emerged in the 1920s as a technology which brought the public sphere into the domestic space. Initially, in the post war environment, which it was conceived it was considered a luxury item, which few homes could afford, however since that time it has evolved from an indulgence to a necessity in today’s society. It is not only a technological innovation, but “a particular cultural technology” (Williams, 1974 p. 3). which has become indispensable to our current society.

One of the arguments surrounding the cultural relevance of television is whether television reflects our society’s culture, by portraying our ideals and values onscreen, or whether it dictates our culture, causing us to mirror the attitudes presented to us.
Rather than one or the other, it is more realistic to think of television as a reflexive technology, which both shapes and reflects our culture. Indeed “television’s installation in the American home is framed by the history of family recreation.” (Spigel, 1992, p. 11).

This can be seen in the way that values portrayed on television programs have changed over the years, with the changing times. In early shows such as the Donna Reed Show, family values and strength in the institution of marriage was portrayed, reaffirming the American ‘nuclear’ family dynamic. However as American culture became more progressive and issues such as women’s rights and racism were discussed more openly, television shows also began to reflect this. An example of this would be in the Mary Tyler Moore Show. This was one of the first shows in the 1970s to feature an openly homosexual character in an episode titled ‘My Brother’s Keeper’, in which Phyllis comes to terms with her brother’s sexuality.

It is likely that the civil rights debates of the times dictated what could and could be not be shown on television (in terms of what was considered socially appropriate). However, television has also been known to challenge previously held values, such as in the original Battlestar Galactica which began in 1978. In this series, an episode screened in which all the male pilots fell ill, and as a ‘last resort’ an all-female squadron were trained, and turned out to be just as competent as the male pilots. This episode was aired almost twenty years before the US Military were allowing female fighter pilots.

In more recent years popular television shows have become more commonly a transmedia text, exploring other avenues of entertainment such as webcomics, webisodes, books and music. In these additional avenues, the story is both repeated and often expanded upon, providing fans of a television show a way to seek out extra content. While there has been instances of transmedia texts in earlier times such as Twin Peaks (1990-1991) which utilized two series, a film, several books and some audio tapes, it is more commonly associated with recent television shows in the last ten years or so, due largely to the rising popularity of the internet.

Glee is a great example of a popular transmedia text, which started in 2009 and is still airing now. While the main arc of the story occurs in the television episodes, there are several other mediums, which continue the storyline off television. These include live concerts, a 3D movie, young adult novels and music recordings. In fact, they have even created an iPhone and iPad application which allows users to sing along to the songs form the show, and share this via the Glee Facebook and Twitter pages. (Cesar & Geerts,2010, p. 5). Furthermore, this approach seems to have worked, as Glee has become a hit television show, even attracting an estimated 13.5 million viewers during its Britney Spears themed episode. (Espinosa, 2010, p. 11).What is difficult to assess, is whether it is the transmedia nature of the text which has attracted viewers, or whether the transmedia cross overs simply make it easier for the already existing viewers to revel in the show. It is entirely possible that rather than the transmedia aspects of the show attracting people, it is the cultural identity of the show that has done so. Glee met somewhat of a gap in the market, by positively representing various social groups and issues that are often under-represented by popular media, such as homosexual youths, pregnant teenagers, low-income families, disability and gender conflict. Whatever the reason, Glee “has clearly carved its way into pop-culture” (Espinosa, 2010, p.13).

In fact, it has become such an icon in recent television culture, that there is a high degree of fandom surrounding the show. According to Tulloch and Jenkins, the difference between a follower of a television show and a fan, is that a fan will claim a social identity, which the follower will not. (Tulloch & Jenkins, cited in Hills, 2002, p. x). This is very true of Glee fans, which have gone so far as to identify themselves as ‘Gleeks’, a play on words created from combining the words ‘Glee’ and ‘geek’.

A particularly interesting aspect of the world-building transmedia environment in which Glee exists is apparent in Glee: The 3D Concer Movie (2011) which features fans speaking about their fandom for a large part of the film. In the form of testimonials a selection of ‘Gleeks’ speak in turn of the reasons why they enjoy the television series and how they connect to it. Fans of television shows will often tell these kinds of stories online or in person, detailing how they fell in love with a show or character and “while fans often have trouble articulating exactly why they became fans, in their stories they dramatically portray the process of becoming a fan as a journey from one point to another.” (Cavicchi, cited in Hills, 2002, p. 6).

