Showcase 2 (Soap opera series)

Cultural complexity has always been an eyebrow raising factor both in fictional work and real world scenario. In real world; fanatics throws Molotov cocktails for no reason at times, in fictional world; people b-slaps everyone and all but is overall discreet. Point being, fiction works that revolves around cultural complexity represents real world scenario in a more discreet way. The character interactions and complex world often makes for a melodrama, which is often associated with soaps (not literal soap people…). HBO (this is not TV, blah, blah, blah)’s Big Love is an intriguing series as its premise incorporates cultural complexity that it reeks for soapy treatment instead of a serial.

 

To those who are unfamiliar to the series, Big Love is an American television drama that aired on HBO between March 2006 and March 2011 (yours truly by wikipedia).  The show Big Love for the most part follows the makings of drama film, on a more mainstream note that is. The context behind each character in the film, i.e. Bill Henrickson & his three wives, is obviously polygamy which in all fairness is an eyebrow raising concept as (you have to admit) pretty fucking daring even with the public sphere more open to uncommon social standing.

Throughout the seasons however, the characters slowly diminish each of their “charm” in their respective arcs before a jointed convolution point, as if each character is struggling to make things as complex but understandable as possible, which sadly doesn’t work. That said, the show’s genre is questionable in that it can be taken in as soap instead of series.

“As a genre, soap opera is nothing if not resilient” (Ford, S.).Soap Opera’s use of multiple character arcs are similar to a Serial’s use of complex narrative. The two have an open ended end of an episode which ends up requiring viewer’s continual investment into the respective genres. Soap operas, however, tend to have multiple stories run simultaneously that doesn’t end at the same time as well. Serials tend to wrap every plot arcs into one main focal point to which it ends and everything is concluded, for a sequel serial that is.

“At most, then, genres are associated with but not defined by textual form, – those formal traces do not define or constitute the genre.” (Devitt, Amy J).

 

The mix of two genres’ aspects isn’t something unfamiliar but is otherwise a bit odd as the contextual meaning of each genres covers two rather different area. This is a bit of a surprise cause on a personal note, I totally thought the melodrama factor of the film would have made one of my butt cheeks sore for watching some episodes to cope with the complex interlinking narrative. Despite this however, the series is simple enough to follow in terms of narrative and it doesn’t necessarily need that much time invested to it to make sense of the show. The themes begs for a complex narrative but the extent of execution in terms of narrative sometimes feels simple enough to follow but the overall progression throughout the series somehow feels slow.

– Missing a week of a soap opera would cause less confusion than missing a week of a primetime serial (assuming the viewer does not watch the “previously on” recaps on primetime), because daytime incorporates far more recapping into the dialogue than on primetime. (Mittell, 2009)

As Mittell points out, most episodes have a line that explains what has happened consistently in proceeding episodes, which as Mittell argued in an interview is the making of soap; i.e. soap tell events instead of showing us. Love (what’s a drama without love eh?) and religion being two massive complication factor for the possible causality chain already serves as great foundation for a melodrama series, the cultural engagement and anomalies poses intriguing conflict but the prolonged continuation of problems turned this series into another neighbors ….. dang that title creeps me out. No offense.

Jokes aside, despite the possible narrative complexity by the two main themes used in the series giving possibility to well written character and conflicts, you just can’t help to feel some materials are overused and could have ended in certain parts of a season instead of forcibly prolonged. This prolonged use of story adds confusion more than adding quality. In other words, it sucks to a certain extent, lets leave it at that. This is one of those example where complex narrative does NOT always equate to quality TV.

Cultural complexity is a major driving force in this series, sometimes representing the conflicts of real world culture in an aesthetical approach. “This ultimately begs the question of what kinds of characters, settings, dilemmas, can be seen as cleverly complex, deserving of the “quality” label, and which will be relegated to the scrap heap of soapy excess.” (Kackman, 2010)

Again as Mittell pointed out, soaps use dialogue to recap (telling it) which makes Big Love’s theme, that “hungers” for complex narrative (to a certain extent), feel a bit too simple but is at times lengthy otherwise. The little details makes series such as Big Love a great show, problem is, developers seems to be too fixated to handle the series aesthetically instead of keeping the integrity of the show’s  continuity. Don’t get me wrong, each episode concludes conflict quite concisely but the seasons as a whole can feel sluggish as some conflicts could’ve been put to an end for a new one. The intricate plot demands the smallest of details to hook viewers but too much detail puts everyone off.

