1. 11. Erotic Analysis
Eros = transgression + production
Media erotics: explores the array of resistive pleasures that audiences derive from media by examining the various
sensuous, creative, and transgressive ways in which persons use and interpret media
The term erotic derives from Eros, the Greek god of lust, sublimated impulses, creative urges, and fertility.
Like Eros, erotics or eroticism has two principle characteristics: one involving prohibition, taboo, and transgression
(i.e repressed desire), and the other involving production, expenditure and dissemination (i.e seminal fluids)
Thus, eroticism is, at once, disruptive (of the status quo or established order) and productive (of something new)
In other words, eroticism concerns the subject and her/his individual desires, and not simply an innate urge to
reproduce. We also find profound enjoyment in the transgression of taboos
Think about slash fan-fiction. Normal people (producers of slash fan-fiction) are defying the typical heterosexual
relations between characters (disrupting the status quo), creating a homosexual relationship between the two
heterosexual characters (production of something new/taboo in the eyes of some) and they gain pleasure from doing
this (enjoyment in the transgression of taboos)
Resistance: those symbolic and material practices that challenge, subvert, or suspend the cultural codes, rules, or
norms, which through their everyday operation create, sustain, and naturalize the prevailing social structure in a
particular space and time
Basically taking part in something that challenges the current social structure
Resistance is governed by five principles. Resistance is...:
The time and place of an act is crucial to its status as resistance
resistance is not an act with a fixed quality; rather it is always “specific to particular times, places and social
tactics (or the art of the weak), in contrast with strategies (the practices of institutions and structures of power), are
manoeuvres within the enemy's field of vision
A tactic seizes propitious moments, turns events into opportunities, and exploits cracks in the system
Think of the pepper spray cop discussed in class. Regular civilians (the weak) took advantage and seized this
moment and created something funny out of a serious situation. They turned the pepper spray cop (event) into an
opportunity for others to “exploit” the same crack that they did (mocking structures of power in a way that is legal
A tactic is fleeting, disappearing almost as quickly as it appears
If you have ever waited until a teacher turns her back to mock that teacher or to send a text message, you have
behaved tactically (or the cop example above)
Resistance adjusts and amends the existing social order without overturning it.
Resistance is “making do,” about turning the rules to one's advantage, and about the diversion of dominant
resources for personal benefit
Resistance does not free one from domination (i.e social structures and the way they constrain our wants, desires,
and behaviours). So one must settle instead for the way we take advantage of the system for our own ends
2. cumulative Treated in isolation, individual acts of resistance rarely constitute a serious threat to the prevailing social structure.
But multiple acts of resistance over time have the potential to accumulate
Numerous acts can, collectively, bring about more permanent change. Hence, critics should not judge the character
(i.e importance) of a resistive practice according to its immediate effects
Because resistance depends upon the cumulative influence of numerous “small wins” to bring about social change, it
rarely results in rapid or foundational social change.
Resistance remakes society gradually and subtly, unlike revolution, which brings about change suddenly (and almost
Social change fuelled by resistance occurs slowly and in increments, as is evidence by the Gay Rights movement
Although it has won numerous small victories, the overall system remains decidedly homosexual
Resistive (counter-hegemonic) Pleasures:
Increasingly, audiences are becoming “prosumers,” meaning that they are active in how they both use and interpret
In altering the prescribed uses and challenging the preferred meanings of media, prosumptive practices and
behaviours have the potential to yield resistive (i.e productive) pleasures
By taking what the dominant producers in society give you and changing it into a product of your own, your
behaviours have the potential to be considered a resistive pleasure
Three major prosumptive practices: interpretive play, fandom and cultural production, and participatory media
Interpretive Play –The P/M/I Model
The previous chapter suggested that some texts are more polysemous than others. Rather than viewing polysemy as
an either/or question, polysemy of a text is relative, ranging on one end of the spectrum from the highly closed text
to, on the opposite end of the spectrum, the highly open text
Types of Texts:
Closed (Readerly) text:
Closed text: aims “at eliciting a sort of 'obedient' cooperation,”
It's structured to elicit a particular, usually singular, response from audiences
Open (Writerly) text:
Open text: “not only calls for the cooperation of its own reader, but also wants this reader to make a series of
The point between the two terms is that texts vary in the degree to which they constrain or empower audience
Some movies have a defined meaning (like Jaws where a shark hunts people, and they die), to movies with a little
more complexity to them where they may end the movie and leave you guessing as to what happened
Types of Reading:
Similarly, audiences vary in how active they are as interpreters.
Audiences can range from highly passive (a vessel waiting to be filled with meaning)
So you take media texts produced by the higher ups of society and just absorb it, or you are...
A bricoleur who invents their own meaning out of the raw semiotic materials found in texts
You take the texts you're given by the higher ups and do something creative with it Types of Pleasure:
Each of these relations (interactions between open/closed texts, passive consumers/active producers) results in a
different type of pleasure
French has two words for pleasure, plaisir and juissance
describes a comfortable and comforting pleasure: one that conforms to the “dominant ideology and the subjectivity it
In contrast to Plaisir, Jouissance is an ecstatic pleasure that involves disruption of and momentary release from the
social order; it is a temporary breakdown of subjectivity and therefore an evasion of ideology
To understand the difference, consider the difference in pleasure that results from “seeing” a film and “playing” a
The pleasure of the film is largely a cognitive one that derives from following the story, identifying with the
protagonist, and submitting to the structures of the text. (Plaisir)
The pleasure of the video game is one of involvement and interactivity, of directing and controlling the action, of
“losing oneself” in the game: “the ultimate 'eroticism of the text'”
Now combining it all together, you can divide it all up into quadrants. For example....
