Showcase Post #2 – *Enhanced Edition: Becoming Mad (Men)

As I am about to start on my second showcase post, I belatedly realised that ‘oh hey, both my posts share similar points in terms of strong feminism/gender issues!’ And then it struck me how alike Game of Thrones and Mad Men are, as both settings have a great tendency to showcase the alpha male leading and taking the submissive female under their wing, until one or two exceptional cases decide to go against all formalities and normalities with a ‘I can do whatever I want even though I’m female’ mentality. However, these strong opinion-minded female characters will again and again face obstacles that would temporarily challenge them as their male counterparts continue to flaunt their sexist behaviours and then some. Although I am not familiar with the series (at least not yet), I have learnt from  Bergman and Archer’s brief chapter (‘Don Draper, George Constanza, and the Non-Meaning of Life’ in I Watch, Therefore I Am) that Don Draper is your typical 1960s-esh slick, handsome and rich advertising executive of Sterling Cooper that smokes like a chimney, drinks (scotch? whiskey?) like a fish and cheats on his wife, Betty, as if it was the norm to do so. Don is more or less considered as a standard stereotype of a successful advertising executive that deals with business and private affairs as they come and go. In addition to that, since Don is an established man in the advertising industry with pretty much everything he ever wants, it is time to throw in some angst and anxiety to make it more interesting and voilà! You now have the series that had won numerous Emmys and Golden Globes.

***

Now we proceed to the discussion of gender themes (i.e. feminism) of Mad Men. According to Cracknell’s chapter on ‘Women of the Avenue’ in The Real Mad Men where real women in the advertising industry had managed to prevail themselves within the said industry, especially in retaining what’s left of their sanity. It was common knowledge to most that while women do usually work in offices, there seemed to be a lack of female employees in the creative industry, especially when it usually refers to the hectic pace and need of having to entertain and meet racy clients. However, there are exceptional cases in which certain women have held significant positions in the agency, given the time period that was also showcased in Mad Men (roughly around the 1960s). Again, this post only strictly refers to the last episode of season 1 (‘The Wheel’) whereby Peggy was promoted to junior copywriter by Don after her triumphant success over her campaign on ‘The Relaxicisor’. And, like modern days as well, Pete who acted somewhat like her assistant all the while was severely ticked off for having not only a woman, but a woman he previously had a secret affair with to trump him in their workplace. Putting that in mind, it was mentioned in the aforementioned article that no matter how well a female employee works and presents herself within the agency, the issue of not getting equal treatment still exists. In addition to that, the general attitude of clothing and appearances still hold a weighty part in judging the performance of a worker, especially for the women. The women in Mad Men are often impeccably well groomed with hairstyles that would cause one to stop in their tracks and wonder exactly how much product and hair spray they used for each character. Again, this refers back to the unequal treatment between men and women, seeing men can go to work late, poorly dressed, but light up a cigarette and one would blend into the crowd of suits nicely. With women however, one has to groom their appearances again and again in order to ensure that her other colleagues in the agency would not look down on her. Another example would have to be Peggy’s weight gain that caused her to lose so much of the confidence she had built up over the time she spent in Sterling Cooper. Although like what I have discussed in my previous post, it was interesting to see how disheartened and low-esteemed Peggy felt as she was trying so hard to hide and mask that with another layer of  pseudo confidence.

***

Moving back to the scene in which was mainly focused om in the previous blog post, ‘The Relaxicisor’ is a result of Peggy’s innovative and creative twist of turning a product into something that is much more beneficial to its consumers. Her infamous slogan ‘You’ll Love The Way It Makes You Feel’ interestingly enough shines a whole new light onto the notion of openly discussing feminine sexual pleasure, again within the time period that was 40 odd years ago. In Melissa Jane Hardie’s article ‘The Three Faces of Mad Men she brought up that ‘quality tv’ such as Mad Menreserves the ability to create a market dominance of different women-based texts and themes because of its sheer portrayal of strong and like-minded women finally being able to take a stand for themselves instead of hiding and obeying the man’s every single whim. On a related note, it is also quoted in the article that ‘…[feminine pleasure] becomes the mechanically predictable or productive sign of the lowbrow masked by self-conscious masculine angst.’ Moving on, it is indeed fascinating to learn that while the last episode of season 1 basically indicates the pleasure of women, essentially through Peggy’s ‘The Relaxicisor’s’ scenes, however ironically the actual female characters within the series themselves seem to experience little to none pleasure at all themselves. Examples of this includes the scenes where Betty found out that her psychiatrist was contacting Don all the while after her consultations, also the scene where Peggy had given birth to Pete’s illegitimate child. And this is only within that one episode alone!

