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Television, Tabloids, and Tears

Television, Tabloids, and Tears: Fassbinder and Popular Culture

Jane Shattuc
Copyright Date: 1995
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Television, Tabloids, and Tears
    Book Description:

    “Ranging from a history of German television through the biographical legend of Fassbinder to the public controversy over Berlin Alexanderplatz, Shattuc’s book presents an important historical account of German media and its audiences during the 1970’s. The work is richly contextual and should be eye-opening for scholars interested in expanding auteur studies out of texts and into the public comprehension and (sometimes) dissension about issues such as high versus mass culture, appropriate functions of state-controlled media, and proper reading strategies.” --Janet Staiger, The University of Texas at Austin

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8595-0
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. 1 The Melodrama of Fassbinder’s Reception
    (pp. 1-18)

    As of 1980, Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s epic television adaptation of Alfred Döblin’s novelBerlin Alexanderplatzwas the longest (sixteen hours), most expensive ($6 million), and most widely seen television project in German media history. It was seen by 20 million West Germans—an unprecedented viewership for a New German Cinema film. Although the expense and length of the series have since been exceeded,² Fassbinder’s production engendered the longest and fieriest controversy to date. Not only the press but also the broad West German public participated in this debate. Through letters and petitions to the producing station, magazines, and newspapers, thousands...

  5. 2 Engineering a Democracy through Autorenfilm: The Political Context of Television’s Support of Fassbinder
    (pp. 19-59)

    The hallmark of the rise of Rainer Werner Fassbinder on television is his status as anAutor:a director who has creative control of a film similar to the control an author has over a literary work. But this description belies the complexity of the cultural and historical connotations that surround the application of the high-culture term ofAutorto a film director. The political underpinnings of television’s support of Fassbinder as anAutorandhis Fernsehspiele(made-for-TV movies) can be traced to television’s institutional foundation: the Allied reeducation program to de-Nazify the Germans.

    Allied postwar philosophy was that the...

  6. 3 Fassbinder as a Popular Auteur: The Making of an Authorial Legend
    (pp. 60-83)

    TheAutordiscourse was the construction of a growing German cultural nationalism of the 1960s, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder was its most prolific, well known, and “notorious” example as a filmmaker. The state’s support of Fassbinder offers a seeming contradiction in that he received more support from German television than any other of the New German Cinema television directors, yet the mere mention of his name would raise eyebrows by the mid-1970s. The art cinema elicits biographical readings because art films are promoted as the personal statement of the director; Fassbinder openly connected his life to his films. We need...

  7. 4 Shock Pop: Fassbinder and the Aesthetics of the German Counterculture
    (pp. 84-104)

    Warhol’s dispassionate and typically voyeuristic chronicling of a star’s deathmakes the unusually self-conscious acknowledgment that he and RainerWerner Fassbinder were both “strange.” Despite their differences, the com-parison between the two artists/directors figures strongly in Fassbinder’s in-ternational reception. Fassbinder’s legend has often been compared to Warhol’s “decadent, camp sensibility of the New York demi-monde.”²

    Both gay, Fassbinder and Warhol are famed for their countercultural lifestyles as leaders of entourages and artistic troupes—groups that servedas ambiguous sources for their sensationalized promiscuous sexuality and asan exploitable pool of labor for their factory-style productivity. Further,solid questions remain about the degree to which the...

  8. 5 The Textual Fassbinder: Two Institutional Genres
    (pp. 105-133)

    Thus far, the issue of the Fassbinder film and the influences of American melodrama and European art cinema have been set aside in favor of chronicling Fassbinder’s place within two major historical discourses—theAutor,and American pop culture. The tension between these two often antagonis-tic sensibilities broadly structured his historical reception in West Germany in the 1970s as the “German Hollywood director.” Yet we need to looknow at how these historical influences structure the Fassbinder text. Two specific institutional genres evolved out of these discussions of Fassbinder's authorship arid popular culture: the melodramatic adaptation for West German television and...

  9. 6 Berlin Alexanderplatz: The Interplay of Fassbinder’s Textual Voices
    (pp. 134-162)

    On the eve of the broadcast of West Germany’s most spectacular television series,Berlin Alexanderplatz,Rainer Werner Fassbinder declared that he was Biberkopf, its protagonist.¹ Not only did he claim this unusual identity, he also wrote a long and painfully self-revelatory essay for the cultural weeklyDie Zeitin which he explained how the Döblin novel had been the central creative impetus for his film career; how the novel stood as a “life’s script”; and finally, at his most confessional, how the novel had allowed him to come to terms with his growing realization of his homosexuality.²

    The connection between...

  10. 7 The Popular Reception of Berlin Alexanderplatz
    (pp. 163-191)

    The broadcast ofBerlin Alexanderplatz(October 1980–January 1981) is considered a failure within West Germany. From April 1980 to after its airing, the series was the focus of public controversy. There was a marked split between an overwhelmingly positive response from professional critics and a uniformly critical response from the viewing public. This occurrence offers an important case study in viewer reception or “the popular response” to an art film. The split between the press and the public contradicts the assumption that critics can and do condition the public reception of television and film. But can we then conclude...

  11. 8 Conclusion
    (pp. 192-200)

    In the end, did the viewer outcry over Fassbinder andBerlin Alexanderplatzfulfill Walter Benjamin’s hopes for mass-produced art? Is it evidence of a public awareness of how the state produces a cultural class system through the title ofAutor?Or did the response simply extend the reactionary biasthat the general populace feels toward an unfamiliar or critical culture, which Fassbinder and his work represented? Benjamin predicted that the mass reproduction of art would finally give the noneducated access to art and that they would reject the power it held in the name of the bourgeoisie. “With regard to the...

  12. Works by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
    (pp. 201-210)
  13. Appendixes A-H
    (pp. 211-222)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 223-246)
  15. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 247-258)
  16. Index
    (pp. 259-263)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 264-264)