Kool Killer Pola Reuth, D 1981, 16mm, 8 min., Farbe
Love Stinks – Bilder des täglichen Wahnsinns Birgit & Wilhelm Heim, BRD 1982, 82 min., Farbe
Saturday, 17. Mai 2003
9.30 –11.00 project space
Discursive and imaginary Spaces: TV's Elsewheres and Nowheres
Television constitutes specific spatial/temporal arrangements, perceptions, and dispositions that carry intense gender connotations. Since the early 1980s, feminist TV Studies scholars have investigated the linkage of space, television, and gender at various levels and in diverse contexts. In doing so, television is primarily analyzed as a text or thematized in terms of its identity politics in the contended field between genre theory and audience research. The dominant form of watching TV, in private, inner rooms, is linked with the search for the “female spectator” and analyses of changing concepts of public and private. In the context of SCREENWISE, we would like to focus on lines of questioning that reflect the transformations of space and feminist TV Studies’ associated issues and fields of research.
Margaret Morse, author of Virtualities. Television, Media Art, and Cyberculture (1998), described television in the context of modern consumer culture as a transmitter of derealized spatial experiences. Joke Hermes, together with Len Ang, in the seminal essay "Gender and/in media consumption" (1991) carried out a radical critique of the use of the category gender in feminist and ethnographic oriented audience research. The keynote talks by Morse and Hermes, as well as the
lectures by the invited panelists, Susanne Lummerding, Jyioti Mistry, and Mari Pajala, will revolve around the following set of questions:
What are the furnishings of the televisual interior of the postmodern? Are there sites, a room, for “prime-time-feminism”? What possibilities for identity politics are effective in television’s various dispositif arrangements in the context of globalized (media) economies? How does television contribute to the experiences of migration and diaspora? How do televisual representations of war and catastrophy react to structural dislocation and segmentation of the television experience, how are these structured in terms of gender politics?
The lectures brought together under the theme of “Discursive and imaginery Spaces: TV's elsewheres and nowheres,” invite discussion of televisual reconfiguration of political, social, and imaginary spaces.
Lectures in English - Chair: Monika Bernold (Wien)
Margaret Morse (Santa Cruz): Imbedded and Immersed: Managing Bodies and Death on the
Front and on the Screen
After discussing virtual and interactive features of television, I will review my conclusions about presentational techniques during Gulf War on American television in my book -Virtualities_ (Indiana UP 1998) in relation to the current American war in Iraq. Precise contents and approach are contingent on events, but in any event I will discuss disengagement,disembodiment,women and cyborgification, MRE's, games and managing death.
Joke Hermes (Amsterdam): The Self-Textualised Audience: Post-Feminist Television, its Fans, its
Critics and the Internet
Feminism has a long and respectable history of studying women as audiences of popular culture. In television studies the paradigmatic example is soap opera. Issues for feminist audience analysis have been: the inequality between researcher and researched; the researcher as fan and restricting the choice of informants to other fans and/or women. Since the inception of feminist audience studies from the early 1980s onwards, television's social place has changed. In this talk I will focus on the fairly recent strategic alliance of television and the internet, exploited by both television networks and producers, and by audiences. Fan audiences found an ideal medium in the internet to extend talk about favourite programmes to like-minded viewers across the globe (albeit, usually, within the Western world, if not exclusively). However, not only fans but those critical of television programmes have allied via the world wide web. By focusing on a particular web site (called jump-the-shark) I will show how the parameters for feminist television audience studies has changed dramatically with teh changing role of television from a broadcast monopolist, to a narrowcast link in the new multimedial environment developing around us. My case study are jumptheshark-discussions of two outstanding recent American television series from a broadcast and a cable network: Ally McBeal (Fox, 1996-2002 network television) and Sex and the City (HBO, 1998-2003 cable television). Not only does the internet deliver instant material for analysis (no transcription of interviews needed), the self-selected groups of jumptheshark critics offers a new constituency of viewers. In my talk then I will offer discussion of feminist television ethnography and possible new directions for it to take; in relation to developments within television (post-feminist lead characters in television drama) and in relation to television's changing social place as a consequence of the popularisation of internet and multimedia links.