As a conclusion, one can firmly state that the success and madness over Mad Men is definitely well deserved, with the qualities and themes both the scriptwriters and director had manage to include in the series suggests that Mad Men  is not your typical every evening soapie but an almost full-length feature film showcasing the different vulnerable and problematic lives of the people who are affiliated with the advertising industry. Coming form a student who has some sort of vague background on advertising, I solely believe and understand even given with the current environment there are many almost ‘respected’ old traditions where one might always have to adhere to, especially with women. Referring back to Peggy again, one of the main reasons why she appeals so much to me is that in spite of her internal battle with her inferior self, Peggy’s character definitely portrayed a strong self-made woman that would occasionally crumble from time to time, but I admire her overall spirit as well as the actress that plays her.

Cheers to yet another well-made ‘quality tv’ series, this is definitely something I would like to own box sets of someday!

Blogging off,

PW~

References:-

– Bergman G & Archer P (2011), ‘Don Draper, George Constanza, and the Non-Meaning of Life’ in I Watch, Therefore I Am, viewed 8 October 2012, EBL Reader, <http://rmit.eblib.com.au.ezproxy.lib.rmit.edu.au/patron/FullRecord.aspx?p=791162>

– Cracknell A (2011), ‘Women in the Avenue’  in The Real Mad Men : The Renegades of Madison Avenue and the Golden Age of Advertisingviewed 8 October, EBL Reader, <http://rmit.eblib.com.au.ezproxy.lib.rmit.edu.au/patron/FullRecord.aspx?p=900379>

– Hardie MJ (2012), ‘Three Faces of Mad Men‘ in Middlebrow Culture and Quality Television, Cultural Studies Review, vol.18 no. 2., viewed 8 October, University of Sydney, <http://epress.lib.uts.edu.au/journals/index.php/csrj/article/view/2762/2952>

Showcase Post #1 – *Enhanced Edition: A Game of Controversy

I have chosen to write on the Game of Thrones (GoT) as one of the two special ‘enhanced editions’ of my previous posts. The reason (other than my personal interest and liking towards the show) is that the series genuinely intrigued not only myself but many others with its self-sparked controversies and indisputable built-up hype as the seasons progress.

After furthering my research, I have stumbled upon an article (Halliday and Thomas’ American Telefantasy: An Introductionthat deems GoT as one of the looming monsters in the American Telefantasy genre/category, which basically consists of elements in regards to science fiction, fantasy and horror. Halliday and Thomas provided a thoughtful insight in which they discussed about the ‘newness’ of the general American culture and society, that having them being identified as ‘The New World’. However, this also  leads contemporary America into a period of trauma, anxiety and uncertainty as they lack the basic historical structure or background whereby they could associate themselves with.

These contemporary anxieties subsequently tend to represent themselves in examples of shows that are within the American Telefantasy genre, hence leading one to consider about how the genre is typically identified, examined and contextualised. The American Telefantasy genre had definitely embraced GoT as one of its own, as the series shows the epitome of all three elements (examples include: science fiction – the White Walkers, fantasy – dragons, horror – never-ending bloodied deaths). Additionally, the article also suggests that with the modern genre it is possible to showcase (post)modern concepts, specifically on the increase of headstrong and independent female protagonists (i.e. Dollhouse and Fringe). Examples of these in GoT would have to include the khaleesi Daenerys Targaryen, the incestuous queen Cersei Lannister and even the young but feisty Arya Stark and so on. These characters hence tend to be personal subjectivities and fractured identities where positive outcomes can be uncovered by means of strong gendered and morally ambiguous narratives within GoT.

