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Show Sold Separately

Show Sold Separately: Promos, Spoilers, and Other Media Paratexts

Jonathan Gray
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Show Sold Separately
    Book Description:

    It is virtually impossible to watch a movie or TV show without preconceived notions because of the hype that precedes them, while a host of media extensions guarantees them a life long past their air dates. An onslaught of information from print media, trailers, internet discussion, merchandising, podcasts, and guerilla marketing, we generally know something about upcoming movies and TV shows well before they are even released or aired. The extras, or "paratexts," that surround viewing experiences are far from peripheral, shaping our understanding of them and informing our decisions about what to watch or not watch and even how to watch before we even sit down for a show.

    Show Sold Separatelygives critical attention to this ubiquitous but often overlooked phenomenon, examining paratexts like DVD bonus materials forThe Lord of the Rings, spoilers forLost, the opening credits ofThe Simpsons,Star Warsactions figures, press reviews for Friday Night Lights, the framing ofBatman Begins, the videogame ofThe Thing, and the trailers forThe Sweet Hereafter. Plucking these extra materials from the wings and giving them the spotlight they deserve, Jonathan Gray examines the world of film and television that exists before and after the show.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-3315-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: Film, Television, and Off-Screen Studies
    (pp. 1-22)

    A common first line for books on contemporary media, and for many a student essay on the subject, notes the saturation of everyday life with media. Certainly, my list of available cable channels seems to grow every month, while the list of movies in cinemas, on television, for rent, or available for purchase similarly proliferates at a precipitous rate. However, media growth and saturation can only be measured in small part by the number of films or television shows—or books, games, blogs, magazines, or songs for that matter—as each and every media text is accompanied by textual proliferation...

  5. 1 From Spoilers to Spinoffs: A Theory of Paratexts
    (pp. 23-46)

    Paratexts surround texts, audiences, and industry, as organic and naturally occurring a part of our mediated environment as are movies and television themselves. If we imagine the triumvirate of Text, Audience, and Industry as the Big Three of media practice, then paratexts fill the space between them, conditioning passages and trajectories that criss-cross the mediascape, and variously negotiating or determining interactions among the three. Industry and audiences create vast amounts of paratexts. Audiences also consume vast amounts of paratexts. Thus, paratexts’ relationship to industry and audience is most obvious. However, the secret to understanding paratexts lies in working out their...

  6. 2 Coming Soon! Hype, Intros, and Textual Beginnings
    (pp. 47-80)

    Academic and popular accounts of film and television are frequently suffused with discussion of what happensafterwatching, following such questions as “What did you think of such-and-such a show?”, “What effects might it have?”, and “What does it mean?” The social science tradition of studying media has also produced considerable work examining what happensbeforewatching, with, for instance, a strand of “uses and gratifications” research that studies the motivating factors behind one’s choice to watch, and another strand of production studies and political economy that explores the creative and economic processes that go into creating media. But comparatively...

  7. 3 Bonus Materials: Digital Auras and Authors
    (pp. 81-116)

    As examined in chapter 2, Hollywood and its marketers often mobilize paratexts to proffer “proper interpretations,” some preceding the show’s arrival in the public sphere, thereby setting up pre-decodings, and some working in medias res to subtly inflect the public understanding of an ongoing and open text. Many such paratexts will aim to strike a balance between simile—insisting that a show is “just like X,” or “a mix of Y and Z”—and metonym—encapsulating in microcosm the fuller diegetic world that exists in the show. In doing so, as I have argued, they are not always successful or...

  8. 4 Under a Long Shadow: Sequels, Prequels, Pre-Texts, and Intertexts
    (pp. 117-142)

    In chapter 1, I offered multiple metaphors by which we can make sense of paratexts—as airlocks, as high priests of textuality, as overflow, as convergence—but on a basic level, we can understand them as intertexts. Intertextuality refers to the fundamental and inescapable interdependence of all textual meaning upon the structures of meaning proposed by other texts. In common usage,intertextualityrefers to instances wherein a film or program refers to and builds some of its meaning off another film or program, and intertext to the referenced film or program. For instance, West Side Story invokes theintertextsof...

  9. 5 Spoiled and Mashed Up: Viewer-Created Paratexts
    (pp. 143-174)

    Many of the examples and case studies presented so far in this book examine industry-created paratexts, from hype and marketing, to spinoffs, to introductory sequences. However, audiences create paratexts too, and while they commonly lack the capital and infrastructure to circulate their paratexts as widely—or at least as uniformly—as can Hollywood, their creative and discursive products can and often do become important additions to a text. In its most common form, this audience paratextuality occurs anytime two or more people discuss a film or television program, but audience paratextuality also includes criticism and reviews, fan fiction, fan film...

  10. 6 In the World, Just Off Screen: Toys and Games
    (pp. 175-206)

    As I have been arguing throughout this book, a proper study of paratexts and an attention to off-screen studies challenge the logic of “primary” and “secondary” texts,¹ originals and “spinoffs,” shows and “peripherals” often used to discuss paratexts. That logic traditionally regards the film or television program as the center of the textual interaction and the only source of authentic textuality, while peripherals are relegated to the role of nuisances cluttering streets, screen time, cyberspace, and shopping malls, and are seen as tacked on to the film or program in a cynical attempt to squeeze yet more money out of...

  11. Conclusion: “In the DNA”: Creating across Paratexts
    (pp. 207-222)

    Balancing alternate-sized textual universes is rapidly becoming a key task for media producers. Furthermore, since each paratext can toggle or even short-circuit the text (as examples throughout this book have illustrated), another key task is for media producers to streamline their various paratexts. And a third key task is to open sufficient room for storyworlds to be inhabitable, so that viewers have the interest in commandeering portions of the world, as well as the ability and freedom to create their own parts of and paths through this world. Making all of these tasks considerably harder is many companies’ and shows’...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 223-238)
  13. Index
    (pp. 239-246)
  14. About the Author
    (pp. 247-247)