 

 

All in all, Big Love is like a bastard child of drama soap and serial, if that makes any sense. It asks you to invest as much attention and time as you would to a serial as it incorporates (rather) complex narrative but concludes as slow as that of soap that it often deters you to follow every single episode in the series. Cultural complexity serves as themes used for the series which screams for complex narrative approach but ends up getting developers confused on crafting new arcs for characters in each seasons. This prompts it to a serial but as far as series goes it must be concise, something that this series fail to follow sometimes that it feels like we’re watching soaps instead. Nevertheless, the melodrama within character relationship and each of their arcs adds depth to the intriguing base story making it a decently solid drama soap-series thingy majjigy.

LINKS

http://flowtv.org/2010/03/flow-favorites-quality-television-melodrama-and-cultural-complexity-michael-kackman-university-of-texas-austin/

http://justtv.wordpress.com/2007/07/29/soap-operas-and-primetime-seriality/

http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/content/more-thoughts-soap-operas-and-television-seriality

Devitt, Amy J. “A Theory of Genre.” Writing Genres. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2004. 1-32.

Ford, S., Kosnik, A.D., & Harrington, C.L., The Survival of Soap Opera: Transformations for a New Media Era, 2012. P.127.

Mittel, J. Narrative Complexity in Contemporary American Television,” The Velvet Light Trap, no. 58 (fall 2006): 29-40.

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Showcase 1 (Reality TV)

Reality TV’s a genre of TV program that shows non-scripted happenings of specific focal point. Of course, the main focus of this genre is still drama and/or comedy but the heavy emphasis on “reality” is claimed to set it apart from formal documentary. Sadly however, the sheer number of drama on certain ‘reality TV’ (cough~ Jerseyliscious, Kardashian, etc) looks much more synthetic than that of a documentary. So, what is the ‘real’ factor that makes reality TV?

A quick google search and (yours truly) wikipedia nudge results in a barrage of analysis that discredits the term ‘reality’ in “reality TV”. The main bait that fishes the “fakery” or ‘Reality TV’ is the allegations of Premeditated scripting and acting; where actors have been told of how things should go down pre-recording. This of course totally wrecks the whole point of the genre, namely “non-scripted” part of it anyways.  Hulk Hogan goes to defend the genre by saying that ‘soft-scripting’ reality TV is how to keep the show afloat, noting the excessive expenditure on unionized camera crews that films continuously just for an opportune ‘dramatic’ occurrence to… well… occur. Shows such as Hell’s Kitchen and The Hills are some of the most known titles under fire of allegation regarding scripted events despite sporting the genre.

Of course, in all fairness, Hogan’s statement is true; paying people to sit around rolling the camera for 24 hours a day just to get a chimp to slip and fall of its own banana would be very expensive. However, the exaggerated feel and streamlined chain of conflict shown in “reality TV” is more often than not too convenient for the genre. The rapid succession of conflicts and emotional peak of the actors adds that surreal feel to the show that it’s making the show unrealistic (literally). In other words, “soft-scripting” IS scripting the show, everything can feel as real as it is synthetic. True that It’s justifiable but it doesn’t serve any right for the genre now does it?

With soft scripting widely used in “reality TV”, “Identity becomes a lifestyle choice, and its fabrication is inextricably linked to practices of consumption.” (Morreale, J.). Many times, the cast in a reality TV series personifies a written character than actually showing their own characteristics. This fabricated personification breaks the genre’s threshold of being real which (again) doesn’t bode well with the genre’s namesake.

                “Wait a minute.. I thought reality TV is like a cheaper incentive of scripted tv series….”.

