Film/tv 2 analysis reflection 5, question 2

in 200 words or less please outline your goals, desires – what you want to get out of this semester. You will review this later in the course. You may rethink this dramatically – this is a good thing.”

You were asked this at the beginning of the semester. Now, could you review constructively what you got from this semester –  has the course lived up to your expectations, delivered what you expected, maybe even surpassed it?

most importantly for me this semester i want to make a film i am proud of, something i will want to show people. i want to learn a lot more about documentaries and the different forms. it’s never particularly been something that has interested me at all so i think this will give me an opportunity to make something i normally wouldn’t and it will be a really good experience.

i also think making a doco is an excellent opportunity to learn and discover a different way of filming. not everything can be planned, not everything can be perfect and often the idea can evolve and change along the way which i think is really important and something i’m looking forward to this semester.

Although we have not yet finished our film, from where we are currently at (which is very close to finishing), i am very proud of our film. similar to what i was hoping for at the start of semester, making this documentary has been completely different to anything i have done before. documentary is an incredibly different style of filmmaking to fiction and i certainly respect it a lot more.

what i have learned is that nothing has to be perfect. but not just that, nothing has to be done in any certain way. i went into this semester with a lot of preconceptions about the way things must be done when creating a documentary. for example, that if you are interviewing multiple subjects, their framing and time must always be the same. or that you can’t have the voice/questions of the interviewer included in your film. what i really enjoyed learning throughout the semester is that you can literally have anything in your film because it is yours. that was a big thing for me, not trying to base what i was creating off what others had done before me but to suit it towards what i was making.

overall, i enjoyed this semester a lot more than i had initially anticipated and i am a lot less hesitant to make documentaries in the future as i know understand that they don’t have the restrictions and limitations that i once believed.

I’d become a delinquent for a free trip to America

The transformation reality program is one that has become increasingly popular over the last couple of decades. While it showcases the real lives of people, which is a distinctive factor of the reality tv genre, it also incorporates the emotional and dramatic element of the ‘reveal’ which stems from scripted shows such as the soap opera. However, unlike the docu-soap, which used observationalist footage edited together to form a dramatic narrative, the transformation program features the ‘makeover’, which shifts the focus of the reality program from drama and conflict to self improvement and education.

It’s all about the self. While a transformation show may appear to be about the makeover of the certain thing being showcased in the program (be it a person, house, garden, business, pet, job or relationship), it appeals on the whole to the viewer in the context of their own lives. By watching other people improve their lives over the course of an episode or season, and to have the end results shown in the dramatic ‘reveal’, the individual audience member is given a set of choices and options on how they can better themselves in a similar way to achieve the same results. It becomes a form of “social observation” whereby “social issues [are reduced] to questions of individual lifestyle choice” (Lewis, 2009).

So what is lifestyle?  Annamarie Jagose describes it as a “promiscuous concept” that can be seen as “an accretion of personal style achieved primarily through consumption” (2003). The transformation program aims to instruct and educate its audience on what choices they can make to improve their lifestyle, not just concerning themselves with how to act but who to be, as “lifestyle concerns the very core of self- identity, its making and remaking” (Giddens, 1991).

So where do the angry teens come into the picture? World’s Strictest Parents is a show that educates both the children and the parents and becomes a learning experience to improve the lifestyle of an entire family. In the episode screened in the lecture, rebellious teens Corie and Thea are sent to live in Texas with ex-military dad Laval and they learn the hard way that slacking off does not help them in their lives. The episode begins with the teens living at home with their families and demonstrates exactly what is going on in their lives that led them to participate in the show. We see the kids yell at or ignore their parents, stay out late, skip school and even watch as Corie is taken to the hospital for substance overdose. The audience is given pretty clear description of how not to act as a parent as it can be seen that these poor mothers literally have no control over their children.

The episode then moves to America as the kids move in with their new Texan family and are forced to work hard and be polite in order to keep certain privileges such as a phone or clothes. The ‘transformation’ comes first when watching Corie break down during boot camp after skipping school. The boy realises he has been acting stupidly and doesn’t want to be that kind of person anymore. From that point on he has changed entirely and the emotional exchange between him and his mum when he returns home is perfect evidence of the benefits of his new life choices.

