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Audiences, taste, tastemakers


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MAC201 lecture slides

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Audiences, taste, tastemakers

  1. 1. Audience Taste? #mac201 1
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  3. 3. Harold Bloom 3
  4. 4. American literary critic Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University 4
  5. 5. Frank Kermode (2002): ‘probably the most celebrated literary critic in the United States’ 5
  6. 6. Stephen King Author of contemporary horror National Book Foundation (2003): Award for distinguished contribution toAmerican Letters 6
  7. 7. ‘another low in the shocking process of dumbing down our cultural life. I've described King in the past as a writer of penny dreadfuls, but perhaps even that is too kind. He shares nothing with EdgarAllan Poe.What he is is an immensely inadequate writer on a sentence-by-sentence, paragraph-by- paragraph, book-by-book basis’ 7
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  14. 14. ‘Her prose style, heavy on cliché, makes no demands upon her readers [...] How to read ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’? Why, very quickly, to begin with, perhaps also to make an end.Why read it? Presumably, if you cannot be persuaded to read anything better, Rowling will have to do […]Why read, if what you read will not enrich mind or spirit or personality?’ 14
  15. 15. ‘Can more than 35 million book buyers, and their offspring, be wrong?Yes, they have been, and will continue to be for as long as they persevere with Potter.’ 15
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  17. 17. What are now called ‘Departments of English’ will be renamed departments of ‘Cultural Studies’ where Batman comics, Mormon theme parks, television, movies and rock will replace Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth andWallace Stevens - (Bloom, 1995: 519) 17
  18. 18. Pierre Bourdieu 1930-2002 École Normale Supérieure (Paris) 1964: University of Paris Director of Studies at the École Pratique des Hautes Études 1968: took over the Centre de Sociologie Européenne 1981: Chair of Sociology at the Collège de France 18
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  20. 20. Research: 1963-1968 1200 quantitative surveys, interviews and photographs. Cross-referenced with national trends and government data The things you prefer correspond tightly to defining measures of social class: your profession, your highest degree and your father’s profession. 20
  21. 21. "Taste classifies, and it classifies the classifier. Social subjects, classified by their classifications, distinguish themselves by the distinctions they make, between the beautiful and the ugly, the distinguished and the vulgar, in which their position in the objective classifications is expressed or betrayed." - Bourdieu, 1984: 6 21
  22. 22. Art? 22
  23. 23. ‘The very title Distinction serves as a reminder that what is commonly called distinction, that is, a certain quality of bearing and manners, most often considered innate […], is nothing other than difference, a gap, a distinctive feature, in short, a relational property existing only in and through its relation with other properties’ - Bourdieu, 1994/1998: 20 23
  24. 24. Power and ‘social space’ A geographical/mathematical metaphor for how people are arranged in society. It’s a (multi-dimensional) space constructed on the basis of principles of differentiation or distribution constituted by the set of properties under consideration 24
  25. 25. Film
  26. 26. Film Production Festival Cinema Home
  27. 27. Film Production Festival Cinema Home Art-house Multiplex Pop-up Rental SubscriberPatron Pirate Owner
  28. 28. Film Production Festival Cinema Home Art-house Multiplex Pop-up Rental SubscriberPatron Pirate Owner Cammer CGI Hobby Curator Academic Home movies Career Aesthete Technical Pleasure ExperienceSerious
  29. 29. Film Production Festival Cinema Home Art-house Multiplex Pop-up Rental SubscriberPatron Pirate Owner Cammer CGI Hobby Curator Academic Home movies Career Aesthete Technical Pleasure ExperienceSerious World cinema Foreign Indies Esoteric Hollywood Genre cinema Formulaic
  30. 30. Capital: 30 Economic capital how much money Cultural capital the systems of value and meaning a person can draw on Social capital the sets of relations one can draw on Symbolic capital power to NAME. Symbolic power rests on RECOGNITION
  31. 31. 31 illustration by Leigh Wells
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  33. 33. ‘differences in cultural capital mark the differences between the classes’ - Bourdieu, 1984: 69 33