Ultimately, television has become one of the most relevant cultural innovations in our society, in several ways. It has been a representation of our society, portraying our interests and beliefs through television shows and news broadcasts, while also acting as a catalyst for social change by questioning existing values and pushing boundaries at times. Over time the idea of the television show has evolved, now encompassing transmedia texts in keeping with the advent of the internet, allowing greater access and content for viewers of a show. Fandom, another phenomenon commonly associate with television shows, where a group of individuals brand themselves with a specific social identity in relation to something they love, has become more accessible through transmedia texts. No longer does a fan have to simply tune in next week, instead they can now log onto the forum, or watch a webisode, or read a webcomic, or buy the book. Television is constantly growing and evolving from a set of four channels in someone’s living room to an intangible web of information that can be accessed from various points and enjoyed in many ways.

Williams R, 1974, Television: Technology and Cultural Form, Routledge Classics, New York.

Hills M, 2002, Fan Cultures, Routledge, Oxon.

Spigel L, 1992, Make Room for TV: Television and the Family Ideal in Postwar America, University of Chicago Press, USA.

Espinosa D, 2010, Gender Roles in the Media and Debunking Society’s Stereotypes – Glee as a Pop-Culture Reflection, Winona State University, USA.

Cesar P & Geerts D, 2010, Past, Present and Future of Social TV: A Categorization, Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica, Amsterdam.

Blog Posts

29 Aug

For the assessment of my blog, I’d like you to read my “Response to Henry Jenkins’ Transmedia 202”, “Response to Gareth Palmer’s “Exposing Lifestyle Television””, “How TV has changed” and “Things I Watch: Buffy”.

Response to Henry Jenkins’ Transmedia 202

26 Aug

We were reading about Henry Jenkins’ reflections on transmedia storytelling today in class and I started to think about examples of this in some of my favorite television shows. Perhaps my favorite television show of all time is Twin Peaks, a series which screened in 1990, directed by David Lynch, and this is a great example of transmedia story telling.

The television show follows the lives of a host of characters living in the small town of Twin Peaks, mainly following the lead character Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), a detective investigating the murder of local girl Laura Palmer. Its a great blend of soap opera style melodrama and chilling mystery and intrigue, and while it follows a gripping storyline it still maintains a high level of surreal and imaginative sequences.

The Twin Peaks world however does not only exist in the television show. After the show was cancelled, they released a film called Fire Walk With Me, which was not a movie adaption but rather an extension of the show’s narrative, acting as a kind of prequel exploring Laura Palmer’s life before her murder. In this way, it is adding what Jenkin’s referred to as ‘additive comprehension’, providing back story. Now we have crossed two mediums; film and television.

Furthermore, the Twin Peaks world was continued in books titled “The Autobiography of F.B.I. Special Agent Dale Cooper: My Life, My Tapes”, “The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer” and “Twin Peaks: An Access Guide to the Town”, all of which continued the story in various ways. “The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer” was created as the diary seen in the television show, and traced Laura’s double life before her death, providing character background, as did “The Autobiography of F.B.I. Special Agent Dale Cooper: My Life, My Tapes” for Dale Cooper. And crossing yet ANOTHER media form, during season two of the show the creators officially released a cassette tape titled “Diane… – The Twin Peaks Tapes of Agent Cooper”, as an audio book.
Therefore Twin Peaks is the perfect example of transmedia storytelling, as it creates not just a story but an entire community and world within the town of Twin Peaks, crossing over numerous mediums to paint something that lives and breathes and is no longer ‘just’ a television series.

References:
Henry Jenkins. (2011). Transmedia 202: Further Reflections, August 1, Confessions of an ACA-Fan.

Response to Gareth Palmer’s “Exposing Lifestyle Television”

20 Aug

Gareth Palmer’s book “Exposing Lifestyle Television” was a great find, as it examines in fair detail a very broad range of lifestyle genres such as pet shows, make over shows, gardening shows, and the one that interested me the most, talent shows. Its no secret that television series such as Australian Idol, X-Factor, Australia’s Got Talent and Popstars has been popular in this country for years. In fact, even tracing back to when my parents were young, talent shows have always been around (like Young Talent Time) and people have always watched them. Certainly they have evolved, now having become far more competitive and attempting to build stronger emotional connections to the contestants than before, but at the core they are the same concept. Why are they so popular? What is it about us that makes us want to sit and watch some awkward teenagers struggle to get through Barry Manilow covers and shriek like dimwits when offered (what are probably fifty dollar Jetstar) flights to Sydney to “continue their journey” in the next round?

This is what the book is exploring. In chapter 10 “Making over the Talent Show”, written by Guy Redden, the article attributes the re-boot of talent shows to the 1999 series ‘Popstars’, originally screened in New Zealand. After this was proved to be popular a steady influx of similar shows bombarded the public broadcast, some getting more and more elaborate such as ‘Dancing on Ice’, similar to the celebrity dancing shows but taking it a step further, to teach celebrities to ice skate.
Redden attributes the enormous popularity of these shows to the successful mix of “suspenseful competition (game show), person-watching (reality TV) and stories of personal transformation (lifestyle).” (Redden 2011 p. 134) He goes on to explain that the main appeal for audiences is to see the transformation of the contestants from someone who is seen to ‘need’ a change (the single mother, the country bumpkin, someone with a disability) to somebody that has achieved something, and wins not just a recording contract but a “new life”.

