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D. Stanek
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Is it possible to think communist desire along a slightly different vector? In the context trad/modern substance/abstraction of your Zizek quote: "what is repeated here is not some ancient content, but the very gesture of erasing all substantial content.", I begin to think along lines of 'values'. In a political post-89 context may be a question of revaluing values (in a quasi-Nietzschean sense). I come to this discussion as an art historian and the evacuated values are a little older. For me the vector would reflect upon Art as object of desire through sublimation, this allowed and perpetuated a neat high/low distinction. But Pop art participated in the collapse of this high/low divide making way for what might be described as Marcuse's repressive desublimation. The museums (the high) still exist but they are no longer easily identifiable as high culture--the symbolic markers of high modernism have lost their authority. This left a symbolic vacuum in its wake, a gap capital was happy to fill as the signifier of value. Rather than sublimating our drives toward the symbolic values found in Art, we instead have experienced a desublimation and the return of the trieb/instinct/drive for battle/competition that the marketplace symbolizes. This seems to hold true for the Art world where the symbolic value of Art seems to be equivalent to the exchange value of art. While discussions of values feel conservative, in the context of the gap as the form of subjectivity, maybe occupying the gap with desire and asserting new values before the vacuum is filled is progressive. It is not a question of 'looking' or 'expecting' something, because in the interim the form will be filled out for us, rather we need to fill the gap by aspiring and proposing.
Jodi, Actually, your kind reply began to expose that my gloss may be all surface, that it may not stand up to a deeper investigation. There were a number of blind spots in my post, mostly because it was top-of-the-head recollections. Spurred on by your Dallas/Dynasty question I sought out some show listings to see how my parsing holds up. Immediately, looking at a longer list of shows, I bump up against a need to sort things into genres (sit-coms, drama and evening soaps, detective/procedurals) and this immediately blurs some of my distinctions. And I have to admit that I don't take any of Reality TV into consideration, nor The Sopranos or The Wire (even if the hype has called it the greatest show ever). I have not seen them. The pertinent question remains about working-class representations. There seem to be recurring characterizations of workers, just not working class in the manual labor sense, rather they are working-class through the closed horizons in income potential: the capped salaries of teachers and police. Holding up the examples from the 70s already mentioned I don't recall many representations of the workplace itself, or even actual labor. Archie Bunker came home grumpy, but we didn't see him having a fight with his supervisor. This could be seen to change as we move into the 80s. The workplaces we did see most often were in the 70s detective/procedurals (Police: Columbo, Kojak, Streets of SF, and Private Investigators: Rockford Files, Barnaby Jones, Mannix, Cannon) and within--in the broad sense--the 'feminist shows' (Mary Tyler Moore, Rhoda, Maude), but the workplace comedies might be limited to MASH, Barney Miller, Bob Newhart, Mary Tyler Moore, Welcome Back Kotter and Taxi/WKRP leading us into the 80s. Taxi straddles Carter/Reagan, running from '78-83, and it is predominantly set in the workplace. Taxi is interesting for it seems to be about the fragmentation you speak of in the Communist Gaze post. The Alex character attempts to be the ethical beacon trying to maintain a sense of community with his co-workers while their camaraderie is continually attacked and abused by Louie in the Cage. We also find office dynamics in WKRP in Cincinnati as another decade straddling show, but it lacks the tension of Taxi. In the 80s the big sit-coms were family based with Cosby being the most successful, but there were loads of lesser shows like Family Ties, Mama's Family (Carol Burnett skit spin-off), Facts of Life, Charles in Charge, and Different Strokes. Certainly Cosby and Family Ties both included representations of parental work, but they were white-collar and professional 'careers', not jobs. We do witness a sea-change during the 80s dramas. In part because the cop/detective who had been working-class in the 70s is transformed in the 80s into something far more affluent and most working in the private sector (Hart to Hart, Remington Steele, Magnum PI, Miami Vice). The working-class detective of the 70s became a stylistic fetish in the 80s with Hill Street Blues. There are a few representations of the less-than-affluent workers (Lou Grant spinning off as serious drama from Mary Tyler Moore, and White Shadow about inner-city school teacher and coach). But those are more than counter-balanced by the 80s night-time soaps (Dallas, Dynasty, Falcoln Crest and Knots Landing). While these all share in the representations of affluence, they were also underpinned by a striving for power: presenting a central depiction of the powerful as protagonists rather than the antagonist (as in something like Columbo), which may be novel to the 80s. That stylistic fetish for squad-room grit continued into the 90s with NYPD Blue ultimately to giving rise to a hybrid in the Law and Order franchise. The 90s dramas also saw a synthesizing of the night-time soap into dramas and shows like Thirty Something, Once and Again, Melrose Place and attempting to push down on demographics Beverly Hills 90210. Professional Workplace representations pulled the hospital out of the St. Elsewhere in the 80s to ER and Chicago Hope in the 90s, and the 80s law firm with LA Law was replaced by Ally McBeal and The Practice during the 90s. Trying to piggy-back on my earlier 'expert' category I think a genealogy of the contemporary landscape may date back to a pair of very different shows McGuyver in the 80s who could save humanity with a stick of gum and a pair of old socks, and The Profiler in the 90s about a FBI serial killer profiler. 90s sit-coms allowed peeks into the workplace, but again few were genuinely working class. The teacher can be found (Coach, Steve Harvey, 3rd Rock form the Sun), and various office settings arise in shows like Drew Carey, Frasier, Just Shoot Me, Murphy Brown and even Friends. Both Married with Children and Roseanne show working life--they just appeal to work for different comedic effects. But thinking about workplace, it may be Seinfeld that is the strongest link to the contemporary working landscape (immaterial labor/cognitive capitalism) with a Comedian (networking), George doing whatever but presenting himself an importer/exporter (just-in-time business, globalization) or an architect (vision); Elaine in publishing (marketing); and Kramer as huckster (freelancer). The above is a lot of loosely interpreted empirical evidence. Maybe to summarize we have all seen dozens of squad rooms, doctor's offices, ERs, and teacher's lounges on television in the last 40 years. And maybe representations are our common experiences of these sites. It seems during the 90s the representations of work began to mirror a more common experience as the representations offered cubicle-laden landscapes. What interests me in this gloss is how our horizon of expectations have been altered by the representations. What changed across the arc from All in the Family/Alice to Taxi to Roseanne to The Office? How has the labor struggle and the transformation of work been both recorded and shaped by the mass-media representations? (It seems like there was an assembly line sit-com at some point, but I can't recall it. Maybe a spin-off of the film Gung-Ho) Is it a transformation in the ability to foster community, to envision a common, which the mass-media both re-presents to and ultimately solidifies and reinforces.
Toggle Commented Sep 13, 2011 on Is there a communist gaze? at I cite
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Sep 13, 2011