11.30 – 13.00 project space
Gender and Genre in Film and TV Studies
Gender and genre share a tradition: Since the 1970s, feminist film studies have dealt with questions of genre specific gender constructions whereas genre theories constantly point to the central role of gender within genre. During the last few years, however, attempts to combine the categories of gender and genre in analyses have increasingly come under criticism for their essentialist tendencies. While the analysis of genre formulas produced gender constructs, which became so rigid that alternative textual practices could no longer be focused on, text-based genre definitions furthered an ahistorical, universal understanding of the cinematic sign system. Based on these theoretical observations, this section of the conference will, first, raise metatheoretical and methodological questions for collaborative analysis of gender and genre and, second, offer insight into the state-of-the-art in gender/genre studies.
Two scholars, equally involved in the advancement of the gender/genre discussion, Irmela Schneider and Christine Gledhill, have agreed to offer the keynote lectures. With her early work on the melodrama, Gledhill is one of the founding figures of feminist genre analysis; her more recent work on the soap within the framework of Cultural Studies, identifies her as an interdisciplinary, cross-media thinker. With her article “Gender und Genre” (2001), Irmela Schneider has published a text, which not only undertook a profound criticism of traditional gender and genre approaches, but also proposed an empirically oriented approach to the two categories.
Susanne Rieser approaches the question of the construction of identity as a “special effect” from the perspective of the iconography of the action film, Henrike Hoelzer focuses on action film sequels using the example of the Terminator films, and Katrin Oltmann studies the relationship between the musical and the action film in three adaptations of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Beyond the focus on the action film, Verena Kuni’s talk will deal critically with genres’ cinematic methods and will speak from the perspective of artistic interventions.
Lectures in English - Chair: Andrea B. Braidt (Wien, Köln)
Christine Gledhill (Staffordshire): Rethinking Gender/Genre Relations in the Postmodern Era
Drawing on arguments begun in my ‘Women Reading Men’ and ‘Rethinking Genre’ this presentation will explore the implications for feminism of genre cinema’s use of gendered bodies and identities for the pleasures of aural-visual fiction. This will involve considering the relation between generic production and the inter-related modes of realism and melodrama and the place of entertainment, fiction and fantasy in the discursive circulation of social and political ideas. In attempting to construct a framework from which to develop feminist critique of generic production I will be drawing on Bakhtinian notions of cultural dialogism and Steve Neale’s concepts of cultural and generic verisimilitude. In the process I will consider the impact on feminist film theory of the shift from modernist to postmodern conceptions of aesthetic and cultural production.
Irmela Schneider (Köln): No Independent Pair: Genre and Gender Theories
The talk comprises three parts: following a number of etymological references to genre and gender, the first part will offer a historical sketch on genre theories, to the extent that they are relevant to the question of the relationship of genre and gender. This sketch will show the functions of gender concepts immanent to historical genre theories. The second part will focus on a discussion of those positions that have reflected on the relationship of genre and gender since the 1980s, and have remained influential until the present day. For example, John Fiske’s differentiation between masculine and feminine genres will be discussed. The third part will introduce the concept of deferred action (constitutive posteriority), which since Freud and Lacan has in no way been limited to psychoanalytical theories, but rather, for example, has become just as relevant in the relationship between social structures and semantics. The original consideration postulates that through a concept of deferred action, the relations between media, genre, and gender can be more precisely determined.
13.00 – 15.00 Pause
15.00 – 17.00 project space
Panel 3: Discursive and imaginary Spaces: TV's Elsewheres and Nowheres
Papers in English - Chair: Sabine Prokop (Wien)
Susanne Lummerding (Wien): Wasteland TV?
In light of feminist media studies’ waning interest in the media, genre, and dispositif of “television” over the past ten years, the question arises of the foundations of these apparent doldrums, and also whether and to what extent it might be interesting to counteract the ambivalently phrased “wasteland” implied in the title.
Assuming that television, like any other media, cannot be considered in isolation, but instead, must be seen in the context of and interaction with other media, in “media constellations,” I would like to take up the issue of the construction of a “common virtual space” as the starting point for my considerations.
The claim of a television-based production of such a “virtual space,” a claim that essentially characterizes the history of television, has been confronted with a similar claim – since the mid-1990s at the latest – mainly from Internet, in terms of the idea of a “cyberspace.” What is now interesting is not only the relevance for the respective media (or genres or dispositifs) in the sense of major transformations, but mainly, which functions related to the creation of “reality” will be up for debate?
