Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mr. T is really a sensitive girly-man

1. In Chapter 11 of Television Culture, on masculinity in gendered television, Fiske discusses how masculinity is a paradox of power and discipline (208), and a “cultural bribe” due to a man’s loss of independence when work becomes his central identity. The cultural bribe seems to come from built-in structures of capitalism, keeping the male role focused on duty to family, nation, and country. In representations of masculinity on television, Fiske provides examples as to how male roles are gendered in order to maintain the status quo in a patriarchal and capitalist society. However, as in his chapter on femininity, Fiske mentions that in some TV shows, spaces are created where the narrative can “open up,” allowing for male audiences to subvert dominant roles, and, in essence, become resistant to dominant definitions of male gender roles. Other than the example he provides illustrating how Miami Vice “softens ” traditional male roles (221), what other examples of more recent television shows might support this argument? And,
do you believe this type of “softer style” actually serves as a point of possible resistance?

2. In Gledhill’s article “Pleasurable Negotiations,” she states that changes over time in our cultural history make older “dominant” readings of texts outmoded, and that alternative readings often end up becoming the preferred readings. She goes further to talk about how TV & film critics' interpretations create “new cycles of meaning production and negotiation” (175) and includes all sorts of non-professional criticism (classroom lectures, letters to the editor, etc.) as offering additional ways to break through dominant patriarchal discourse and shape new meanings from texts, as society changes. Can critical evaluation of texts actually inform audiences and spark resistance to dominant structures by offering newer, more “alternative” readings? Are audiences becoming more sophisticated and aware of dominant/gendered structures, and more able to resist them to create their own meanings? Are they becoming more adept at bypassing the roles provided and interpreting them in new ways? Do you think the mainstream accessibility of media criticism and analysis affects how TV shows are gendered? Is the future looking rosy or dark?

3. In Fiske’s Chapter 10, he points to the slow movement of plots in soap operas, and how it allows women to savor “reactions and feelings.” (184) Also, in many soaps, there are those moments happen frequently, usually at the end of one plot scene, where the camera not only does a close-up on the woman or man’s face, but it lingers uncomfortably long, as we see the expression in real time, changing with an exaggerated emotional reaction. In contrast, in his chapter on masculinity, he offers a similar “savoring” that happens with men as they view slow-motion shots that focus on physical ability (e.g. the sweaty muscles of an athlete in motion) or excessive action (e.g. a car flying over an embankment and going up in flames). (Chap. 11, 219) These examples of narrative structures or editing tools seem to clearly re-create within the text, the theory that women want to process emotions and people’s feelings, and that men, on the other hand, not only focus on the event, but slow it down to savor in the glory of the exciting action. Can you think of any examples where this is turned around? Or, for example, when a woman watches one of these “slow-motion” male-oriented action scenes, is there an alternative reading women might have that would give a feeling of power and release? And visa versa?

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