***

Moving on to the second issue where I had previously discussed in my GoT blog post, I had referred to a couple of articles that were heavily focused on the sexualised gender themes and the notion of ‘using’ its female audience (i.e. female sexuality) in order to market the series further. Again, like it was previously mentioned, due to the existing female fan base prior to the release of the series by HBO it was no surprise to have it be really well-received among the ‘fangirls’. This statement hence continues to elaborate the fact that gender and sexuality is very much heavily portrayed and focused on throughout the GoT series. In Sandqvist’s article (Politics, Hidden Agendas and a Game of Thrones: An Intersectional Analysis of Women’s Sexuality in George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones), she stated the principal issues of the series involve forming hierarchies that are male-dominated where the male gender, straight sexuality and fertility are considered as defining properties.

Furthermore, it was depicted that women can in turn learn to obtain power if they were to marry into it, and of course as always this must also be agreed and supported by their respective husbands. One of the key examples would be the arranged marriage between Daenerys Targaryen of House Targaryen to the Dothraki warlord Khal Drogo. As their cultures and even language were at a clash, it was evident that Daenerys was seen as an alien and outsider to the clan. However, with her patience and the love she had slowly cultivated for her people as well as her husband, her decision in becoming a part of the Dothraki had genuinely touched her people and thusly gaining the trust and even respect of the wild and barbaric Khal Drogo (particularly after being impregnated with his child). It was definitely unheard of to see a woman rise to power (after the death of the Khal) especially in the GoT time frame and setting, again taking in mind that it only occurred due to the passing of Daenerys’ warlord husband. This claim was also supported by Sandqvist’s article where she compared the lacking of Viserys Targeryen’s (Daenerys’ older brother and the other remaining Targeryen sibling) power over the Dothraki clan despite his gender and, in a sense, ‘social status’. Daenerys’ marriage to the Khal blatantly shows that powerful positions can be obtained in partnership with men who hold power themselves.

***

Now I would like to change the focus from a detailed dissection of the different key themes of GoT to something a little more generic and direct: Is GoT the newest star child of HBO?

In Jaramillo’s piece (AMC: Stumbling Toward a New Television Canon) he too questioned the branding of HBO and the fact that it tended to shift away from the usual normality of broadcast television and cable in order to morph into something that is a lot of cinematic and almost giving a blockbuster quality to most of its series. Interestingly enough, he also commented that HBO can also be seen as the symbol of success of the post-network era as, to quote, ‘…HBO distinguished itself as a safe space for boundless creativity free from sanitized or lowest common denominator pop culture’.

In this case, I do find it to be completely true. There are too many existing rules and bans and censorships with your everyday television channels, but with HBO being a paid premium cable channel the possibilities are endless. Of course, that being said it also helps that the budgeting somehow more often than not seem to be surprisingly sky high (only to a certain extent of course). Thus, like I have mentioned in my previous posts, it is fascinating to see how much HBO has progressed in terms of almost reinventing television genres and to raise it up to a complete new level.

Having said that, the fact that GoT has become the most pirated show of 2012  contradicts the importance of HBO being a paid cable channel if most of its audience is downloading the full series via torrents off the Internet. But with today’s technology and opportunities it is definitely near to impossible to ban piracy completely, and perhaps that not being the ideal thing to do what with all things considered.

The overhype of GoT was well anticipated, and perhaps it is my biased side speaking when I dare declare that GoT is certainly considered as one of my ‘quality tv’ categories as I sincerely like the plot, characters and filmography and so on of the series. Now referring my my own question, I do believe and I do anticipate GoT shining brighter than it already is and HBO can be assured that the series will continue to be the ‘star child’ of the channel for many more seasons to come, that is unless the scriptwriters do not go all out on a strike or have a sudden epiphany and decided to change the entire course of the plot line. I for one, is indeed one of the many, many fangirls (and the occasional boy) out there that would dedicate ourselves in following the remainder seasons that would be released over the course of the next decade or so.

Game of Thrones, quality television by a channel that is essentially not TV but simply, HBO.