If you thought of those words right about now, you totally just read my mind. And to answer the statement, it’s cheaper because in the end, it breaks its own standing as a genre; i.e. the use of “soft-script”. The whole idea of reality TV is to capture the real emotional peak of the everyday situation and or affected by the “TV world” without the “actors” themselves being told how to react to them. William Booth notes that “most reality shows are relatively cheap to produce because they … don’t pay union scale for writers or directors or the crews doing camera, sound, sets and editing. On average, Writers Guild leaders say, an hour of reality TV costs about half of what an hour of drama or sitcom does.“. Sadly, however, the tone, depth, reflective space and perspective shown in the show are easily jeopardized by the producer’s tyrannical urge of controlling the drama factor.

James Poniewozik noted that the problem is that reality TV producers have the power to imply or outright fabricate thing about real people who have to carry fake reputations into their real lives. The sheer level of manipulation and “synthetic reality “ to gain that sense of familiarity for the audience is can be prevented much like how late Alan Funt asserted that his Candid Camera taught a subversive lesson: to resist unjust or ridiculous authority. (Slocum, C.B.) All this problem, however, is much less noticeable in documentaries.

Documentaries are, more often than not, considered the real reality TV; sporting the genre’smain core of unscripted drama/ scenarios. Anite Biressi’s Reality TV: Realism and Revelation, states that ‘reality TV’ is charted down in the documentary category, purportedly ‘breaking new ground … by linking together the realist enterprise of reality TV and its relationship to the production of knowledges (revelation) in mainstream television’.

One Born Every Minute is a unique reality TV in the sense that it presents itself as a documentary thereby brimming with that real sense of engagement and familiarity compared to shows such as Survivor. The execution of this title in particular is clever, omitting over the top drama in favor of real every day miracle. The interviews with the parents compliments the voice over narration which doesn’t break the reality feel to the show. All in all, the particular show’s documentary format solidifies itself as a ‘quality reality TV’.

Many a times, reality TV can be seen as the future of mainstream TV, but considering the lack of core context execution of the genre, ‘reality TV’ is as good as busted if it were not for the more faithful documentary genre. The manipulation of footage, be it pre or post recording, results in a break of threshold for this specific genre; being created for the sake of public sphere’s wishes instead of establishing a new (albeit familiar) ‘pitch’ for the public sphere. In other words, Reality TV is still ‘synthetic’ for the most part instead of simply being a pure on the go happenstance intuitive entertainment. 

REFERENCES

Reality TV? really? for real?

Reality TV’s a genre of TV program that shows non-scripted happenings of specific focal point ( a semi-dysfunctional family or the alike). Of course, the main focus of this genre is still drama and/or comedy but the heavy emphasis on “reality” is claimed to set it apart from formal documentary. Sadly however, the sheer number of drama on certain ‘reality TV’ (cough~ Jerseyliscious, Kardashian, etc) looks much more synthetic than that of a documentary. So, what is the ‘real’ factor that makes reality TV?

A quick google search and (yours truly) wikipedia nudge results in a barrage of analysis that discredits the term ‘reality’ in “reality TV”. The main bait that fishes the “fakery” or ‘Reality TV’ is the allegations of Premeditated scripting and acting; where actors have been told of how things should go down pre-recording. This of course totally wrecks the whole point of the genre, namely “non-scripted” part of it anyways.  Hulk Hogan goes to defend the genre by saying that ‘soft-scripting’ reality TV is how to keep the show afloat, noting the excessive expenditure on unionized camera crews that films continuously just for an opportune ‘dramatic’ occurrence to… well… occur. Shows such as Hell’s Kitchen and The Hills are some of the most known titles under fire of allegation regarding scripted events despite sporting the genre.

Of course, in all fairness, Hogan’s statement is true; paying people to sit around rolling the camera for 24 hours a day just to get a chimp to slip and fall of its own banana would be very expensive. However, the exaggerated feel and streamlined chain of conflict shown in “reality TV” is more often than not too convenient for the genre. The rapid succession of conflicts and emotional peak of the actors adds that surreal feel to the show that it’s making the show unrealistic (literally). In other words, “soft-scripting” IS scripting the show, everything can feel as real as it is synthetic. True that It’s justifiable but it doesn’t serve any right for the genre now does it?

                “Wait a minute.. I thought reality TV is like a cheaper incentive of scripted tv series….”.

