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Beyond representation

Beyond representation: Television drama and the politics and aesthetics of identity

Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Beyond representation
    Book Description:

    Beyond representation poses the question as to whether over the last thirty years there have been signs of ‘progress’ or ’progressiveness’ in the representation of ‘marginalised’ or subaltern identity categories within television drama in Britain and the US. In doing so it interrogates some of the key assumptions concerning the relationship between aesthetics and the politics of identity that have influenced and informed television drama criticism during this period. This book can function as a textbook because it provides students with a clear and coherent pathway through complex, wide-reaching and highly influential interdisciplinary terrain. Yet its rigorous and incisive re-evaluation of some of the key concepts that dominated academic thought in the twentieth century also make it of interest to scholars and specialists. Chapters examine ideas around politics and aesthetics emerging from Marxist-socialism and postmodernism, feminism and postmodern feminism, anti-racism and postcolonialism, queer theory and theories of globalisation, so as to evaluates their impact on television criticism and on television as an institution. These discussions are consolidated through case studies that offer analyses of a range of television drama texts including Big Women, Ally McBeal, Supply and Demand, The Bill, Second Generation, Star Trek (Enterprise), Queer as Folk, Metrosexuality and The Murder of Stephen Lawrence. This book is aimed at students and scholars of Television Drama, Media and Communication, Cultural Studies, Women’s Studies and those concerned with questions of politics and aesthetics in other disciplines.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-172-6
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: beyond the politics of identity?
    (pp. 1-8)

    The title for this book is inspired by a 1998 radio interview in which Michael Jackson, then controller of Channel 4, was asked about the company’s current position on its policy of catering for ‘minority’ or ‘special interest’ groups, established as part of its original charter in the 1980s. Taking the seriesQueer as Folk(1998) as an example, Jackson stated that it is now possible to go beyond ‘simple, positive representations’ of such groups to provide more complex characters and dramatic narratives. On a basic level, these comments indicate something of the terrain of this project, in so far...

  5. 1 Beyond realism? Modes of reading in Marxist-socialist and post-Marxist-socialist Television drama criticism
    (pp. 9-33)

    In the context of mid- to late twentieth-century British television drama criticism, the relationship between politics and aesthetics was most often defined through reference to the Marxist-socialist tradition and more specifically to the work of theatre practitioner and theorist Bertolt Brecht.

    Brecht famously developed a critique of what he termed ‘Aristotelian’ or ‘dramatic theatre’, which he defined as offering an illusion of reality that conformed to the ideology of the ‘parasitic bourgeoisie’ (Brecht, 1987: 160–1). Usually understood as an attack on naturalism and/or realism, Brecht’s analysis of this aesthetic embraced all aspects of production including illusionist staging, linear narratives,...

  6. 2 The end(s) of feminism(s)? From Madonna to Ally McBeal
    (pp. 34-65)

    In an overview of the field since the 1970s, the editors ofFeminist Television Criticismstate that ‘feminist television criticism has not adequately conceptualised its own meanings for feminism, but instead has mirrored the “common sense” meanings of feminism that circulate in both popular and academic cultures’. As they indicate, this ‘sense’ was not actually ‘common’ but rather reflected ‘the place and concerns of white, middle class, heterosexual, western women’. They conclude that new directions for feminist criticism ‘will involve a further critique of what is and has been meant by terms such as women and feminist’ (Brunsdon, D’Acci and...

  7. 3 Divided duties: diasporic subjectivities and ‘race relations’ dramas (Supply and Demand, The Bill, Second Generation)
    (pp. 66-98)

    In a 1998 article forScreen, Charlotte Brunsdon discussed Lynda La Plante’sPrime Suspect(1991) with reference to the way in which some 1990s British crime drama had become concerned with an ‘equal opportunities discourse’ (Brunsdon, 1998). Brunsdon mainly concentrated on issues of gender but touched on ‘race’, implicitly raising the question of whether, in these terms, British crime drama had become any more (or less) progressive, since earlier in the decade Jim Pines asked whether it could be defined as ‘inherently racist’ (Pines, 1995). Pines pursues this question in relation to form but also to genre, authorship and representation....

  8. 4 The world of enterprise: myths of the global and global myths (Star Trek)
    (pp. 99-137)

    In 1999, Doreen Massey stated that ‘Globalisation is currently one of the most frequently used and most powerful words in our geographical and social imaginations’ (Massey, 1999: 33). Massey’s stress on the imagination echoes that of other theorists, some of whom describe it as a ‘fantasy, a set of practices and a context’ (Franklin, Lurie and Stacey, 2000: 5). In fact, the concept of globalisation functions as a mode of ‘emplotment’, or a metanarrative, providing a framework for ‘identifying, defining and analysing a set of processes that are said to be transforming the world at an unprecedented speed’ (Franklin et...

  9. 5 Only human nature after all? Romantic attractions and queer dilemmas (Queer as Folk)
    (pp. 138-168)

    As I noted in the introduction, in 1998 Michael Jackson, the controller of Channel 4, usedQueer as Folk(1998) to imply a narrative of progress in that channel’s representation of ‘minority groups’. A similar narrative of progress, specifically in relation to gay and lesbian subjects, is also suggested by the article which appears on the pages of the BBC website devoted toTipping the Velvet(2002), a historical drama focused around a lesbian character and based on the novel of the same name by Sarah Waters (BBC, 2003). Summarising the history of the representation of gay men and lesbians...

  10. Conclusion: beyond (simple) representation? Metrosexuality and The Murder of Stephen Lawrence
    (pp. 169-190)

    The context of Russell T. Davis’s remark, ‘No good drama ever comes out of representation’, cited at the end of Chapter 5, suggests that he is referring to simple, positive representation but also to the notion of ‘representation’ in terms of attempting to speak for, to and about a specific group as a whole.

    In this conclusion, I want to use this comment as a starting point for exploring two pieces of television drama.Metrosexuality(2000) and the drama documentaryThe Murder of Stephen Lawrence(1999), each of which provides a different perspective on the question of ‘simple’ representation. In...

  11. References
    (pp. 191-202)
  12. Index
    (pp. 203-210)