Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Now That's What I Call Media Exposure

Frankly, Janet, I don't give a...Oops!

It's been a good week to be a media studies teacher.

1. Janet and Justin: Did they or didn't they? I've been seeing this peripherally for a day and a half already; the game was boring and the ads mediocre at best, so in an otherwise light news cycle we're left with a cultural conundrum and an airspace thick with rumor, including Janet taking all the heat, the possibility of a "full FCC investigation" and/or a million dollar fine, and -- no surprise here -- a rash commitment from CBS that they will never contract with MTV for a halftime show again. But in my mind, what's interesting about this whole flapdoodle is that it doesn't matter whether or not it was planned, or by whom. Neither the presence or absence of intent nor the ultimate assignation of blame will make one whit of difference to what the ultimate effect of it will be on the medium of television, and our cultural discourse that follows: football has been recreated as a sport of boors (including those TiVOheads who made this bare-boob moment the most repeated event in TiVO history) and, as such, anathema to family values. The breast moves, and having scarred, moves on. So much for feminism.

2. CBS refuses to change their policy on "issue ads," doesn't air Moveon.org contest winner. The real news here, though, is that the liberal media is addressing the issue as one of Free Speech and responsibility to the public, when anyone who's read even a little bit of Neil Postman would realize that it's a cultural DISservice to allow TV to be used for "advertising" complex ideas. CBS' responsibility to the public should lie in recognizing the iconographic tendencies of their medium, and refusing to allow public discourse to be dumbed down. As if one could sell more than raw emotion in a 30 second ad. Even the New York Times, while acknowledging that the Right is probably hurt worse and more often by this policy than the liberal Left, misses the point on this one, suggesting that exposure alone is reason enough to air such ads during the Super Bowl and, in doing so, mistaking power for positive change. Champion-of-the-literati Postman would have been so disappointed.

3. Mary-Ellis Bunim, 57, creator of Real World, Simple Life, called back home by Satan. 'nuff said. And while we're on the subject, does the new Survivor, which features past winners and also-rans from previous episodes of Survivor, still count as reality television, even though these folks have already done this once before? Have we traded in the real for the surreal, when we know that Richard Hatch is going to strip down, and then he does strip down, and we watch it anyway? Surely we are merely witnessing an old form of metanarrative, like Road Rules vs. Real World, or when the Flintstones met the Jetsons -- that rapid commodification of the genre itself, towards self-parody and recycling, when you know they've all long since jumped the shark. But I'll wait until they stop fuzzing out Hatch's nether parts for prime time to make the final call on whether its reality, or just reality television, that's on its last breath. The cynic in me says I won't be waiting long.

4. Also in today's obituaries: some guy who revolutionized and standardized the use of film trailers before the main feature. Just imagine a world where you can sit in a well-and-warmlylit theater and talk to the person next to you until the movie starts. Now thank Andrew Kuehn for taking that pleasurable experience and replacing it with fast flashy adverts that startle you out of your seat, waste as much as ten minutes of your time, and in no way set the tone for the movie that follows. Can't tell whose impact on culture was worse, Kuehn's or Bunim's, but they both ought to be glad I'm not the one who has to decide on their pennance for all eternity -- the possibilities for just desserts are tempting indeed.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:06 PM |

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