If you thought of those words right about now, you totally just read my mind. And to answer the statement, it’s cheaper because in the end, it breaks its own standing as a genre; i.e. the use of “soft-script”. The whole idea of reality TV is to capture the real emotional peak of the everyday situation and or affected by the “TV world” without the “actors” themselves being told how to react to them. William Booth notes that “most reality shows are relatively cheap to produce because they … don’t pay union scale for writers or directors or the crews doing camera, sound, sets and editing. On average, Writers Guild leaders say, an hour of reality TV costs about half of what an hour of drama or sitcom does.“. Sadly, however, the tone, depth, reflective space and perspective shown in the show are easily jeopardized by the producer’s tyrannical urge of controlling the drama factor.

James Poniewozik noted that the problem is that reality TV producers have the power to imply or outright fabricate thing about real people who have to carry fake reputations into their real lives. The sheer level of manipulation and “synthetic reality “ to gain that sense of familiarity for the audience is can be prevented much like how late Alan Funt asserted that his Candid Camera taught a subversive lesson: to resist unjust or ridiculous authority. (Slocum, C.B.) All this problem, however, is much less noticeable in documentaries.

Documentaries are, more often than not, considered the real reality TV; sporting the genre’smain core of unscripted drama/ scenarios. Anite Biressi’s Reality TV: Realism and Revelation, states that ‘reality TV’ is charted down in the documentary category, purportedly ‘breaking new ground … by linking together the realist enterprise of reality TV and its relationship to the production of knowledges (revelation) in mainstream television’.

One Born Every Minute is a unique reality TV in the sense that it presents itself as a documentary thereby brimming with that real sense of engagement and familiarity compared to shows such as Survivor. The execution of this title in particular is clever, omitting over the top drama in favor of real every day miracle. The interviews with the parents compliments the voice over narration which doesn’t break the reality feel to the show. All in all, the particular show’s documentary format solidifies itself as a ‘quality reality TV’ (yay).

Many a times, reality TV can be seen as the future of mainstream TV, but considering the lack of core context execution of the genre, ‘reality TV’ is as good as busted if it were not for the more faithful documentary genre. The manipulation of footage, be it pre or post recording, results in a break of threshold for this specific genre; being created for the sake of public sphere’s wishes instead of establishing a new (albeit familiar) ‘pitch’ for the public sphere. In other words, Reality TV is still ‘synthetic’ for the most part instead of simply being a pure on the go happenstance intuitive entertainment. 

 

REFERENCES

(Not-so) Mad Men

Mad Men is an American dramatic television series created and produced by Matthew Weiner. The series airs on Sunday evenings on the American cable network AMC. Set in the 1960s, the series follows the story of Don Draper, creative director of fictional Sterling Cooper advertising agency on Madison Avenue in New York City. The show covers a plethora of plot arcs and recurring supporting characters but mainly circles around Don’s emotional dilemma.

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In the selected episode (S1. 13), Betty Draper’s relationship with her husband is shown very briefly at the beginning and end of the selected episode, closing off many remaining relational conflict in the episode; i.e. Peggy Olson’s sudden denial in birthing Campbell’s child and Campbell’s inability to support his own family. This works a wee bit odd since even though the main narrative follows Don’s emotional journey, the sudden stop of engagement for multiple characters at the end of the episode feels a bit rushed despite the intention of leaving it for another journey (another episode). Nevertheless, the Draper family and the advertisement company gained a decent closure as is for the episode. The sudden closure of the episode also creates a rather shaky image for Don.  

In terms of motivational drive, Draper’s character lacks the more refined anti-hero vibe that the creators are aiming for. This is mostly due to his depiction as an emotionally attached character which undermines his boss-like attitude, giving him too much a weakness for him to function as an archetype anti-hero. This, coupled with his likeable appearance queues for viewers’ personal redemption of his character, adding for a more sympathetic character instead of accepting him as a threat. On the other hand it does let the viewer to engage with the character more, taking his emotional downfalls and tyrannical appearance to an equilibrium that suits the common blue collar person in the 60s. Example would be how he resolute to be with his family after loosing his only possible blood relative. The view radical change of views between Don’s bossy and sympathetic life can often be seen through a predominant shift of shot angle.