Blogging off,

PW~

References:-

– Halliday S & Thomas RO (2012), ‘American Telefantasy: An Introduction‘, vol. 5 no. 2, viewed 7 October 2012, Networking Knowledge <http://ojs.meccsa.org.uk/index.php/netknow/article/view/276/106>

– Jaramillo DL (2012), ‘AMC: Stumbling Toward a New Television Canon‘, Television New Media, viewed 7 October 2012, Sage Publications <http://tvn.sagepub.com.ezproxy.lib.rmit.edu.au/content/early/2012/04/18/1527476412442105.full.pdf+html>

– Sandqvist E, ‘Politics, Hidden Agendas and a Game of Thrones: An Intersectional Analysis of Women’s Sexuality in George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones‘, viewed 7 October 2012, Luleå University of Technology, <https://pure.ltu.se/ws/files/36563870/LTU-EX-2012-36549292.pdf>

– Shaikh F (2012), ‘Game of Thrones: Most pirated show of 2012, so far‘, 14 May,  viewed 7 October 2012, <http://technoholik.com/news/internet/broadband/game-of-thrones-most-pirated-show-of-2012-so-far/3485>

Commercialised Realism

The ability of actually classifying reality tv as not only just any old television genre but as a very successful and commercially thriving genre has indeed shown how much times have changed. As this is written in an Advertising student’s point of view, I have decided to dedicate this post in looking at reality tv in a more (as the title had suggested) commercialised manner.

The first article I came across was Jane Roscoe’s piece describing The Blair Witch Project whereby I am positive that most people already know it as a scary ‘witch-hunting’ mock-documentary. It is intriguing to know that documentaries generally start off as a non-profit based films. The focus of a documentary is usually on the messages and also the goal to both educate and empower its audience. However, in The Blair Witch Project it is presented and marketed as a form of leisure/entertaining mock-documentary that has little to do with educating its audience and more so on frightening them with the idea of a ‘real’ scary witch attacking innocent students instead. Roscoe mentions that The Blair Witch Project is transitioning independent and reality tv-esh films into something that is more mainstream and hence commercialised. The newer example for this would have to be Paranormal Activity, whereby the low-budget ‘reality’-based film had managed to transform itself into a mainstream horror film. Paranormal Activity’s success in racking up profits that are many, many times more than the cost of the whole production itself is indeed truly admirable. Hence, this sense of filming a partially scripted reality tv experience has proven the very favourable outcome and possibility in utilising low production costs in order to obtain maximised profits.

Moving on to something that is a little more straight-forward and obvious, as most reality tv shows are considered low budget (at least when compared to Hollywood blockbusters) it is common to have products and even services sponsored from related companies. In June Deery’s ‘Commercialised Patricipation: Post-advertising’ product placement was discussed whereby certain products will be shot in a particular manner so that the brand will be included in several frames of the scenes. This can either be considered as subtle advertising where the audience is exposed to subliminal advertising without realising it. Product placements can also occur if the producer wishes to defray costs by, as mentioned early, showcasing certain products in their show, other reasons include that the agents of a particular product itself have decided to pay a fee in order to showcase their product on a popular reality tv series. Having said that, there are quick-witted audiences where they do spot the obvious product placement moments and get completely turned off instead. For example, in Australia’s ever-loving reality tv series, MasterChef Australia, Coles is the most blatant sponsor for the show and full-on advertising within and out of the show for the brand is has provided heavy coverage for the brand. It is also undeniable that Coles’ profit margins increased significantly thanks to the exposure they could not have possibly obtained without the existence of MasterChef Australia.

In ‘Commercialization: The Intersection of Economics and Ethics in Reality TV’ it was also mentioned how reality tv again has low production costs due to low payout of their ‘actors’ (eg. The Biggest Loser where it is contestant-based) however even with shows like Jersey Shore and The Real Housewives that got popular overtime had demanded an increase in their payout, it is still a fraction of the price for hiring the actors on non-reality tv series. Hence it can be easily concluded that with the rise in demand for more unique and standalone reality tv shows, it is indeed very profitable in the commercial sense.

