Postmodern tendencies in American TV Essay

Television bookmans have observed that in the past 20 old ages American popular telecasting has undergone a major transmutation in manner and signifier. John Thornton Caldwell uses the term televisuality to mean a development in the images running through the little screen. Such a displacement in signifier and presentation developed aboard contextual factors. Caldwell explains his position in item: Start in the 1980s. American mass-market telecasting underwent an uneven displacement in the conceptual and ideological paradigms that governed its expression and presentational demeanour.

In several of import scheduling and institutional countries. telecasting moved from a model that approached airing chiefly as a signifier of word-based rhetoric and transmission…to a visually based mythology. model and aesthetic based on an utmost uneasiness of manner. ( 1995. p. 4 ) This accent on manner is predicated on reconceptualizations of signifier and presentation in telecasting. consequentially altering production and labour patterns: With increasing frequence. manner itself became the topic. the signified. if you will. of telecasting.

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In fact. the uneasiness of manner became so great that it can more accurately be described as an activity—as a public presentation of style—rather than a peculiar expression. ( 1995. pp. 4 -5 ) Televisuality is more than a historical phenomenon ; it is besides a dianoetic merchandise. The branchings of televisual manner are brought about by concern conditions. engineering and audience response. every bit good as intended alterations in industry and aesthetic patterns. Surely there are factors alone to this modern-day tendency. but Caldwell is speedy to indicate out that televisuality is non some original innovation that does non hold historical case in points.

It can be traced from a long history of “aesthetic posturing” ; that is. stylisation has been a regular artistic pattern in telecasting production that has snowballed. albeit unevenly. into what mass-market telecasting has become of day of the month. Furthermore. stylisation is tied to a much broader landscape—to procedures of transmutation in mass media and American popular civilization. Caldwell’s attack. that of historicizing and contextualizing stylisation. needfully leads to another aspect—its ideological deductions.

Given the instead wide conceptualisation. alternatively of offering one sweeping definition Caldwell identifies six rules of televisuality ( pp. 5-10 ) . These rules are explored in-depth in his seminal work. Televisuality: Style. Crisis and Authority in American Television. I shall recite them and briefly explain the author’s thoughts in the paragraphs that follow. Even though these dogmas were discussed with particular mention to the eightiess. the epoch that signaled the major bend in television’s presentational format. I will however explicate them with the given of their cosmopolitan ( non-time edge ) pertinence.

1. Televisuality was a stylizing performance—an exhibitionism that utilized many different expressions. Harmonizing to Caldwell. televisuality is a “presentational attitude” that emphasizes exhibitionism. Exhibitionism is evinced through the usage of different bing ocular expressions and stylisations. taking to different of “guises” . This means that the conventional genres of presentation and format are less apparent. The changeless “experimentation” and blurring of boundaries make for a certain ocular eyeglassess. 2. Televisuality represented a structural inversion.

If before telecasting shows prioritized capable over manner. and the ocular packaging of the image was relegated to the background. get downing in the mid-1980s some shows placed manner on the foreground. This pattern is non merely a positional barter. Style or the presentation of the image. Caldwell clarifies. is the topic. or in other words. is significantly tied to the text itself: “ ( S ) tyle was no longer a bracketed flourish. but was the text of the show” ( p. 6 ) . To analyse the televisual text is to joint to the act of presentation of the topic itself.

3. Televisuality was an industrial merchandise. The 3rd rule refers to an of import foundation of televisuality—the manner of production. For Caldwell. televisuality—including the “presentational pretenses. the narrative signifiers. and the political relations of mainstream television” ( p. 7 ) stems from the technological and production developments. some of which consequence from specific cultural and economic demands. At the same clip. the production base evinces peculiar audience attitudes and responses. 4. Televisuality was a scheduling phenomenon.

As stated earlier. televisuality is a merchandise of telecasting history ; it has its case in points. Exhibitionism and spectacle is non an wholly alone phenomenon ; what is alone is the mode in which “showcasing” is done by broadcast webs. Another illustration is the presentation and stigmatization of some shows as “special events” : Scheduling designed around special-event position was besides non wholly new. although the sort of prestigiousness and programming spin that particular events offered threatened to rule telecasting by the late eightiess.

” ( p. 9 ) Therefore. today the viewer discoveries “exclusive” intelligence coverage platitude in intelligence and public personal businesss shows. and there is a impregnation of “reality” game shows documenting the lives of ordinary people desperate for instant celebrity and luck. 5. Televisuality was a map of audience. Caldwell notes how telecasting audiences have become more varied in footings of gustatory sensation and penchants. Audience response. from his position is both manufactured by webs. every bit good as a map of bureau.

As the cultural literacy of audiences is developed across different societal sections. audiences’ esthesias are besides trained by the uninterrupted development and alteration of shows on telecasting. For illustration the debut of video games in the mass market in the early 80s deeply molded immature people’s life styles. Meanwhile. telecasting makes usage of technological developments like the videogames to reinvent the stylistic wheel. so to talk. in bend pointing audiences towards developing new screening pleasances. 6. Televisuality was a merchandise of the economic crisis.

In the 1980s. mainstream webs were stunned by the popularity of overseas telegram screening. Caldwell believes stylistic showcasing is the mainstream networks’ attack to “protect ( ing ) market share” as the concern conditions became more competitory. While Caldwell focuses on stylistic ( rhenium ) presentation in modern-day American telecasting. another bookman. Jason Mittell ( 2006 ) . focal points on developments in telecasting genre and narrative. Mittell uses the construct of narrative complexness to near the intertextual inclinations of telecasting seriess.