Many times our eyes are angled either below or above the character’s eyes, emphasizing the charisma and power of each character as well as undermining them as a bunch of hypocrites in a claustrophobic realm, which adds to the tension of the 60s’ back-story (Cuban missile crisis, etc). Draper is often seen looking down at other characters both due to his taller physique and more stellar status/ personality over most other characters. Even when he is depicted in lower perspective, other characters’ interaction still involves him as a key factor for them; Campbell asking for Draper’s recognition. This is compounded by the overall mafia family-esque feel/ theme to the company, Draper being the ‘Don’ (as his name sake), Campbell as a new ‘boy’, Adam Whitman as an estranged member and Betty Draper as an equilibrium or Don’s powerful (work) and passionate (familial) life. This emphasis on the character focus through low angle shots also points out the more obvious mise-en-scene aspect of the series; the character’s wardrobe.

More on that, Don is most often seen outfitted in a suit as is other male characters which is monotone in color, adding to a blue-collar appearance of male characters. Female leads such as Betty and Peggy Olson are seen in a more homely outfit that still exudes their above substandard status quo vibe, which are much more colorful than the male’s more formal appearance. Both however still complements the 60s timeline that the series is set in, complimenting the claustrophobic setting which emphasizes the hardship of the 60s.

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Overall, the show’s use of Don’s story as the center of all plot arcs enables ease of approach/ engagement for the more general public sphere but can otherwise abrupt the episode’s progress too quickly at times. The show features numerous great Mise-en-scene aspects throughout the episode (and series as a whole); featuring claustrophobic settings, proper costumes, lighting and shot angle, adding a great deal of depth to the scenarios and character’s emotion and results in a (near)master crafted series, in other words: quality TV.

Soapy series…. wha-?

Cultural complexity has always been an eyebrow raising factor both in fictional work and real world scenario. In real world; fanatics throws Molotov cocktails for no reason at times, in fictional world; people b-slaps everyone and all but is overall discreet. Point being, fiction works that revolves around cultural complexity represents real world scenario in a more discreet way. The character interactions and complex world often makes for a melodrama, which is often associated with soaps (not literal soap people…). HBO (this is not TV, blah, blah, blah)’s Big Love is an intriguing series as its premise incorporates cultural complexity that it reeks for soapy treatment instead of a serial.

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To those who are unfamiliar to the series, Big Love is an American television drama that aired on HBO between March 2006 and March 2011 (yours truly by wikipedia).  The show Big Love for the most part follows the makings of drama film, on a more mainstream note that is. The context behind each character in the film, i.e. Bill Henrickson & his three wives, is obviously polygamy which in all fairness is an eyebrow raising concept as (you have to admit) pretty fucking daring even with the public sphere more open to uncommon social standing.

Throughout the seasons however, the characters slowly diminish each of their “charm” in their respective arcs before a jointed convolution point, as if each character is struggling to make things as complex but understandable as possible, which sadly doesn’t work.

That said, the show’s genre is questionable in that it can be taken in as soap instead of series. This is a bit of a surprise cause on a personal note, I totally thought the melodrama factor of the film would have made one of my butt cheeks sore for watching some episodes to cope with the complex interlinking narrative. Despite this however, the series is simple enough to follow in terms of narrative and it doesn’t necessarily need that much time invested to it to make sense of the show. The themes begs for a complex narrative but the extent of execution in terms of narrative sometimes feels simple enough to follow but the overall progression throughout the series somehow feels slow.

– Missing a week of a soap opera would cause less confusion than missing a week of a primetime serial (assuming the viewer does not watch the “previously on” recaps on primetime), because daytime incorporates far more recapping into the dialogue than on primetime. (Mittell, 2009)

As Mittell points out, most episodes have a line that explains what has happened consistently in proceeding episodes, which as Mittell argued in an interview is the making of soap; i.e. soap tell events instead of showing us. Love (what’s a drama without love eh?) and religion being two massive complication factor for the possible causality chain already serves as great foundation for a melodrama series, the cultural engagement and anomalies poses intriguing conflict but the prolonged continuation of problems turned this series into another neighbors ….. dang that title creeps me out. No offense.

