Policing the people: Television studies and the problem of ‘quality’
Author(s): Dasgupta, Sudeep
In TELEVISION STUDIES: A SHORT INTRODUCTION, Jonathan Gray and Amanda D. Lotz argue for ‘television studies as an approach to studying media’ rather than as ‘a field for the study of a singular medium’. The critique of ‘Quality TV’, I argue, furthers the disciplinary lure of medium singularity by recourse to essentialising notions of ‘the people’ and by extension ‘popular culture’. A simplistic equation between aesthetics, audiences, and programs produces an imaginary construction of both television and the people. Interrogating television studies and the policing of the people is crucial for developing a critical and historically-nuanced mode of approaching a shifting cross-medial landscape as well as the politics of culture in general. Given the Leavisite-inspired hostility to ‘mass culture’ and the accompanying discourse of elitism, sexism, and class disapproval, television studies and its recourse to the people was both necessary and critically important. However, the actual construction of the popular in television studies as a concept forecloses on the critical study of television, first of all through the risk of essentialising a static, simplified, and often patronisingly benevolent notion of popular culture; and second, by responding defensively rather than proactively to the historical shifts in programming, genre-hybridisation, and television production.
Dasgupta, Sudeep: Policing the people: Television studies and the problem of ‘quality’. In: NECSUS. European Journal of Media Studies, Jg. 1 (2012), Nr. 1, S. 35–53. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25969/mediarep/15039.
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