Having said that, the issue whereby the scandals and controversies surrounding reality tv nowadays definitely had occurred when producers of certain series were pinpointed for ‘directing’ and providing the people on their show with a script although it is supposed to be ‘reality’ and hence spontaneous and individualised according to the person himself/herself. I for once had the experience of overhearing (definitely overheard and not eavesdropping!) a conversation between a few course mates while we were in class, whereby one of the girls had auditioned for The Voice Australia and she explained that the producer of the show had actually approached and asked whether she had a sad story to share in order to increase ‘pity votes’ and to provide an interesting backstory for the show. This also reflects in MasterChef Australia when the hosts of the show (George, Gary and Matt) had constantly played the ‘family’ card in which they ask the contestants about their family and who inspired them to cook while they watch silently as he/she bursts into tears with the producer sitting in a corner thinking, ‘Good, good, now more crying, more drama! That would increase the ratings for this show!‘.

The things people would do for money.

Blogging off,

PW~

References:-

– Jane Roscoe (2000, 2006) – The Blair Witch Project Mock-documentary goes mainstream (article)

– June Deery (2012) – ‘Commercialised Patricipation: Post-advertising’ in Consuming Reality (chapter)

– Wendy N Wyatt & Kristie Bunton (2012) – ‘Commercialization: The Intersection of Economics and Ethics in Reality TV’ in The Ethics of Reality TV (chapter)

Becoming Mad (Men)

I am ashamed to say that as an Advertising student, I have never seen Mad Men prior to the screening in class last week. While I am aware of it, there was never a strong push factor for me to start the series. Having said that, the screening really changed my entire attitude towards the series and I have stopped thinking of it as something I need to watch because it’s all relevant to what I am currently doing. ‘The Wheel’ (Season 1, Episode 1) had really spurred the interest within me, I really enjoyed that one episode and I genuinely think that it has the basic qualities of being labelled as ‘quality tv’.

The particular scene that I have decided to focus on for this post is the part where Peggy and Pete were interviewing a possible candidate to provide the voiceover for ‘The Relaxacisor’ (a term coined by Peggy herself for, to put it on simple terms, a strictly female-based product). This article (Mad Men, “Indian Summer”: unlucky strikes [Key Series Moments]) had allowed me to catch up on a little of the backstory of ‘The Relaxacisor’, in which leading Peggy to scour for the perfect, strong and confident female talent to promote the said product.

In the scene where the talents were first showed on screen, the slim, attractive and youthful Annie was the first to deliver the pitch, where Reda the shorter and frumpier-looking woman followed after her. Peggy decided on Annie halfway through Reda’s turn, however Pete disagrees by being more keen on Reda, saying that her voice defines the very meaning of ‘The Relaxacisor’ and also stating that ‘Annie belongs on TV with Reda’s voice dubbed over’. It is clear that although both Peggy and Pete find Annie to be attractive enough on the outside, Pete reckons she lacks in the ability to successfully deliver the pitch. Peggy proceeds to tell Pete that ‘The Relaxacisor’ sells confidence and a ‘better you’ and she dismisses Reda in saying that her character does not portray confidence. In this sentence alone, I have come to a conclusion that despite Peggy’s confident aura shown exteriorly, on the inside however she herself lacks confidence due to her weight gain (more so than any other factors). Her impression on Reda is clouded by the simple fact that she does not look as shiny, polished, new and slim as compared to Annie. This also explains Peggy’s biased decision and liking for Annie, solely because Peggy yearns to be like her. Additionally, it also does not help given with her past history/fling she had with Pete as it does seem as if she is attempting to prove herself in front of her past secret lover that she is a strong and independent woman capable of executing things by herself. This can be seen when Pete told Peggy that the blame would be on her if Annie does not pull through, because it was her decision and her idea. Peggy’s smug reply in saying that it was her idea shows that she basically takes all the credit not only for deciding on Annie but on the entity of ‘The Relaxacisor’ as well.

Moving on to the following related scene where Annie comes back to record the actual pitch, Peggy is seen to be getting increasingly frustrated over Annie’s lack of performance, angrily claiming that she no longer sounds and sells confidence. The moment Peggy told Annie to imagine herself to have ‘everything’ whereby she is, and quoted, beautiful and slim and having the beloved prize of a handsome man, it is clear to me that these are all the things that she, Peggy, wants for herself. The irony in this scene is that her ‘beloved prize’ is seated next to her, yet he does not belong to her. ‘The Relaxacisor’ that Peggy (somewhat) created basically portrays everything Peggy is not and wants to be, and she sees herself as Annie while she is records her pitch. In my opinion, the reason behind Peggy’s increased frustration and her harsh attitude towards Annie was because she was jealous of her, and while she sits behind the glass and makes all the shots, she feels her lack of attractiveness on the outside (again relating back to her weight gain) had stripped her bare of her own remaining confidence.

