Is genre a useful way of analysing television?

 

 

At the opening of the first episode, Mel was introduced in plain clothes, with no indication that she was a policewoman; she was seen snorting cocaine and dancing all night in a nightclub. The distinctions between the upholders of the law and those whose criminal activities make them the object of police attention were being blurred right from the beginning of the series. As the young police officers learned more about the inhabitants of the local housing estate who they were often called upon to search, interrogate and arrest, they developed increasingly caring attitudes to these people and greater understanding of their problems.

Again, the distance between the police and the community was reduced, and the easy identification of perpetrators and victims, heroes and villains, was made increasingly difficult for the audience. The television form of the series supported this blurring of genre categories and expectations. Scenes in The cops were shot with a single camera, always following the police characters into action, rather that establishing a scene before their arrival.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

The single camera was often hand-held, moving with the police as they moved through the corridors of the police station, through the streets and into houses. Whereas “television drama programmes are normally shot using the shot-reverse-shot convention familiar with cinema, in which scenes are performed several times with the camera positioned differently each time in order to capture the reactions of one character to another” (Patricia, p157). The Cops aimed to give the impression of unrehearsed action occurring in real time.

This is of course the camera convention used in television documentary, where a single camera operator is often forced to pan quickly between speakers, they try to record the action as it occurs and carry the camera physically as action moves across a area. The effect of this form in The Cops was to generate a sense of realism in following action as it occurs. It also had the effect of requiring the audience to observe the police and interpret their actions without the camera providing the movements from wider shots to close-ups, and dramatic contrasts which usually offer an interpretative point of view on the action.

The Cops demanded a more active and interpretive viewer than is usual in television drama, with the camera technique implying observation and investigation as much as identification with the characters. The structural and formal qualities of The Cops work together to signal genre conventions and also to blur them. The ideological consequence of this is that The Cops put into question any easy distinction between us and them, police and perpetrator, and creatively pushed the boundaries of a very established television genre.

“The ideological functions of television programmes cross the boundaries between genres. ” (Bignell p16) Television police series are structured around the opposition between legality and criminality. Narratives are organised by establishing the central character of the detective or policemen as a personal representative of legality, the audience is then encouraged to identify the central character figure and the criminal is established as responsible for disruption.

In television news a similar opposition is established between the public, the news presenters and the institution of television news on one hand, and the other nations, public institutions, perpetrators of crime and the impersonal forces of chance, the weather and natural processes which produce the disruptions and disorder reported in the news. Although audiences recognise television news and television police series as different genres, the ideological oppositions between order and disorder, continuity and disruption animate both genres at the level of structure and narrative.

“Television genres matter as cultural categories” (Mittell Jason, Genre and television 2004 p. 18), genres guide personal preferences and frame everyday conversations and viewing practices. Industries use genres to produce programs, to define brands and identities (channels such as Star plus, Sky sports and Cbeebies) and to target audiences through scheduling by locating genres within timeslots, as in daytime soap operas. Although genre is a important way of analysing television, cultural factors are also significant to the analysis of television.

The American theorist Fredric Jameson uses the term “postmodernism” to refer to the ways in which “cultural products such as television… as well as physical products such as bananas… have become part of the global capitalist economy” (Mittell, p 172). Jameson’s political background is in Marxism and therefore he emphasises how the economic basis of capitalism affects television and media culture. When analysing television programmes, Jameson argues, they turn out to carry the political ideologies of contemporary capitalist culture.

As an example of how this theory works the background case study here is the children’s action series Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers (1992). The series was made by Saban Entertainment, who adapted the scenario from the Japanese television series Kyoryo Sentai Zyuranger by inserting live-action sequences filmed in the Unites States into the effects and model sequences of the Japanese series. So the first points to note are the combination of American-and Japanese-made sequences within the same programme and the production of the series by a Japanese corporation for a western television audience.

A product which has its origins in the culture of Japan recycles and adds to its antecedents, with an eye to international sales. The inclusion of American teenage actors and English dialogue is especially striking here, because of the predominance of the English language and American racial characteristics as worldwide norms. In fact Power Rangers draws on further borrowings than this, across film and comics as well as television. Since the 1960s Japanese television has produced animated and live-action television which combines traditional martial arts with science fiction (also seen in anime, manga and comics).

“Power Rangers borrows from the 1979 film and television series Mobile Suit Gundam, in which human fighters use armoured robotic body suits, and Bubblegum Crisis (1987), which features four female warriors fighting evil in a future Tokyo” (Levi, Antonia, Understanding Japanese Animation, 1996, p87). Power Rangers picks up these narrative elements and adapts them. The series concerns how a group of male and female American teenagers (helping the magician Zordon) who control robot fighting machines (Zords) fight the evil witch Repulsa and her assistants. Repulsa’s henchmen have the combined characteristics of humans, reptiles and machines.