Often the reality makeover program operates on a purely commercial basis. They emphasise a stable and preferred way of life within a community  that is “strongly oriented toward [specific] consumer choices and leisure patterns” (Chaney, n.d), encouraging the audience member to purchase certain items that will better themselves and their lives in the ways of the respectable community which has been shown in the program. And although shows like World’s Strictest Parents do not promote commercialism in the same manner, it still acts to influence the viewer to act in a certain way in accordance to given ideals of the society portrayed in the show. Thus the transformation reality show not only transform the contestant or subject of the show but aims to transform the viewers and, in turn, society itself.

– T.Lewis, 2009, TV Transformations: Revealing the Makeover

  A, Jagose, 2003, ‘The Invention of Lifestyle’ in Interpreting Everyday Culture, ed. F.Martin

– A, Giddens 1991, quoted in Jagose

– D C. Chaney n.d, ‘From Ways of Life to Lifestyle’




The death of genres

Genres are not a natural part of television. They are constraints, “cultural products constituted by media practices and subject to ongoing change and redefinition” (J, Mittell, 2004). And while perhaps originally the basic genres of ‘drama’, ‘comedy’, ‘reality’ etc. may have been sufficient in categorising the programs being made when television was first created, in today’s ever changing landscape of tv, the wide variety of shows do not so easily fit such confined dimensions.

Nowadays, programs, channels and producers strive to step outside the primal confines of the basic genre categories and produce something within the realm of ‘quality tv’, a term which today is near synonymous with shows belonging to certain American cable networks such as HBO or AMC. The simplistic categories of ‘drama’ or ‘comedy’ are being traded for the newly branded ‘hybrid-genre’ shows such as the ‘dramedy’, ‘rom-com’, ‘sci-fi fantasy’ , ‘procedural’ or ‘teen drama’. This shift in genre definitions in the late ’80s marked a move away from creating content for the mass market and towards the “previously ignored niche audiences” (Jaramillo, 2002) and specific demographics which had never yet been targeted as specific viewers. This stimulated the rise of the brand differentiation strategy whereby channels such as HBO have, as previously mentioned, become associated with producing a distinct quality or category of shows (Lury 2009).

In this sense, channels which produce their own unique brand of quality television have not only begun to create new audience but have formed their own genre. While shows such as Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, or Girls are all vastly different from one another, they are all distinctly HBO shows. But perhaps they are HBO because they are different. each of these shows has been directed towards its own specific audience, an audience that has potentially been created by the show itself. Thus, rather than be aimed towards the vast majority, a show such as Girls is considered quality television because it targets a specific group of people who have never yet been considered as an audience, they are women in their early to mid twenties.


So, what genre is Girls? We have already established that one can consider it to fall into the HBO genre, but what does that actually mean? In the mid 1990’s, HBO began to introduce the “long form drama” (Jaramillo, 2002) style of narrative that soon took rise across other US networks. Shows following this style have moved away from the “conventional episodic and serial forms that typified most American television since its inception” (Mittell, cited in Dunleavy, 2009) and Girls is no exception. The show follows the lives of the characters as a progressing narrative where the actions and events of each episode have present and realistic consequences and effects on the following episodes. The show also presents a “preoccupation with white, urban, middle class perspectives” (Morris, 2014) representative of both the characters and the audience and is emulated throughout the majority of HBO programs. But what classifies it as an HBO genre is it’s lack of any other distinct genre qualifications.

Girls can be described as neither solely a drama or a comedy as it tends falls under both categories, often at the same time. It’s a romance show that is anti romantic, it depicts the dull and often unfortunate events that happen in reality while being a scripted show and is character driven by characters that fit no normal character stereotypes. Most closely, Girls can be regarded as an ‘indie’ show whose themes of drama and comedy have been purposefully mixed to create a hybrid. The show can go from funny and lighthearted dinner conversations to painfully realistic and depressing discussions about abortions within the space of a 21 minute episode. Thus, rather than the typical drama or comedy where the storytelling emerges from the situation and the characters are forced to react, in Girls, the individual and unique characters drive the show and the events which occur happen around them.


– J, Mittell 2004, Genre and television

– J, Mittell 2009, cited in Dunleavy, “Television Dram”

– Jaramillo 2002, “the family racket”, Journal of communication inquiry

– Lury, 2009

– B, Morris 2014, lecture slides for Tv cultures, RMIT