Now referring to Peggy’s indirect order for Pete to make Annie feel beautiful in order to portray that confidence that comes with beauty, it is evident that she is also indirectly telling him that she wants him to make her feel beautiful and confident, in spite of the bitter understanding that he would never do so. Pete also smoothly and indirectly replies that ‘a woman like that would never confident because she never is confident’, and hence confirming Peggy’s understanding of him. Peggy’s portrayal and her dissatisfaction she feels in regards to the underlying concept of ‘The Relaxacisor’ is further demonstrated when she describes to Annie that ‘maybe you put on a few pounds but then with ‘The Relaxacisor’ you are back to being you’. Thus Peggy’s anger from this scene onwards is only fueled by the hatred and dissatisfaction she has for herself, with those emotions being mirrored on her attitude towards Annie. In addition to that, in the scene where Annie tells her that she does not understand why Peggy kept reminding her to be herself (‘I am being me’), it portrays that with Peggy’s character, it is due to the sheer fact that she might have already come to terms with how she looks now and it is again in spite of that why she despises herself so much and hence claiming that everything is not working out in the way she wants it to be.

It surprises me how much I can take in from these two short scenes alone, and as I have mentioned before even though I have not seen Mad Men prior to this, it is fascinating to see the amount of information I can obtain on Peggy’s character just through the way she performed in the two selected scenes. I sincerely like Peggy’s character (at least, based on this episode alone) because she is the very portrayal of most women in the society, whereby she might look and seem confident on the outside yet she still needs the exterior packaging of being the heavily media-influenced cover girl (tall, slim and leggy). The acknowledgement and the approval of others, especially a man, in order to define herself is also very crucial in order to become the ideal woman that she always wanted to be.

This is what poisons the very core of society right now.

 

Blogging off,

Pey Wei~

 

References:

– Mad Men (‘The Wheel’, Season 1 Episode 1)

– Eric – Mad Men, “Indian Summer”: unlucky strikes [Key Series Moments] (article)

Big Love: Triple threat?

Big Love is a very interesting series, and the pilot episode itself is fascinating enough to catch my attention. To describe it is a fascinating task, as there are multiple qualities found in the said series. The main storyline of Big Love focuses on a very open minded family where the main protagonist leads his life with three wives. All three wives and their children live together in three separate houses but they allowed their lives to coexist together with their shared husband. And of course, like any drama out there, conflicts soon arise out of the obvious jealousy and competition between the wives and their children based on a series of problems. In addition to that, the series also bear political and religious themes, which brings the drama in Big Love to a complete new level.

A lot were discussed within the pilot episode, where family ties and relationships are tested. In terms of defining it as part of HBO’s ‘quality tv’, while it is not as ‘flashy’, big budget and fast-paced as True Blood and Game of Thrones (the two HBO series I actually follow with a passion) but the issues and storyline (as far as I can tell from the pilot) have once again proved HBO’s standards in producing what we know as ‘quality tv’. Also, in Michael Kackman’s article on quality tv, melodrama and cultural complexity there are several things to consider before deciding on its quality. Considering the pilot episode of Big Love for example, the scene where Sarah was confronted by her co-worker on her religious views shows the series relating Bill’s polygamous marriages with his three wives to Christianity. Kackman’s article was focused on the entity of Lost, and in comparison to Big Love, the latter is just much more relatable in a sense where the setting is based on a very easily relatable American mid upper-class suburban family, the only slight difference was Bill’s polygamous relationships. To quote Kackman, ‘Definitions of quality television, both popularly and in our scholarship, depend on narrative complexity that generates representational complexity; representational complexity offers the possibility of political and cultural complexity.’ While I do intend on following up on the rest of the Big Love series, I am fairly certain that they do habour these qualities hence allowing myself to include it as one of HBO’s ‘quality tv’ category.

