An immense number of digital column inches are devoted to talking American tv. This week among the very prominent posts is all about tv and academia.
The Atlantic’s “The Growth of Buffy Studies” by Katharine Schwab continues to be popping up all over the area on Facebook, Twitter and has been republished by SBS.
Schwab’s post asserts that Joss Whedon’s celebrity bending cult-show Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) paved “the way for scholars to take care of tv shows such as The Wire, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad as sprawling works of art to be dissected and analysed together with the best works of literature”
This isn’t to challenge the occurrence of Buffy I’ve printed on Buffy myself and it is undoubtedly the most written about tv show in academia. However it isn’t the start of instructional tv studies and it’s misleading to consider it in these terms.
Buffy gets the distinction of catching the imagination of several English literature and cultural studies academics who’d not analyzed tv. The show’s use of metaphor, allegory and literary allusion makes it especially attractive for longform analysis.
As Schwab summarizes, academic assessments of Buffy are the philosophical to this odd. Philosophical approaches to the show are aplenty, such as James B. South’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy (2003) and Dean Kowalksi and S. Evan Kreider’s The Annals of Joss Whedon (2011).
Sometimes Buffy scholarship becomes really market. There’s even academic writing about the academic writing on Buffy, due to David Lavery’s “I wrote my thesis on you!”
Television studies has existed as a coherent area of academic research since the 1970s, frequently a sub-discipline of film studies, media studies or cultural studies.
An immense number of academic scholarship was composed on the sector of American television as well as the cultural importance of show like I Love Lucy (1951-1957), The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966), The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977) and Cagney & Lacey (1981-1988) among others.
Feminist, industrial and thematic analysis dominates ancient television studies. Complete monographs and anthologies are committed to individual string. D’Acci graphs different ways which Cagney & Lacey negotiated the women’s liberation movement, feminism and the shifting television market.
However, The Atlantic post is representative of a wider trend in modern journalism and popular media to overlook that this history. And as the background is abandoned, so also is your precious scholarship that goes with it.
One case in point is the article printed in The Huffington Post at June 2015 by Zeba Blay, entitled “The Way Feminist TV became the New Normal.” This article discusses the growth of so-called “feminist TV” with no talks of tv show before Sex and the City (1998-2004).
American tv has a rich and complicated background with feminism that goes back into the early years with I Love Lucy (1951-1957) and The Gracie Allen and George Burns Show (1950-1964).
Seminal tv scholar Patricia Mellencamp has written concerning these show and their significance at length. Mellencamp provides a frame for studying these show as feminist, asserting that Gracie and Lucy function as feminist characters who sew or outmanoeuvre their inescapable containment.
Why are we so reticent to try to remember this history and people who composed it? Why the reluctance to admit before Buffy or The Sopranos (1999-2007) altered American tv irrevocably, so also did I Love Lucy and The Mary Tyler Moore Show?
In part, the denying of tv background is fuelled by novels that chart the growth of the so-called “Golden Age of Television” such as Brett Martin’s Difficult Men (2013) and Alan Sepinwall’s The Revolution proved to be Televised (2012).
However there are people who believe that this “Golden Age” something of a fantasy. When Mad Men creator-showrunner Matthew Weiner seen Australia to the Vivid Ideas festival in June, he stated he did not think American tv was “much better” today than it had been when he was growing up.
I would assert that the “Golden Age” notion is exclusionary it not only promotes an elitist attitude towards modern television, but also fails to acknowledge the outstanding work that educates television now.
It is Important to Keep in Mind our history, since we do not get Tony Soprano, Walter White and Don Draper with no crude, offensive and hard Archie Bunker of All in the Family. Orange is the New Black (2013-present) additionally owes as much to I Love Lucy and M✵A✵S✵H since it will to Lost (2004-2010) and The Cable.
We do not overlook the excellent movie and literature of the past, so why is it that we forget renowned television show and their own history?
Maybe it is because tv’s history is relatively brief in comparison to other mediums. Or because we do not think tv’s history is well worth remembering. Can it be because tv just became deserving of “serious” academic and historic examination when it turned into “cinematic”? Or maybe when film stars started to appear inside?
Perhaps TV has given us briefer memories and even shorter attention spans – an illness possibly best remedied by seeing the next episode of Buffy.