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Chapter 10

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Media Studies
Michael Petit

MDSA01 2012 - Critical Media Studies: An Introduction C HAPTER T EN:E ROTIC A NALYSIS “The key to understanding contemporary media audiences – audiences who are consumers and producers (i.e. prosumers) - is pleasure”  M EDIAE ROTIC:AN OVERVIEW o Historically, the topic of pleasure was ignored, deemed unworthy of serious attention, or condemned o The Frankfurt School (Horkheimer &Adorno): “Pleasure always means not to think about anything, to forget suffering even as it is shown. Basically it is helplessness. It is flight…from the last remaining thought of resistance” o The near-universal condemnation of pleasure was rooted in the widespread belief that “pleasures were ‘complicit’ with a dominant ideology” and therefore subjugation. o However, scholars have begun to recognise that audience pleasures need not necessarily serve hegemonic interests o 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 o Eros/Eroticism – is at once disruptive (of the status quo) and productive (of something new)  Repressed desire (prohibition, taboo, and transgression)  Seminal fluids (production, expenditure, and dissemination)  Concerns the subject’s individual desires, and not simply an innate urge to reproduce (not lust)  C ULTURALR ESISTANCE o 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 naturalise the prevailing social structure in a particular space and time o 1. Resistance is Contextual.  It is always specific to particular times, places, and social relationships. o 2. Resistance is Tactical.  Tactics (the art of the weak) are maneuvers within the enemy’s field of vision. Opposed to strategies (practices of institutions and structures of power)  Resistance is an action or practice (occurring temporally), not a product or outcome (existing spatially)  Tactics seizes propitious moments, turns events into opportunities, and exploits cracks in the system. o 3. Resistance is Creative  Resistance adjusts and amends the existing social order without overturning it. Change is personally productive and fulfilling, not emancipatory. Does not free one from domination o 4. Resistance is Cumulative  While individual acts of resistance may seem innocuous and insignificant, numerous acts can collectively bring about more permanent change o 5.Resistance is Incremental MDSA01 2012 - Critical Media Studies: An Introduction  Resistance remakes society gradually and subtly, unlike revolution (which brings about change suddenly and violently)  Resistive actions are usually modest, and because frequently motivated by persona benefits or desires.  Resistance does not require conscious intent  R ESISTIVEPLEASURES o Interested in transgressive/counter-hegemonic pleasures (opposed to dominant/hegemonic) o Hegemonic pleasures arise from passive consumption of media by audiences, where Resistive pleasures arise from the active production of meaning and modes of being b audiences o Consumption – perceiving (and thus treating) a media text as a finished whole o Three Dominant pleasures come from consumption:  Visual – example: Scopophilia  Dramatic - entails those desires created and fulfilled by genre, form, and narrative (rhetoric)  Positional – subject position: who the text encourages the reader or audience to be while experiencing o Prosumers – audiences who are active in how they both use and interpret media  In altering and challenging the preferred meanings of media, presumptive practices have potential to yield resistive (i.e. productive) pleasures o Interpretive Play – an improvisational mode of reading that ignores dominant interpretive codes in favour of pursuing immediate bodily desires  Rather than seeing polysemy as an either/or question, the polysemy of a text is relative, ranging on one end of the spectrum from the highly closed text to the highly open text at the opposite end.  Closed text – aims at eliciting a sort of obedient co-operation  Parallels Roland Barthe’s ‘readerly/lisible’ texts  Open text – not only calls for the cooperation of its own reader, but also wants this reader to make a series of interpretive choices  Parallels Roland Barthe’s ‘writerly/scriptible’ texts  Vessel – Passive reader waiting to be filled with meaning  Bricoleur – Highly active writer who invents their own meaning out of the raw semiotic materials found in texts  Plaisir – a comfortable and comforting pleasure that conforms to the dominant ideology and the subjectivity it proposes  Jouissance – an ecstatic pleasure that involves disruption and momentary release from the social order; a temporary breakdown of ideology and evasion of ideology  Quadrant 1 – Passive audience consumes a closed text – Strong Plaisir (reproduce doxa/hegemony)  Quadrant 2 – Passive consumption of an open text – Weak Jouissance – boredom/confusion  Confusion/boredom disrupts prevailing order, but is weak because the audience is not responding to the text’s polysemous nature  Quadrant 3 – Active engagement of a closed text – Weak Plaisir – not pleasurable MDSA01 2012 - Critical Media Studies: An Introduction  Even as it recognises the structured appeals and (dominant) pleasures of the text, it rejects and overturns them  Quadrant 4 –Active engagement with an open text – Strong Jouissance  Jouissance destabilises socially produced and controlled subjectivities because it cannot be reproduced, recreated, or shared by others. Bodily pleasure is always singular (fleeting) and individual (personal)  Cruising – the practice of ‘reading’ with one’s body  1)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. E.g.: Division of the body into internal and external (excrement)  2) Carnivalesque –  Grotesque realism (degradation, debasement, or uncrowning)  The lowering of all that is high, spiritual, ideal, abstract  Social ‘inversion’ – lowly things are celebrated and privileged  The pleasure of the subordinate escaping from the rules and conventions that are the agents of social control  3)Intertextuality – the idea that texts refer to other texts  Strategic Intextuality – intentional llusion included by the author, that resides within the text itself, and exists for anyone to find  Tactical Intertextuality – associations to other texts created by the reader. Rather than ‘following the text’, the text ‘follows the reader’ as they make associations MDSA01 2012 - Critical Media Studies: An Introduction  4) Irony – a sensibility that is comic, neutral, and humble; it refuses to take sides because of the realisation that anything can be made to look good or bad by being redescribed
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