Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Core Response 4: Viewing TV Both Ways

Others have posted on the questions surrounding media visibility and its historical relationship to modes of empowerment, and Stefania brings up an interesting point at the end of her post that:
We can reach a Todd Gitlin kind of conclusion based on representations of women in popular TV programming, but we can also see how increased visibility on the importance of women in TV and conveying feminist attitudes, and the recent proliferation of what scholars like Sarah Banet-Weiser are calling “popular feminism,” can change things for future generations.”
TV, as this dynamic site of representation, acts as a kind of turf war among feminists (1st, 2nd, 3rd, post) as well as thinkers of critical race theory, examining the various “double entanglements” that it presents. I agree with Stefania and Sarah Banet-Weiser that “the twenty-first-century context of postfeminism and the present celebration of urban images have encouraged a lineup of children's shows [I would add adult/mature shows as well] that feature strong, smart girls and multicultural casts.” [i] However, in the same instance, “this progressive ideology works as a more general market imperative”[ii] and a way for network’s to reformulate their brand identity and address their audiences as cultural citizens by “target[ing] aspects of personal identity such as race as a way to be inclusive.”[iii] In some circumstances, celebrating difference in generalized ways as to present “marketable global citizens.”[iv]

Looking at Dora the Explorer, Banet-Weiser explains that because Nickelodeon frames the challenges to dominant stereotypes within normative social conventions the show can remain palatable for a broad media audience.[v] Or more specifically, the show “utilize[s] Latino "themes" as part of the program but in a safe way so as not to alienate Nickelodeon's predominantly white, middle-class cable audience.”[vi]

Banet-Weiser’s comments here drew my attention to an article in New York Magazine written by Eddie Huang earlier this year.[vii] In it he imparts some of the difficulties and aggravations in the development of his memoir to a TV show (Fresh Off the Boat), citing a fear that the show might appear as “a reverse-yellowface show with universal white stories played out by Chinamen” (Huang).  This led to slight confrontations over certain jokes and segments, and what he felt was becoming the show’s overly positive affirmation of America through an Asian American family. Despite some of the difficulties in its inception, Huang by the end of the article begins to reconcile his problems with the show, writing, “The only way they could even mention some of the stories in the book was by building a Trojan horse and feeding the pathogenic stereotypes that still define us to a lot of American cyclope.”[viii] And he even touches upon the network’s propensity to embrace and reinforce difference as a broad means of identification, “It takes a lot of chutzpah to launch a network comedy with a pilot addressing the word chink, yet it works because it’s the safest bet the studio could have made. The feeling of being different is universal because difference makes us universally human in our individual relationships with society.”[ix]

[i] Banet-Weiser, Sarah. “What’s Your Flava?: Race and Postfeminism in Media Culture.” Interrogating Postfeminism: Gender and the Politics of Popular Culture. Eds. DianeNegra and Yvonne Tasker. Durham: Duke University Press, 2007. 218
[ii] Ibid. 222.
[iii] Ibid. 218.
[iv] Ibid. 221.
[v] Ibid. 222.
[vi] Ibid.
[vii] Huang, Eddie. “Bamboo Ceiling TV.” Vulture (New York Magazine). January 12, 2015. < http://www.vulture.com/2015/01/eddie-huang-fresh-off-the-boat-abc.html>
[viii] Ibid.
[ix] Ibid.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the shoutout and mentioning me along with Banet-Wesier! I'm in her Feminist Theory course right now and she just mentioned today that in Annenberg, her and Henry Jenkins are seen as the pessimist and the optimist, respectively, and these views on media and culture, being negative or positive about how it impacts citizens and society at large, has been a prevalent and important theme throughout this whole course, since we were divided by who agreed with Newcomb and who agreed with Gitlin. I'm kind of in between the pessimist and optimist views. My work on women showrunners reveals that there are more women creating feminist TV programming than ever before, getting recognition, responses, etc, but it's still not a lot of women able to do this work.
    Same thing with Fresh Off the Boat, the TV show just can't be this groundbreaking thing yet, because network TV, especially network TV sitcoms, aren't there yet. It's still about catering towards that mass audience and the humor won't always be as savvy, or want that kind of content. But I think it's our job as smart audiences and academics and writers to let it be known, through our writing, that that's what cutting edge media should strive for.