Jokes aside, despite the possible narrative complexity by the two main themes used in the series giving possibility to well written character and conflicts, you just can’t help to feel some materials are overused and could have ended in certain parts of a season instead of forcibly prolonged. This prolonged use of story adds confusion more than adding quality. In other words, it sucks to a certain extent, lets leave it at that. This is one of those example where complex narrative does NOT always equate to quality TV.

Cultural complexity is a major driving force in this series, sometimes representing the conflicts of real world culture in an aesthetical approach. “This ultimately begs the question of what kinds of characters, settings, dilemmas, can be seen as cleverly complex, deserving of the “quality” label, and which will be relegated to the scrap heap of soapy excess.” (Kackman, 2010)

Again as Mittell pointed out, soaps use dialogue to recap (telling it) which makes Big Love’s theme, that “hungers” for complex narrative (to a certain extent), feel a bit too simple but is at times lengthy otherwise. The little details makes series such as Big Love a great show, problem is, developers seems to be too fixated to handle the series aesthetically instead of keeping the integrity of the show’s  continuity. Don’t get me wrong, each episode concludes conflict quite concisely but the seasons as a whole can feel sluggish as some conflicts could’ve been put to an end for a new one. The intricate plot demands the smallest of details to hook viewers but too much detail puts everyone off.

All in all, Big Love is like a bastard child of drama soap and serial, if that makes any sense. It asks you to invest as much attention and time as you would to a serial as it incorporates (rather) complex narrative but concludes as slow as that of soap that it often deters you to follow every single episode in the series. Cultural complexity serves as themes used for the series which screams for complex narrative approach but ends up getting developers confused on crafting new arcs for characters in each seasons. This prompts it to a serial but as far as series goes it must be concise, something that this series fail to follow sometimes that it feels like we’re watching soaps instead. Nevertheless, the melodrama within character relationship and each of their arcs adds depth to the intriguing base story making it a decently solid drama soap-series thingy majjigy.

 

LINKS

http://flowtv.org/2010/03/flow-favorites-quality-television-melodrama-and-cultural-complexity-michael-kackman-university-of-texas-austin/

http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/content/more-thoughts-soap-operas-and-television-seriality

Complex narrative for Quality TV for aesthetics… wha-?…..

Quality TV…. just hearing those words gets my expectation SO high I almost always end up getting exceedingly disappointed. The term Quality TV (as logical as it should sound) describes a genre/ style that offers better overall experience. Such ‘quality’ is often attributed to factors such as complex/ unique story, relatable/ engaging characters and even to the more trivial fan service aspect of a TV series. That said, ‘Quality’ TV in contrast to feature films requires narrative complexity to engage the viewers whilst delivering the full context of plot.

HBO have been lauded for their participation in production of multiple quality shows on synch with the public sphere’s interest at any given moment. The real success for HBO though, is each film’s complex narrative strategy that kept the shows respective viewers clinging for more. Personally speaking, I’ve got a bad tendency to assume a new title’s ‘quality’ based on the most known creator/ screenwriter’s past work on specific genres  much to Mittell’s reaction on tying value to individual programs than claiming superiority of the series/ genre/ narrative strategy as a whole.

Sadly, expectations like so makes the realization that the show’s quality being only decent instead of great, literally that much more painful to take in. Why? It’s like seeing “Willy” the orca slap the crap out of the Jesse with its tail as it flies over the kid in the iconic scene of Simon Wincer’s Free Willy. Point being that often the narrative norm used by said creators/ screenwriters are complex enough to catch my interest being the base of “Quality TV” in my mind became the template of many future titles in the genre.

Within 5 minutes of seeing True blood’s fan-made summary of the overall plot, it’s suffice to say that it carries so many aspects from previous vampire franchise, namely Buffy the vampire slayer and Angel. The narrative approach, theme, and even characters are near carbon copy of the previous titles. Other titles such as Lost emphasizes the twists and distortions of the plot and is represented cleverly throughout the series, where such distortions literally makes back-story of each character THAT much more important to establish a clear sense of the story. Lost still follows the formal structure of narrative of the genre but its play on the approach defines its uniqueness.

wtf

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jokes aside, Mittell’s point is hard to implement in real life as specific genres tend to follow a previously implemented narrative norm that worked, near literally defining that narrative structure for the genre as the sole approach for said genre. Nevertheless, these days multiple genres resort to complex narrative strategies; crosscutting non-chronological flashbacks and the alike to hook viewers’ interest and curiosity. Unbeknownst to most viewers, this paradigm of narrative is not just literal aesthetic anymore, it’s almost a way of life.

