Wednesday, February 11, 2009

reading questions for 2/12/09

In the first whole paragraph on the top of page 96, Bobo extends her ideas about black female viewers of The Color Purple to the experiences of all marginalized viewers. She talks about how these viewers automatically come at a text from an oppositional standpoint, because of continual misrepresentation. In essence, this is coming down to an argument of authenticity. Can a person who is not (or furthermore, could never be) a member of a community faithfully and authentically present a picture of this community? What does it mean for viewers of The Color Purple that Steven Spielberg was responsible for the film? What are the ramifications of a white male constructing meaning for black women?

In this same paragraph, Bobo continues on to say that “Out of habit, as readers of mainstream texts, we [marginalized viewers] have learned to ferret out the beneficial and put up blinders against the rest.” (96) I enjoyed this reading because so far, it’s one of the only times we’ve dealt with “the other” within “the other” – the experience of marginalized peoples outside of the standard male/female dichotomy. In many of our readings (and specifically in both of the Fiske chapters), I’ve gotten the sense that the assertions made are in regards to homogeneous groups of straight, white men or women. For instance, Fiske does little to deal with Mr. T’s blackness. There is an amazing quote in the bottom right corner of figure 11.2 on page 207. Mr. T says that the gold chains he wears “are a symbol of my great African ancestors, who were brought here as slaves in iron chains. I turned my chains into gold, so my statement is this: I wear gold chains instead of iron because I’m still a slave, but my price tag is higher.” This is a profound statement from a black actor, and one that Fiske doesn’t deal with. Also, very little attention is given to queer readings of these texts, or the experiences of queer (or, god forbid, trans) readers in general. Is it possible to dissolve this homogeneity, or are some of the theories we’ve been reading really only applicable to this standardized straight, white male or female?

In reading Brunsdon’s article, I started thinking about soap operas as a Marxist narrative. While I realize this is a stretch, stick with me for a minute. On page 78, Brunsdon talks about the narrative structure of the British soap Crossroads. She says that “The fictional community…is kept interacting through a series of interlocking economic relationships, but this business interaction is only of diegetic importance as the site of personal relationships.” It’s interesting that the series moves forward and gets its plot structure from economy, and that these economic relationships determine the personal relationships of the characters. This sounds like an incredible example of the base/superstructure model in which the economic base determines the culture and ideas (superstructure) of the community. But the interesting thing about this community is that women are the ones in power, and furthermore, that this narrative affords “a potential moral equality of all individuals”. (80) Granted, the storylines feed into all kinds of hegemony, but it still puts an interesting spin on the traditional workings of community. Could soap operas be read as a Marxist narrative (although not a super-revolutionary one)? Or am I bonkers? Furthermore, if the standard conventions of society are left in place, but women now control them instead of men, is this revolutionary?

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