Close analysis of Realism on TV.
The following questions should guide your analysis and are nota set of requirements. These are the kinds of questions that the course content will suggest. You may need to modify or add to these questions and some may not be relevant, depending on the type of film or TV program you choose. Lectures and readings should clarify the significance of all of the following questions:
Topic 1: Close analysis of Realism on TV
Realism is an ism; that is, it is a set of standardized and accepted codes and conventions which are understood my both producers and audiences as providing a some sort of “window on the world.” How do such codes function in a specific show? How is spatial and temporal coherence maintained? While realist conventions can be varied and change over time, they all work toward a single purpose: to efface the process of production and construction, to hide the fact that what we see is always a highly organized and carefully constructed representation of the world. Moreover, particular interpretations of the world or events and the values and ideologies behind those interpretations seem to emanate from the world or characters, and not the process of representation or the institutions that produce it. How do their realist conventions (continuity editing, framing, focus, camera movement, observational cinema verité) work to mask or efface the ideological work of TV?
If you want to address this question with reality programming, music video or advertising, consider the function of hyperreality. Often, the codes and conventions of realism are made explicit and the show can be somewhat self-reflexive. You can see the codes at work because they are so extreme and obvious. Yet there seems to be a tacit understanding between producers and audiences that the overcoding (erratic camera movement, misframing, focus pulls, direct address) is to be read as real.
Here is the example we discussed in class.
Topic 2: The realism of reality TV.
We need to focus on the codes and conventions used in reality TV before we can offer an ideological analysis. So how do things like direct address function to represent participants/contestants as real people? How does camera work function to make appear as if events unfold before the camera without construction by the producers? How does editing work to efface the construction of the images? Does a reality show use invisible editing? How does fly-on-the wall camera techniques make it appear as if we are seeing the world as it “really”is, or appear as a reflection or window on the world? How can editing or camera techniques work to develop or undermine a character’s authenticity? How does a show present images as the real world populated by real people? If you would like to offer a brief discussion of the ideological implications of a show, hint at its values or conclude with reference to a show’s ideological work, please do so.
Topic 3: Realism as Authenticity
Choose one of the three options
a. music video
First, your task is not to argue whether a musical form, song, artist or video is or is not authentic. For our purposes, there is no actual authenticity behind an artist or song or set of images; your job is to recognize at the outset that authenticity is always a matter of codes. Thus, you are asked to analyze the means by which claims to authenticity are made in music, just like Peterson and McLeod do. Try to examine the criteria of such claims, what is at stake in county music according to Peterson? What are behind claims of “keeping it real” in hip-hop as described by McLeod? Your primary task is to examine the televisual codes and conventions that express authenticity like hand-held cameras, sepia tones, black and white, camera work etc. Many popular music genres sell authenticity as part of the package that is sold with an artist, band, album or song. Examine the package and the packaging process. The more ‘threatened” (McLeod) a music genre is, the more extravagant its claims to authenticity (Sid Vicious and Kurt Cobain). Often, the more extravagant the claims, the more extravagant the code of realism become. Different musical genres and forms present authenticity in different ways: Rock offers bourgeois individualism or the authenticity of certain rebellious experiences (sex, drugs, rock and roll). Country often conjures up a sense of place: rural, home, the south or west or recreate an artist’s roots in rural life. Hip-hop has its place in the inner city with images of urban spaces or insists on “keeping it real” or will link an artist to crime, drugs, extreme masculinity or sexual excess, etc. Punk makes its claims to authenticity with unemployability, a DIY ethic and a refusal of capitalist enterprise. Pick a genre, artist or even a single song and discuss how the relationship between image and sound in television music video — or elsewhere on TV — authenticates the music and artist.
b. authentic commodities
In a world dominated by massed produced goods that all look the same, it is paramount that advertising makes distinctions between parity goods. Equally important is the signification of authenticity in advertising. Goldman and Papson discuss the authenticity of bourgeois individualism at length. If authenticity is always a matter of codes, what codes are used? In ads, authenticity can be located in the production of mass-produced goods (whiskey or trucks) or its consumption (beer) or in what the product can represent (jeans) or the experiences it may offer (soft drinks, cigarettes). Advertising often uses elaborate codes to signify authenticity: both social codes (of dress, of expression) and televisual codes (hand-held cameras, focus pulls, grainy image). How are authentic celebrities or non celebrities used? The point of most ads is to attach the meanings of authenticity produced by those codes to the product. Your task is to offer a close analysis of those codes as well as the process by which the specific meanings of authenticity are attached to a product. You can focus on a particular product, class of product, a single TV ad or a small set of ads.
Ads for pickup trucks, whiskey, jeans, shoes, sometimes soft drinks, traditional food items, etc. are good places to look for authenticity in advertising.
c. Reality TV and the crime of being fake
Often, the narrative tension of reality shows seems to be structured by notions of individual authenticity. The issue is not so much verisimilitude of the text but the genuineness and credibility of individuals. Contestants/characters are to be judged by audiences according to how “real” they are behaving. Sometimes, the worst crime a character can commit is to be fake or insincere. Act fake and get voted off. In gamedocs, this is complicated by the need to make deals or alliances and “game” the situation in order to win, thus setting up a tension between the authenticity of the person and the contrived situations they find themselves in. Consider how editing, camera work and narrative are used to express a character’s authenticity or inauthenticity. Here is an example:
(Links to an external site.)
Before you submit your paper, go over this checklist
• Fully developed introduction with a precise thesis statement indicating what you propose to argue throughout your paper. Flag your thesis with a phrase like: ‘The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that…’ ‘The following will argue that…’ ‘My thesis here is that…’
• Every paragraph develops a specific argument or thesis which is supported by observation and analysis
• Every paragraph is relevant to your main thesis or argument
• Every paragraph is at least 5 sentences long (there may be very occasional exceptions for emphasis) and most are about half a page
• Reading(s) (course or outside readings) used as sources
• Paraphrased sources cited clearly in the text.
• Works Cited page or bibliography in APA format
• No (or no more than one or two) first person pronouns — all writing directs reader’s attention to the text under analysis, not the writer/viewer or the writing process
• Page numbers
• Double space, serif font (Times, Palatino, etc — this text is in sans serif fonts.), one-inch margins
• Fully developed concluding paragraph which reiterates your arguments and your main thesis
If you have questions about any item on this checklist I would be happy to give you a thorough explanation. Email me with questions or to set up an appointment — or see me in class. Or come see me during office hours.
If you experience are any problems with this assignment — technical or otherwise — come see me or send me an email. Having problems getting started? Unsure how to structure your paper? Footnote problems? Your classmates and your instructor are here to help; bring your problems or issues to Writing Centre or see me. Personal or academic crisis? I do not need to know your problems, but please inform me if your paper will be late and when it will be done.
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