Is Television Culture? Well, Duh!
What sort of culture? • What is the most-watched television broadcast? • Princess Diana’s Funeral? • Moon Landing? • Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii? • Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics? • FIFA World Cup Final 2010?
By Country? • USA: Super Bowl XLIV (New Orleans Saints vs. Indianapolis Colts)--106.5 million • Canada: Gold medal game of the Men's ice hockey tournament at the 2010 Winter Olympics--16.6 million • UK: 1966 FIFA World Cup Final--32.30 million • Germany: FIFA World Cup (Germany vs. Italy)--57.66 million
On a weekly basis? • PREMIER FOOTBALL LEAGUE • “League games are broadcast to over 600m homes in 202 countries worldwide.” • “The potential is vast - an estimated audience of one billion watched Manchester United's match with Arsenal in November 2007.” • “Premier League going global,” By Chris Bevan and Jonathan Stevenson, BBC News, Thursday, 7 February 2008 http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/eng_prem/7232378.stm
What’s Driving HDTV Sales? Superbowls, Soccer, and PS3s
In 1947, Variety reported that the Dodgers-Yankees World Series: “proved conclusively that [TV] is better than radio — and even better than a seat on the first base line — when it comes to dramatic moments.” In the months following, the total number of receivers doubled every four months. Source: Gary R. Edgerton, The Columbia History of American Television (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), 86
The “Academy’s” Response • “Television has always been associated with the feminine, because of its position within the home and its historically greater appeal to female audiences. Part of its status as low other has to do with this association. Feminists fought hard to put television on the ﬁ lm studies agenda. Work on soap operas, domestic sitcoms, and female-centered drama formed a crucial part of early television studies.” • --Michelle Hilmes • “Thus narratively complex television encourages, and even at times necessitates, a new mode of viewer engagement…Thus these programs convert many viewers to amateur narratologists, noting usage and violations of convention, chronicling chronologies, and highlighting both inconsistencies and continuities across episodes and even series...Narrativelycomplex programming invites audiences to engage actively at the level of form as well, highlighting the conventionality of traditional television and exploring the possibilities of both innovative long-term storytelling and creative intraepisode discursive strategies.” –Jason Mittell
Number of television textbooks with a full chapter dedicated to sports programming? Anyone want to guess?
On the other hand… A survey of television textbooks reveals an antipathy towards critical theory.
Generally discussed Less-often discussed Theodor W. Adorno, “How to Look at Television” “Frankfurt School Cultural Studies Post-Structuralism Non-formalist aesthetic theory • Raymond Williams, Television • “Birmingham School” Cultural Studies • Communications Theory • Formalism • “Administrative” Social Science Research Methods
A Provocation: “And the true middlebrow may genuinely be mistaken in the small community for a genuine highbrow.” Russell Lynes, “Highbrow, Lowbrow, Middlebrow” (1949)
“The increasing strength of modern mass culture is further enhanced by changes in the structure of the audience. The old cultured elite does not exist any more; the modern intelligentsia only partially corresponds to it. At the same time, huge strata of the population formerly unacquainted with art have become cultural ‘consumers.’ Modern audiences, although probably less capable of the artistic sublimation bred by tradition have become shrewder in their demands for perfection of technique and for reliability of information as well as in their desire for “services;” and they have become more convinced of the consumers’ potential power over the producer, no matter whether this power is actually wielded… • —Theodor W. Adorno, “How to Look at Television” (1954) A Provocation
“We propose to concentrate on issues of which we are vaguely but uncomfortably aware, even at the expense of our discomfort's mounting, the further and the more systematically our studies proceed. The effort here required is of a moral nature itself: knowingly to face psychological mechanisms operating on various levels in order not to become blind and passive victims.” • —Theodor W. Adorno, “How to Look at Television” (1954) A Provocation