Next session of our seminar will be dedicated to popular fantasies on television. We will have a guest speaker, Sven Pötting, who is an expert of contemporary cinema, with a particular emphasis on Latin American movie culture.
After having discussed the required text, a chapter from Jeffrey Sconce’s Haunted Media, Sven and I will show you some scenes from recent movies. We will discuss the representation of television in these films, and Sven will help us to frame them in the recent history of film.
Why do we use cinema to talk about television? In The Cinema Dreams Its Rivals: Media Fantasy Films from Radio to the Internet (University of Minnesota Press, 2006), Paul Young has showed that cinema, throughout its history, frequently provided fictional representations of other media (in Young’s words, cinema’s “rivals”). Some examples of these “media fantasies” spelled out by movies are those that we have seen in the last sessions, such as the representations of wireless in Scanners and The Fog, which we discussed last Monday.
Of all media technologies, television has perhaps been the one which has been most often represented in movies produced during the last fifty years. Such frequency is perhaps due to the fact that television, and later home videos, in a certain sense cannibalized cinema, providing an attractive opportunity for domestic entertainment that had a strong impact in the reduction of the number of spectators in cinemas. TV has been, in this sense, cinema’s greatest rival, and the ubiquity of TV in our domestic environments and in everyday life has been documented by some of the greatest film directors of our time. As we will see, the portrait of TV given by cinema has often been quite compelling, underlining the addictive power of television through references to drug consumptions, such as in Requiem for a Dream, one of the movies we will discuss together; or emphasizing the individual meanings given by spectators to TV programs and stars, which are often connected to personal dreams of fame and social promotion.
More on Monday…