However, after reading his chapter I feel that Redden neglected the other main appeal of shows in this genre – the need to watch people fail miserably. More than wanting to see these people succeed, there is a basic human drive that makes us enjoy seeing people as failed outcasts, who think mistakenly that they have what it takes. Observe the following clips:

We don’t WANT to see them transform, we like seeing them fail, and we find it funny. This is one of the biggest appeals of the earlier episodes of the show, and until all of the people like this have been weeded out, it’s the main comic relief. In later episodes, its true that the talent level is higher and the emotional connections to characters/contestants is stronger, but in the earlier episodes I would argue that the main reason we watch is the cringeworthy contestants, because they give us a sense of “well, I could do that better”.

References:
Guy Redden (2011), Making Over the Talent Show, In: Gareth Palmer Exposing Lifestyle Television, United Kingdom: Ashgate Publishing

Opening Credits – Six Feet Under

19 Aug

The opening sequence of HBO series Six Feet Under tells us a lot about the content and mood of the show, almost as if it is allowing us to assess whether or not we will enjoy the series in one minute and forty seconds. The sequence is accompanied by music composed by Thomas Newman, and was so widely acclaimed it won the 2002 Emmy Award for Outstanding Main Title Theme Music and two Grammy Awards in 2003 for Best Instrumental Composition and Best Instrumental Arrangement. The music is a clever blend of both cheerful, bright sounds interspersed with more melancholy, delicate moments. These moments are generally accompanied by a visual that describes the fleeting quality of life, and the inevitability of death, such as the wilting of a beautiful bouquet of flowers.

The overall message of the sequence is that life is fleeting, death is inescapable, and that it is simply a normal part of life. This sentiment is shared throughout the whole series in which characters are forced to face the reality of death while working in a funeral home, each dealing with it differently – some terrified at the prospect of their demise, others simply accepting it as a fact of life (as echoed in the cheerful opening music).

The opening, although not gory in any way, shows the path of a corpse from the hospital to burial, and would undoubtedly turn away any viewers who were squeamish about dead bodies or death in general, while attracting others who might have an interest in existentialism, or simply are curious about death and the lives of those working in the ‘death industry’, ie a funeral home.

Things I Watch: Buffy

8 Aug

Since this is a Television Cultures Blog, I see it as only fit that I write about some of the tv shows that I am addicted to, and what it is about them that I find interesting. Starting back from when I was younger, the first television show that I really took a shine to would have been Buffy the Vampire Slayer. After watching a couple of episodes with my big sister it quickly became my favorite television show at the time (and certainly, on some days, it still is).

As most of you are probably aware, the show tracks the life of Buffy Summers, a seemingly ordinary teenager with a dark secret: she is the Chosen One, the sworn defender of the humans against the evil ghoulies of the night, which most people don’t believe in. Not only does she stake vampires, but she defeats all kinds of paranormal creatures (spanning from werewolves, ghosts, demons, and gods themselves). The television show starts off as a cute, tongue in cheek teen drama, but in following seasons eventually morphs into a more serious show, as times grow tougher for Buffy and her friends in the face of impending doom.

Comparing an episode from season one and season seven is a most strange experience; the pace and dialogue of the shows are vastly different, which I belive works as the audience base grew in age with Buffy, with the first couple of seasons being more catered to a sixteen/seventeen year old crowd, and the later seasons being far more adult. However, the great thing about the changing nature of the show is that even though it ‘grows up’, and starts to become an edgier and more confronting series, it always stays true to the characters, with little moments of Buffy’s spunkiness and Willow’s cute nerdiness (circa season 1) shining through, even in later seasons.

Season One

The show’s plotline followed a familiar trope – the human girl falling in love with the undead vampire, however turned it on its head a bit by adding in the fact that Buffy, as the slayer, is super strong and therefore matches (or perhaps exceeds) the strength of her male counterparts. The show questions traditional gender roles by placing Buffy in a position of power (at times making this a cause of conflict for her, such as when she dates Rylie, a human male, who finds it difficult to accept her as being stronger and a better fighter than him). It also broke down some hetero-dominated norms in television by showing the first lesbian sex scene in network television. Both of these things made me consider the television show in its later years as not simply a teen show but as a landmark series which pushed the barrier on what was considered ‘the norm’, and I feel we really all owe a lot to Joss Whedon the creator of Buffy for pushing us forward in this respect.