Feminist film and media theory approaches, which are supported by a psychoanalytical and hegemonic theoretical apparatus, among others, offer enormous potential in this area, to the extent that they, and the phantasmal wasteland of television, prove compatible.
Jyoti Mistry (Johannesburg): Feminism in new popular South African Television
In recent years the media has covered the alarming rates of rape and violence against women in South Africa. While the legal system offers an extremely progressive and forward thinking constitution which protects women’s rights, patriarchal hegemony infused with traditional African conceptions of women propose an urgent challenge for re-imaging the place and space of women in both the realm of the private and the public.
In this paper and presentation, I offer an analysis with exemplification of the discursive relationship between the conventions of television genre, with particular emphasis on soap operas and drama series, and its polemic and radial reinterpretation in locally produced South African content. My critical reading offers a departure from western socio-political conventions of television to show how a new form of feminism is emerging in popular South African television which is a direct response to the violence against women in South African society. More importantly, these popular forms relocate the agency of women within a new political order which is not simply a response to Western and/or African patriarchy but derives from African notions of women’s agency coupled by a space of equity imagined in this new democracy. Some of the television shows that will be addressed are: Gazlam (South Africa), Bad Girls (British), Generations (South Africa).
Mari Pajala (Turku): The Eurovision Song Contest and the map of Europe: boundaries,
hierarchies and unruly peripheries
Television, as the "private life of the nation state" (Ellis 1982), has been important in constructing the imagined community (Anderson 1983) of the nation. At the same time, it has been construed as a window to the world, a medium that opens up the horizons to areas outside the viewers own experience. In this paper, I look at one programme, The Eurovision Song Contest (1956-), that has on the one hand been based on a strong national identification, and on the other hand has attempted to promote an idea of a European community. What kinds of boundaries and exclusions are these identifications based on? I situate my analysis in the Finnish context and my material consists of TV programmes and press and Internet coverage of the contest.
In my analysis, I apply Judith Butler's (1990, 1993) ideas about the performative construction of gender to the study of nationality. The repetition or citing of norms is central in Bulter's theory of performativity. The unusual longevity of the ESC makes it possible to analyse the construction of nationality and Europe over a period of several decades, paying attention to the process of repetition over time. From the point of view of feminist media studies, it is especially important to pay attention to exclusions and boundaries in the construction of national identity and Europe. I analyse for example the somewhat problematic position of new Eastern European countries, immigrants and non-heteronormative people in the traditionally Western European, nation based and heteronormative map of Eurovision.
15.00 – 17.00 project space
Panel 4: Gender and Genre in Film and TV Studies
Papers in German - Chair: Ines Steiner (Köln)
Henrike Hölzer (Berlin): The shadow of the mirror image. Action film sequels as uncanny doubles
Genre films are characterized in that their plot structure, aesthetics, as well as the strategies with which they are marketed aim at a certain target group: the targeted audience is often defined according to gender. This is particularly true for the so-called body genres (Linda Williams) such as horror, melodrama, and porno films. Action films also belong in this category: they address primarily a male, heterosexual audience.
In my talk, based on the examples of the films Terminator and Terminator II Judgment Day, I will show the extent to which these action films themselves are subjected to such essentializing categorization. I am particularly interested in the fact that they are sequels that play with the figure of repetition. This refers to both the plots of the films as well as their visual and auditory staging. “Repetition,” a concept from psychoanalytical theory, will serve as my methodological guideline. Although they seem to have fallen out of fashion in current film studies, psychoanalytical theories have the potential to confront essentialist elements.
It seems useful to maintain the idea of subject constitution in the cinema (Christian Metz), although in doing so I would like to avoid both referring to the Lacanian mirror stage and invoking a comparison of film reception and dream. Instead, the concept of “repetition” will be at the center of my considerations. For the constitution of the viewing subject, “repetition” has a different significance in terms of the individual concepts of the triad: trauma, fantasy, and memory. “Gender” remains, as before, an identity-constituting category, however it becomes clear that, although influential, it is neither prescribed nor can it be freely chosen. My analysis will show that the supposedly one-dimensional hero or heroine stories are assigned a substructure. Although this substructure does not fundamentally question the dominant myths, it nonetheless adds a dark shadow to the viewers’ shining mirror image.
