Wednesday, March 30, 2016

TV + Genre Core Post 4

     “I know it when I see it.” This is how U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart “defines” pornography, as quoted in the opening of Mittell’s essay (1). “I know it when I see it”, shows how the viewer is interpelled by genre. Coded "in various cultural sites” and a “broad range of media practices”, genre is to be finally identified and accepted by the viewer (25). In this sense, the viewer plays a crucial role in the process. The viewer seems to be the nexus where a genre really functions. It seems that the viewer is not only a “receptor" of genre. When they recognize/identify a genre, they are also determining/defining it. Along this line, I would ask, is genre distinction based on individual identification of the viewer? If so, does it mean genre distinction is subjective and personal? 

     Drawing on Foucault’s idea on genealogy, Mittell argues that, for genre studies deep structural analysis is not so important as surface meanings or "common articulations” (13). This is why he calls for a cultural analysis approach for genre studies, instead of textual generic criticism or psychological genre examination. This cultural analysis approach puts great importance on production process, because it reveals the complex, intermingled "cultural power relations", hence better for us to understand the "definition, interpretation and evaluation" of genre (16). Mittell draws clear distinction between genre television and television genre, and suggests to prioritize "breadth over depth” and "generality over specificity” in television genre studies (according to this distinction, the other readings this week might be more about genre television rather than television genre) (19, 23, 24). But could it be a concrete cultural analysis on genre if it doesn’t touch on the power dynamics underneath the text, or is without psychological examination on viewer’s processing of genre? Also, if we agree that cultural categories are complex and fluid, it seems that to discard textual, structural or psychological connotations in the specific case of genre studies, is to isolate genre from other cultural categories, or even deny it as a cultural category. I think my real question is, can this cultural analysis approach on television genre actually map the complexity of culture, or is it in nature a reductive method?

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