Narrative complexity is like a dash of salt and/ or pepper, giving additional context to an existing plot but is otherwise limited as to keep the narrative integrity intact. TV series tend to require a certain complication/ distorted factor that makes it unique, where the causality chain of the plot is much more expansive but is controllable than films that in turn requires continual insight from viewers for them to actually understand the overall story. The sheer time investment required for TV series to make sense defies the common narrative structure seen in films/ soap operas, leading to a sense of engagement which of course leads to fan base.

To that note, feature films tend to have less detail and audience engagement overall compared to TV shows. Narrative complexity for obvious reason does not bode well with feature films, what with stricter time restriction requiring simplified narrative as to minimizing the chance of audience scratching their heads and making WTF faces.

TV series are defined by the unique characters’ background story along with the expansive story world which enables the viewer to progressively immerse and experience the plot instead of being told of what the outline of the story is. Not saying feature films are simple and less planned form of TV series but the need of quick and concise plot deliverance makes complex narrative strategy nearly obsolete.

Reality shows have been going wild over the past few years; ranging from criminal busts, airport security and to the most dreadful ‘reality drama’…. Keeping up with the Kardashians/ Jerseyliscious. The first two are fine a dandy but the later two; try closing your eyes and hear the yell, screams and near constant chain of bitching for no true reason (pardon the vulgarity there).

 

 

 

 

What’s the point you ask? Reality TV shows is more of a cheap excuse for the absence of well written fiction films than anything else much like how Mittell said. There’s no real narrative structure in such episodic TV shows that it’s a gamble of whether viewers will take it as a one off or a continual series solely based on a possible fanbase instead of cleverly planned plot or strong complex narrative strategy. As such there is no real “hook” for viewers to bite in the series, where TV series such as Lost, Game of Thrones and 24 have to be taken in every step of the way instead of new bits and pieces that have little to no continual impact as a whole in a reality show.

This doesn’t mean simple stories won’t sell as much as twisted, complicated ones but the resulting overall engagement of course holds much less impact. The sheer focus required to understand the complex context of the story in a TV series literally sends a “trololo” sign towards feature films and or reality TV show, as if saying films are for generally blunt viewers (which is brash but works).

Overall, it’s surprising that Mittell pin pointed every factor that defines complex narrative as more than just aesthetic and genre specific aspect. The correlation between the mainstream & complex narrative convention, ‘Quality TV’ “standards” and general public sphere’s preference makes for a perfect logic circle for complex narration as a new aesthetic approach in TV.

 

Links

Mittell; Narrative complexity in Contemporary American Television (pp. 31-39)

https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http://justtv.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/mittell-narrative-complexity.pdf&pli=1

 

 

Taste matters for fans! brash critics? shoo…

Ginia Bellafante’s got balls for reviewing ‘Game of Thrones’ from a sexist point of view but is narrow minded in most degrees. She talks about the series being targeted to male audiences more than female, what with dude’s more open taste for medieval fantasy genre than women do (that what SHE said….).

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Bellafante’s focused too much on the gender boundaries, often saying sexual content is the main bait to break the gender taste barrier than the plot and story of the series, which for many (fans or not) is the key selling point of the series. Bellafante argued that today’s culture being sanitized to erotic content leads to a more male oriented fan-base which is a far-fetched brash statement. The fixation of looking for an “orgiastic excess” factor in a show is something that critics often exaggerates to counter the fandom, pretty much excluding the more emotionally engaging side that the show has to offer. It’s as if fans’ taste for a specific factor in a genre is mirrored by the critics’ taste of over making notion of fans as ‘textual poachers’. (Henry Jenkins, 1992)

Medieval fantasy genre have been onscreen for some time by now and most have that erotic touch to each but nonetheless have a strong plot that is often overshadowed by critics’ “preference” in looking at the more controversial content instead of the ‘core’ content of the series’ true volume but the general fan base includes both bronies and ladies. Both gender have a fascination to sex and what not but it does not mean sex is everything for anyone within the gender barrier right?