Verena Kuni (Frankfurt): Gender is a Genre is a Genre? Cut Up! An attempt using the method of cutting
through a Gordian knot
In the feature film, gender and genre are tightly woven. It thus appears quite obvious to attempt a sound critique of the reproduction of gender stereotypes in film by considering the genre-specific characteristics. This is also confirmed by a series of feminist investigations undertaken in the past several decades on the classical film genres such as the horror and sci-fi film, the western, road movie, thriller, comedy, and artist’s biography. Nonetheless, a critical analysis that succeeds in working out the continuity of stereotypical gender coding, including its genre specific and historical variations as a characteristic trait of the respective genres, carries the danger of once again inscribing these stereotypes in genre and film history and theory and thereby once again, like it or not, contributing to their essentialization. Nonetheless, mechanics and motorics of this vicious circle, as can once again be shown mainly by feminists, are most tightly linked with the institutions of theory, science, and historiography in traditions of which, gender and genre are, for their part, complexly woven together. How then, can a feminist critique, also striving to claim its position within these cultural institutions, succeed in avoiding the traps that this densely woven field notoriously contains and consistently resets “as the rules of the art dictate”?
Is it possible that precisely laid “tricks” – or, more exactly – artistic techniques, which have already proven effective as methods of critical strategies in film and art history, can contribute to cutting through this Gordian knot? I would like to pursue this question based on the examples of works in which artists confront the connection of gender and genre in feature and TV films.
Katrin Oltmann (Köln): (Genre-) strolls with Romeo: Musical goes Action
Beginning with Steve Neale’s pronouncement that genre conventions are “always in play rather than being simply re-played,” thus beginning with a transitory, or more precisely, a performative concept of genre that takes into account each film’s way of “doing genre,” the talk will explore a reading of the gender-genre implications in the Romeo and Juliet films, WEST SIDE STORY (USA 1961), ROMEO+JULIET (USA 1996), and ROMEO MUST DIE (USA 2000). My starting thesis states that all three films carry out a game with genre conventions – go on a “genre stroll” – which functions like a paper chase based on the principle of “leaving tracks.”
Baz Luhrmann’s ROMEO+JULIET, categorized as action/romantic drama and also ROMEO MUST DIE, advertised as a martial arts film, as I will show, function as musicals based on the genre of their predecessor, WEST SIDE STORY. They thus function according to the guidelines of a genre with an extremely hybrid structure, which is already evident in its origins: influenced by the European operetta, American wild west shows, vaudeville, and music hall, it derives from traditions that refused every attempt at one-dimensional integration and systematization. For good reason, the musical is considered “the only genre in which the male body has been unashamedly put on display in mainstream cinema in any consistent way” (Neale). These clues are also expressed in the action and spectacle elements of the two later productions. Not only can the ubiquitous showstoppers of the musical genre be found – the elaborately choreographed battle scene in ROMEO MUST DIE is staged as a “number” – but also film editing and camera techniques are oriented on the conventions of the genre: the rapid succession of close-ups of black shoe-clad moving feet in the opening sequence of ROMEO+JULIET for example, refers to the iconography of the musical. The films carry out transformations, become action-film musical dramas or musical-action films, just as the musical WEST SIDE STORY, which likewise bears elements of the battle and action films, is a “musical drama with action elements.”
The talk will focus on the gender-genre dynamics of the films: what transpositions of gender-representation are provoked by the genre transformation: what gender shifts in the constellation of figures, the setting, the plot, etc., have affects on the constitution of each genre?
Susanne Rieser (Wien): Gender & Genre: ConFusions
“Gender & Genre: ConFusions” deals with issues of identity construction as discursive effects of cinematographic technologies, in particular with the gender politics of the violent visuality in action film iconography. Gender as a “special effect” of the spectacular overdose comes into action when the dynamized object world of a breath-taking and ear-splitting cinema begins to live a life of its own: When hyperkinetic and supersonic wall-to-wall-violence starts forcing a bloody “confetti screenstorm deconstructing image/content into technonihilism” (Murphy) onto the cognitive and perceptive faculty of the audience. The violent visuals of the “all-night-blood-and-bullet-raves,” fusing one image into another with blinding speed and razor-sharp editing, are conFusing traditional notions of the distribution of authority between the seer and the seen. The conFusion of qualities associated with gender and genre may disclose new grounds for visual agency.
19.00 Österreichisches Filmmuseum
IMAGE PLEASURE – Program 3