The programme as a whole seems to focus on the differences and similarities between humans, monsters and machines. It is at this point that a textual analysis of the programme can illuminate the underlying sub-textual meanings of the series, to show how it might resonate with current concerns and problems which might be unconsciously recognised by its child audience in many developed societies. Where television genre analysis is more concerned with theoretical aspects such as the categorical elements, narrative and its target audience, cultural elements in television can be more specific to the society we are in today.

It can be argued that Power Rangers was successful because it responds to the current cultural concern with the similarities and differences between humanity and technology, an anxiety which may be experienced more by children (whose identities are rapidly developing) than by adults. Control over technology is part of the adult world, and the feeling of mastery which results is represented in the series through mastery over violence, fear and destructiveness by means of technological power over others and the world.

So an ideological analysis of Power Rangers as a globalised cultural product would emphasise how it engages with questions of power and identity (are humans, machines and animals different, and in what ways, and how can humans deal with a world in which technology and violence seem to disempower us? ) and tries to resolve them in a fictional form. The television programme is not independent of other global consumer industries. There were crazes for toys based on Power Rangers such as plastic action figures, toy weapons and models of the Zords.

As well as being a cult television programme in Britain, Power Rangers was used by many companies to endorse various product lines, from pyjamas to toy figures to snack foods, using the name, logo and imagery of the series in the packaging and design of all kinds of products. The television series was the central node from which radiated a whole host of other cultural goods and activities. The boundaries between genre and other ways of talking about types of media product are not always clear. Genre as a theory began as a way of investigating film and TV fiction, but it is now applied to all kinds of media products.

As a result, the meaning of the term has become general and vague. However, genre is still a useful way of looking at television as it brings out interactions between the programme being studied and other texts. It can show how the text uses and differs from previous examples in the genre. “It is pointless to insist on generic purity in relation to television programmes” (Feur Jane, Genre and Television, 1992 p. 45) Nowadays, however, media products such as television tend to use more than one genre in a mix-and-match way. Most fiction today seems to be cross-generic, so that the single genre concept is often not applicable.

The fact that such examples have mutated over time raises another important characteristic of television genres. Unlike the audiences for films, the audiences for continuing television programmes respond to the texts they consume directly through ratings figures, phone calls to the network and so on. Television producers change aspects of their programmes in response to audience feedback: characters can be killed off, presenters can be taken off-air. In some cases the effect of constant tweaking of the format and content amounts to a change in genre thus may well be irrelevant to analysing television.

To conclude academics use generic distinctions to define research projects and organise teaching, while journalistic critics rely upon genres to locate programs within a common framework. Even going to the video store or going through a TV Guide reveals genre as the primary framework to sort out television’s vast array of programmatic options. “Genres can be seen as key ways that our media experiences are classified and organised into categories that have specific links to particular concepts like cultural value, assumed audience and social function” (Mittell, p.

xii). We can see how analysing television is much more than simply looking into genres, but other aspects like culture provides greater insight into the specific ways in which our most widespread cultural medium shapes our social world through emphasis on power and identity. Nonetheless there are many different ways in analysing television, whether it is culture, history, production, narrative or audience analysis, genre is the foremost way to analyse television.

Genre is the categorisation and theme that is used to create the whole program this includes the characters, settings, mise-en-scene, editing and values, so anything that can be a useful way of analysing television can somewhat be related back to genre. The research obtained in this report is mainly based on other academics’ analysis on genre and television, most academics such as Altman agree with the significance of genre analysis although they depict some flaws, the research on genre being used to analyse, is very dominant in their writing.

Bibliography Altman, Rick Film/Genre BFI 1995 Bignell, Jonathan Television studiesRoutledge 2004 Creeber, Glen The television genre book BFI 2001 Feur, Jane Genre and television BFI 1992 Geraghty, Lincoln The shifting definitions of genre Jancovich, Mark McFarland & CO 2008 Holland, Patricia The television handbook Routledge 1997 Langford, Barry Film genre: Hollywood and beyond Edinburgh University Press 2005 Levi, Antonia, Understanding Japanese Animation Open Court Publishing 1996 Mittell, Jason Genre and television Routledge 2004 Neale, Steve Genre and Hollywood Routledge 1999 Nicholas, Joe Advanced studies in media Price John Nelson Thornes 1998 Rose, Brian Directing for television Routledge 1999.

x

Hi!
I'm Simon!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out