Many times critics like Bellafante argue about the sexist side of a series, she brashly assume that current culture’s taste for erotic content is the base of fantasy genre’s fandom, disregarding the possible relation of the genre’s more rigid, barbaric and male characters in a “higher” hierarchical state, often using rather erotic approach of the series in terms of thematic appearance.

Medieval fantasy have always have a flair for a more male oriented (often barbaric) theme and sexually driven hierarchical characters and story, which is fair enough by its own right since it often times add a certain depth to hook audience to the timeline and setting. More often than not, the volume put into bloody battle and/ or political scenes dominates the majority of the show which fuels the drama aspect of the genre.

Today’s culture often have a taste for the association/ familiarity of the conflict onscreen and the ones in reality regardless of the gender barrier. Sure some still shun the idea of visual masochism being open for every eyes/ anyone’s imagination but why does the context of general fan-base for such genre have to be so black and white in terms of the gender barrier?

M. Hills (2007) states that fans are often stereotyped and pathologised as cultural “Others” – out of the norm social subjects, considered extreme in terms of their “irrational” attachment… – which is true, well… partially anyway. Game of Thrones had such a massive following, it secured its place in the Emmys real snuggly but many known names regressed the overabundance of audience’s investment; be it time to watch the series or extreme fan-base that goes as far as buying GoT merchandises,  to the title.

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Many previous series bears the same/ similar genre, set and theme but didn’t garner such a “cult following”, i.e. Spartacus and yet said series fans aren’t grouped up as perverted bunch as much as the GoT fans. It’s a bit like how Twilight saga fans are mostly female and how most male population degenerate vampires’ depiction from a strong supernatural presence to a gay bar usual for no apparent reason (aside from the way the actors are given oddly feminine makeup for scenes) [trolololo].

Jokes aside, back to Bellafante’s review, GoT being a medieval fantasy genre would have been easily predicted to have male characters on the upper echelon of the hierarchical order which (as evident) sparks the idea of  the target audience being male, what with the idea that guys are much more sensitized to masochistic/ erotic content. This is true, however excluding the possibility of female audience altogether in regards of their taste for medieval fantasy genre makes the critic (cough… Bellafante.. cough) somewhat too blunt for their own good. Again, these days, gender barrier works only so far and is often exaggerated for no apparent reason.

True male audiences’ taste is more open to explicit/ vulgar content but it does not justify the idea that the general fan-base is based only on said aspects and only for that one gender. What if an oblivious and “innocent” little girl somehow busted your parental lock code and saw the whole series with the whole sexual content, would that also make this toots a pervert? Is it not possible that maybe the kid is a fan for liking the action, sword clash or the cute little adopted wolfs part of the show? (Though it is still a What The Sh** thing that a kid would even like that sort of thing.)

Bottom line, the public sphere can’t be this black and white due to a certain person being a sexist can it? Fan base is more than just a simple fetish thing, today’s culture have a taste for drama, conflict, downfall, and even death at times which multiple genres of shows/ films utilize to satisfy. Fans have the right to have a fixation on a specific taste but most of the time said fixation is limited/ suppressed due to social standards. Sure guys love explosions, and bloody battles for their inner 12 year old more so than le ladies, but in the end ladies do love flashy stuffs at times too. That coupled with everyone seeing drama in TV/ YT and all that everyday would end up with both gender gaining a taste for that sort of “genre” and thus a fandom.

Here’s something to cheer you all up.

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Links

Bellafante’s review on GoT
http://tv.nytimes.com/2011/04/15/arts/television/game-of-thrones-begins-sunday-on-hbo-review.html?_r=0&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1346818659-LK9CCpSmjo3LHLLhMHBeFQ

George R.R. Martin’s response to the review.
http://www.planetfury.com/content/george-rr-martin-ny-times

http://www2.macleans.ca/2011/04/19/men-watch-tv-like-this-women-watch-tv-like-that/

http://www.themarysue.com/game-of-thrones-review-women/

and the list goes on… google it and you’ll see a whole bunch of flame towards Bellafante, and that current generation’s taste is more open to things that were otherwise considered for specific gender audience in the past.