Lucy TV

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Presentation slides for LucyTV week in Approaches to Visual Culture, Berklee College of Music, Lori Landay. Videos not included. For more information, see the book I Love Lucy, Wayne State University Press.

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Lucy TV

  1. 1. Cultural Work: I Love Lucy , Postwar Domestic Ideology, & Gender
  2. 2. What is culture? Culture is a “whole way of life” (anthropologist Clifford Geertz) Culture is learned: systems of meaning (language) ways of organizing society distinctive techniques of a group & their products Culture is “ordinary” (Raymond Williams)
  3. 3. REPRESENTATIONREPRESENTATION The creation of meaning through language, music, images, discourse, cinema, movement, symbols, etc.
  4. 4. REGULATIONREGULATION government or industry policies and regulations (The Motion Picture Production Code of 1930) the reproduction of a particular pattern and order of signifying practices, so that things appear to be 'regular' or 'natural' (Classical Hollywood Cinema)
  5. 5. IDENTITYIDENTITY derives from a multiplicity of sources--from nationality, race, ethnicity, social class, religion, community, gender, sexuality, etc. can be conflicted, contradictory (see W.E.B. DuBois’s concept of Double Consciousness) Develops in relationship to hegemonic ideas identity gives us a location in the world and presents the link between us and the society in which we live.
  6. 6. W.E.B. DUBOIS ON DOUBLE CONSCIOUSNESS (1903) The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife,—this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He would not Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face.
  7. 7. PRODUCTIONPRODUCTION the economic processes and practices from material production to symbolic and textual production
  8. 8. CONSUMPTIONCONSUMPTION the active process of buying, adopting, and “reading” (or interpreting) cultural texts (songs, tv commercials, iPods, music videos, movies, operas, novels, shopping malls, monuments, etc)
  9. 9. 11 Cultural Work Performed by Lucy the Trickster Lucy performed the cultural work of embodying contradictions between female ambition and cultural ideals of femininity. She enacted survival strategies that call attention to the possibilities and limitations of domestic ideology, and articulated anxieties about the breakdown of the traditional separation between public and private. Perhaps most importantly, Lucy provided occasion for laughter and pleasure by creating comedy out of the constraints of the postwar feminine mystique.
  10. 10. 12 How does a text perform cultural work? “Encoding/Decoding,” Stuart Hall ENCODING: (production & regulation) A text has a preferred reading DECODING: (consumption & identity) Social conditions and identity shape interpretation Hall posited 3 “reading” positions for the viewer/hearer/reader: dominant (or hegemonic) reading negotiated reading oppositional reading
  11. 11. 13 A woman at work? The character Lucy Ricardo embodies the contradictions of women’s work after WW2. What would a dominant reading of this ad be? An oppositional one?
  12. 12. 14 QuickTime™ and a Sorenson Video decompressor are needed to see this picture. From Finding Lucy, an American Masters documentary, first broadcast on PBS 2000 Ball’s physical comedy often played on cultural ideas about women’s competence in the public sphere.
  13. 13. 15 From “Job Switching,” first aired September 15, 1952 In the ideology of “separate spheres,” women were relegated to the “private” sphere of domesticity while men participated in the public sphere outside the home.
  14. 14. 16 In “Lucy,” Lucille Ball played on the contradictions of being a woman and a comic. QuickTime™ and a Sorenson Video decompressor are needed to see this picture. From Finding Lucy, an American Masters documentary, first broadcast on PBS 2000
  15. 15. 17 Lucy functions as a trickster Tricksters are fantasy figures who do what we cannot or dare not by moving between social spaces, roles, and categories that the culture deems oppositional. When faced with a situation that appears to have only two choices, the trickster finds a third way. But the trickster’s schemes often backfire, and the trickster becomes the dupe. Lucy is a specifically female trickster who crosses the boundaries between polarized masculine and feminine social roles, separate public and private spheres, and sharply delineated definitions of “good” and shadow femininity.
  16. 16. 18 In “The Ballet” (2/18/1952), Lucy is a trickster who moves between the spheres of masculine and feminine performance.
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  21. 21. 23 QuickTime™ and a decompressor are needed to see this picture. “Now we’re even.”
  22. 22. 24 From “Lucy’s Schedule,” first aired May 26, 1952 Lucy fails to be an “ideal wife” in front of Ricky’s boss and his wife. Lucy is a specifically female trickster who crosses the boundaries between polarized masculine and feminine social roles, separate public and private spheres, and sharply delineated definitions of “good” and shadow femininity.
  23. 23. 25 “Mrs. Ricardo, what are you doing to the wives of America?” From “Lucy’s Schedule,” first aired May 26, 1952
  24. 24. 26 Lucy uses trickery to preserve women’s autonomy in the domestic sphere. From “Lucy’s Schedule,” first aired May 26, 1952
  25. 25. 27 QuickTime™ and a Sorenson Video decompressor are needed to see this picture. From Finding Lucy, an American Masters documentary, first broadcast on PBS 2000 “Real life” & “Reel life”
  26. 26. 28 From “Lucy Does a TV Commercial,” first aired May 5, 1952 The audience’s knowledge that Lucille Ball is really a TV star creates layers of reflexivity in the relationships between television, domesticity, and gender.
  27. 27. 29 From “Lucy Does a TV Commercial,” first aired May 5, 1952 Here the joke plays on the audience’s knowledge of marketing and advertising.

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