Moving on to Mittell‘s article on the other hand, he did mention that he does in fact see soap opera as a genre for television. I do consider Big Love being a more heavy and complex form of a soap opera, where heavy drama is brought into the series and also focusing less on comedic themes and more sombre and serious ones. Additionally, while Big Love is seen less popular compared to HBO’s other crowning glories, the material of the actual series itself has huge potential. The content might be a little dull for the action-seeking audiences, but it is still (in my opinion) ‘quality tv’ despite the lack of coverage and exposure.

I, for one, will definitely watch the rest of the episodes and even though I’ve viewed the greatest ‘spoiler’ while researching this on YouTube, I am still very keen to finish Big Love before the year is out!

 

Blogging off,

Pey Wei~

References:

– Big Love (Season 1, Episode 1)

– Michael Kackman – Flow Favourties: Quality Television, Melodrama, and Cultural Complexity (article)

– Jason Mittell – More thoughts on soap operas and television seriality (article)

Good TV, Bad TV?

Living in a fast-paced, tech-based world has been an amazing experience so far, there are so many different possibilities and opportunities out there all made possible with the aid of technology. In Mittell’s article, he brought up examples from a smorgasbord of TV series, and only then it occurred to me, even something that is mainly comedy based and whatnot (like The Simpsons) have a much deeper meaning than what it seems. Also, like mentioned before, with the aid of technology the possibilities of like-minded people to be grouped together in order to create much stronger fanbases than before.

Mittell mentioned that the television medium is unique in creating a series of creative opportunities that is being offered by narrative complexity. It is also true that cultural implications to affect the shift of narrative strategies from time to time. Thus it is no surprise that they are many TV series nowadays that are being tailored to suit the audiences’ liking instead of sticking to the true essence of the script or plotline. This occurrence hit me when I realised that certain TV shows tend to shift their focus after a season or two, and in a way the scriptwriters of the shows are now completely pressurised from the overly dedicated fanbases (or ‘cults’ as I like to refer them to) to write the plot that is not what they initially had in mind, but the tendency of changing the script is crucial in maintaining and hence ideally increasing its audience viewing numbers. To think that people used to see TV as a form of artistic space where scriptwriters and directors back in the days that were far more concerned on getting their message out there instead of money in their pockets.

Moving on, I will now refer to my previous statement on how technologies had enabled and created a better viewing space for its audiences, the article too mentioned that the key transformations had indefinitely allowed creative strategies to flourish whereby the writers and creators hold the reins to their work more so than in a film’s director-centered model. Hence, while this goes against my previous statement there is still some truth that the writers hold the control in the storyline, but it is also debatable as to who controls the writers then? They are only human, and being susceptible to the hectic pressures of directors and deadlines and crazed fans arguing with a passion over the World Wide Web.

Now we dig a little deeper into slightly more specific genres and less of the generic commentary on American TV, medical cases for example, have been all the rage. The popular selection ranges from old classics like E.R. to the newer ones: psychotic brain-teasers like House M.D. and the dramatised Grey’s Anatomy. House M.D. had always been the only medical drama I’ve ever followed with a passion and actually liked it. It is also one of the first few series where I (very belatedly) realised that because it’s more or less one episode-based, it was much easier to watch and skip over a couple of episodes even, without completely losing track of the storyline. And when I felt like it, I could fill the gaps of the story in between whenever I had the time. I also agree with Mittell’s statement on how individual episodes tend to have a more distinctive identity, although the only drawback I can place my finger on is that the actual main characters themselves might take a longer type to be completely developed. And like House M.D. it started off with a lot of individual cases, but as the seasons progress the writers had to take a different turn in developing and extending the characters’ personalities and back stories. This might be a slow build-up to the series, but an effective way nonetheless.

Once again, I shall end this post by reiterating the fact that the American TV industry is a huge money making corporation. The so-called self-implied ‘artistic directors’ had succumbed to profits, viewings and more profits. The different styles of narratives are even considered somewhat irrelevant, as long as it appeals to the general public and gain viewing numbers in within a short period of time. While this is not necessarily the best way to look at things, but facing the truth would allow people to be less narrow-minded and defensive.

 

Blogging off,

Pey Wei~

References:

– Jason Mittell – Narrative Complexity in Contemporary American Television (article)