In Quadrant I: a passive audience consumes a closed text, which generates strong plaisir
functions to reproduce doxa (you are basically eating what the dominant order feeds you, without question)
Way on the opposite end, Quadrant IV couples an open text with an active audience, and it is this text/audience
combination that stands the best chance of realizing transgressive pleasure.
Strong jouissance is a corporeal pleasure that derives from interpretive play: an improvisational mode of reading
that ignores dominant interpretive codes in favour of pursuing immediate bodily desires
Ex: You decide to go watch tv for the sake of absorbing as much pleasure from it as possible, rather than to absorb
the meanings of the shows you watch.
Cruising as Interpretive Play
Bodily pleasure is always singular and individual (experienced personally). Though multiple bodies can experience
pleasures simultaneously (i.e during sex), the bodies are nevertheless experiencing their own pleasures
Cruising: The practice of “reading” with one's body. Six ways of reading with the body (cruising), each of which has
the “potential” to produce jouissance
1. the Abject (abjection)
Abjection: what disturbs identity, system, order. What does not respect borders, positions, rules.
Abjection arises from the crossing of cultural boundaries and the pollution/defilement of social categories.
Ex: that which is discharged or expelled from the body (i.e menstrual blood, spittle, sweat, urine, feces, mucus)
evokes disgust and revolt (remember in class he showed the Aliens video)
Think about South Park. All the times it shows images and refers to excrement (crap) is part of the show's nature,
which may gave rise to the abject.
The pleasure of abjection lies within its very transgressions (the acts of witnessing the bloody, disgusting parts),
which captivate us as well as revolt, attract as well as repel, fascinate as well as disgust
1. the Carnivalesque
Describes the ritual spectacles and comic verbal compositions typical of the culture of folk humor as seen at popular
(as opposed to “offical”) festivals/feasts in the Middle Ages Central to carnivalesque's three basic forms is the concept of grotesque realism, which concerns degradation,
debasement, or uncrowning: “the lowering of all that is high, spiritual, ideal, abstract”
Through grotesque imagery and language (curses, profanities, insults, etc), lofty things are brought down to a
material, earthly level, while lowly or less privileged things are valued and celebrated
So it's when you bring something that's high and mighty, like a celebrity, down to a lower level while using cursing
and grotesque images to make them look bad
Such “social inversion” is another familiar trope or common theme on the tv show South Park, where adults and
celebrities are frequently uncrowned
Ex: in the Paris Hilton episode, she's depicted as an unintelligent, selfish, whore.
The pleasure involved in inverting “normal” cultural hierarchies – of bringing adults and celebs down to earth, and
elevating children as superior in insight – is carnivalesque
“it is the pleasure of the subordinate escaping from the rules and conventions that are the agents of social control
1. the Intertextual
Intertextuality is the idea that texts refer to other texts. In some cases, the gesture to the other texts is purposeful
(when you reference another author in an essay).
This type of intertextuality might be called strategic because it resides in the text itself, and exists for anyone to find.
In contrast to the planned and deliberate references typical of strategic intertextuality, tactical intertextuality
describes associations to other texts produced by the reader
Tactical intertextuality arises not from the text, but from a reading practice: one in which the audience reads laterally
as opposed to linearly.
Rather than reading/following the text (watching a tv show), the text “follows the reader” as she forms connections
and makes personal links
If you have ever been watching a tv show and suddenly stopped watching because your mind was now thinking of
something in the show that caught your attention (they're talking about relationships and you stop to think about
your ex bf/gf for example), you were engaged in tactical intertextuality
1. the Ironic (irony)
Irony refers more to an attitude or sensibility than to the well-known literary device in which the author means the
opposite of what is explicitly said. (so it's not the irony you're thinking about).
The ironic attitude is neutral, though not disinterested; it refuses to take sides because of the “realization that
anything can be made to look good or bad by being rediscribed
The ironic sensibility is comic and humble, it does not assess an issue from a particular angle, but adopts a particular
issue to assess all angles
The best way to think of this irony is on comedy news show The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Stewart does not
advocate a specific view on an issue, but shows his audience the limitations of all (common) views.
The pleasure of irony comes from recognition that no view is precisely right or precisely wrong; lacking a definitive or
positive position or perspective, the ironist is never fully interpellated by the ideology
1. the Liminal (liminality)
Deals with borders and boundaries. Often confused with abjection and carnivalesque.
But whereas the abject involves boundary crossing and the carnivalesque entails social inversion, the liminal concerns
(occupying, imploding, or dissolving) the boundary itself.
Androgyny, a gender identity that combines masculinity and femininity in an ambiguous way, furnishes one example
But perhaps a more familiar example is the way listening to a favourite song can evoke such strong emotions and
memories that one is