Following his work that posits a cultural attack to genre survey ( A Cultural Approach to Television Genre Theory. 2001 ) . Mittell insists that popular American telecasting should be loosely understood as a merchandise of cultural. historical. and structural forces. New tendencies in genre development should be examined alongside contextual factors – web concern results. displacements in industrial and artistic patterns. technological inventions. and audience gustatory sensations and responses. Additionally. narrative complexness should be approached as a cultural phenomenon.

Mittell’s critical position portions with Caldwell a broader position of telecasting surveies. whereby context is read into peculiar facets of the text ( style/stylization. genre. narrative ) . Like Caldwell. he besides situates the alone formal qualities of the narrative within structural and historical developments in production. circulation and audience response. Possibly in expectancy of Mittell’s position. Caldwell ( 1995 ) besides suggests that one manner of analysing the signifier and maps of televisuality by comparing earlier conventional genres and more recent efforts to integrate stylistic embroidery and exhibitionism ( P.

18 ) . Mittell observes that narrative complexness is a dramatic characteristic of some of today’s popular telecasting menu. offering an option to earlier conventional formats. Mittell takes after movie bookman David Bordwell with the position that the term encompasses a peculiar set of “norms of narrational building and comprehension” ( Bordwell cited by Mittell. 2006. p. 29 ) . which combines different genres. motions and Godheads in coming up with a consistent whole.

These characteristics are drawn from film as a mention. nevertheless. and therefore Mittell besides points out that while cinematic techniques over the last decennary have besides shaped the telecasting narration in certain ways ( for case. the crossing-over of movie auteurs and practicians to the little screen have brought about a new strain of “quality television” or “intelligent” consecutive plans ; filmic intertextuality. or the combination of other media like novels and amusing books in doing movies ) . modern-day telecasting storytelling manner should still be examined harmonizing to the medium’s alone characteristics. constructions. history and linguistic communication ( P.

29 ) . Mittell besides adopts what he calls a “historical poetics” in his definition of narrative complexness an attack that invites the reader to travel beyond the boundary lines of the text. The textual characteristics should be read in concurrence with peculiar socio-historical contexts—industry and production tendencies. technological developments. and altering audience behaviours. and the similar. Awareness of the influence of specific contextual factors assumes that narrative development is non an stray textual whole but a merchandise of external factors. Mittell so traces the rise of narrative complexness in the telecasting.

Most of the telecasting patterns he cites are more or less synonymous to factors that besides brought away the epoch of televisuality. which Caldwell pointed out. For case. Mittell explains how the entreaty of the little screen captivated movie Godheads and professionals who started out in the movie industry. David Lynch ( Twin Peaks ) . Allan Ball ( Six Feet Under ) . and Joss Whedon ( Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Angel ) are noteworthy illustrations. Part of the attractive force is that telecasting. being a “producer’s medium” . Godheads gain more authorization and purchase compared to the director-centric movie production ( P.

31 ) . Modes of telecasting screening besides compelled webs to re-strategize scheduling patterns and agendas. Get downing in the mid-80s the popularity of consecutive narrations bit by bit declined. It was found that audiences lacked the sustained attending for hebdomadal seriess. A comparatively new sort of pattern. the syndication of Television plans became a major challenge for webs. as it gave audiences more elbow room to see episodes of their favourite shows without holding to follow a fixed hebdomadal agenda.

Another tendency that Mittell observed in footings of response is the increasing diverseness of audiences. As new broadcast medium companies and channels add to the media jumble. they develop shows that cater to certain demographic brackets or attuned to specific cult followings in order to vie with established webs like CBS and NBC. As ever. technological inventions impact significantly on telecasting. For Mittell. the telecasting industry easy latches on the latest engineering to progress aesthetic and production intents.

As an illustration. one of the most recent developments that single-handedly changed the cultural landscape is the Internet. Television cashed in on this new engineering by seting up fan sites and “official” Television plan sites. These sites extend telecasting screening. as they enable followings to make a scope of activities ( treatment of episodes with other viewing audiences. buying of merchandize. research information about the show ) in relation to the show itself. The postmodern bend in telecasting

The above treatments can be subsumed to the overarching theoretical paradigm called postmodernism. Televisuality and narrative complexness can be regarded as existent structural characteristics and kineticss that demonstrate the postmodern status in the kingdom of telecasting. Several of the characteristics and subjects that characterize postmodernism. charted by Jim Collins in “Television and Postmodernism” ( 1997 ) resonates with the definitions of televisuality and narrative complexness proffered by Caldwell and Mittell.

For case. Collins discusses how postmodernism is predicated on the proliferation and circulation of marks or images. in portion propelled by the latest engineering ( overseas telegram. VCR. digital engineering. the Internet ) ( p. 193 ) . The barrage of images. all of which demand the viewer’s attending. finally effaces significance. The primacy of the image is besides an property of televisuality. particularly in its claim that manner is the text/signifer. In add-on. there is besides the logic of surplus that in televisual idiom translates to inordinate manner.

Eclecticism seems to be a commonplace impression in treatments of televisuality and narrative complexness. In the latter. the employment of assorted manners in the procedure of expermentation or stylisation is a signifier of eclectic method ; in the latter. the cross-fertilisation of differing genres. Related to this is intertextuality. the usage or adoption of assorted formats ensuing in the blurring of boundaries. or the reorganisation of genre or manner hierarchies. Though characteristics of conventional paradigms may still be recognizable in a given text. their combination or recombination attracts the viewer’s attending more clearly.

In this paper I will try to demo what is postmodern in American telecasting. Many histories of postmodernism dabble in extra themselves. and neglect to ground much of the claims in empirical worlds. I believe that what postmodernism articulates in theory is more acutely contained in the constructs of televisuality and narrative complexness. Therefore. while the critical position employed here remains to be postmodernism. my analysis uses more empirical conceptual grips.



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