  34. 34. ‘differences in cultural capital mark the differences between the classes’ - Bourdieu, 1984: 69 34
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  38. 38. I was there. I was the first guy playing Daft Punk to the rock kids. I played it at CBGB's. Everybody thought I was crazy. We all know. I was there. I was there. I've never been wrong. I used to work in the record store. I had everything before anyone 38
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  41. 41. “It took a great deal of evidence to allow me to transcend my own cultural assumptions and accept the fact that Shakespeare actually was popular culture in nineteenth-century America” (Levine 1988: 4). 41
  42. 42. “Shakespeare was performed not merely alongside popular entertainment as an elite supplement to it; Shakespeare was performed as an integral part of it. Shakespeare was popular entertainment in nineteenth-century America”. (Levine, 1988: 21) 42
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  45. 45. “If Shakespeare had been an integral part of mainstream culture in the nineteenth century, in the twentieth he had become part of ‘polite’ culture – an essential ingredient in a complex we call, significantly, ‘legitimate’ theatre. He had become the possession of the educated portions of society who disseminated his plays for the enlightenment of the average folk who were to swallow him not for their entertainment but for their education, as a respite from – not as a normal part of – their usual cultural diet”. (Levine, 1988: 31 – emphasis added) 45
  46. 46. Culture and the Legitimisation of Power Culture as right of birth Difference shifted from economic field to field of culture Power as a result of cultural difference, for example Brian Sewell on the Cobra exhibition at the Baltic 46
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  48. 48. „London has for centuries been the centre of the art world in Britain…By the very nature of the audience in London it is exposed to very much more art and culture and is therefore more sophisticated. There is no doubt about it.‟ - Sewell, 200348
  49. 49. Distinction – Pierre Bourdieu Patron versus consumer Aficionado versus fan “the making, marking and maintaining of cultural difference” (Storey, 1996: 116) Putting taste on display – becoming part of, or apart from, a particular group 49
  50. 50. Taste not fixed – changes through history Consider the following: • Brown bread • Opera • Sun tan • Burberry Music – from exclusivity to abundance? Everyone‟s an expert in the internet age? 50
  51. 51. The changing „tastes‟ for Brown Bread - Associated with working class originally, using whole-grain flour -White flour had previously been more expensive (coloured with alum) This reversed – brown bread now seen as middle class consumable Hovis – images of working class life 51
  52. 52. From brown bread to „brown‟ skin The sun tan Now seen as vulgar- it had been a status symbol – a marker of wealth However, trends keep changing as do cultural responses to the sun tan. Royalty would associate tans with the working class – labourers who work the fields. Aristocracy would keep out of the sun or use white face paint to remove any trace of tanning. 52
  53. 53. Healthy? Wealthy? 53
  54. 54. The ‘Sad’ Fate of Burberry Founded in 1856 Outdoors attire – supplier to royalty The Burberry Check (1924) 1970s - Burberry linked to football casuals 1990s - Association with chavs and football firms 2000s - Burberry attempt rebrand; advertise in high-end lifestyle magazines 54
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  58. 58. The fan as fanatic? “fans are the most visible part of the audience for popular cultural texts and practices” “Fandom is what ‘other people’ do, ‘we’ always pursue interests, exhibit tastes and preferences” - Storey, 1996: 123-125 58
  59. 59. The acceptable face of fandom? 59
  60. 60. “Fans, when insistently characterized as ‘them’, can be distinguished from ‘people like us’ (students, professors and social critics) as well as from (the more reputable) patrons or afficionados or collectors” Jenson in Lewis, 1992:9 60
  61. 61. Summary Taste is a battleground of ideology, marked by distinction and difference. It’s inadequate to say that people merely have different tastes – these tastes are the product of intersecting power relations that seek to valorise those that articulate them. Worth thinking about this in terms of fan culture and their tastes. Have the geeks inherited the earth? 61
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  63. 63. Sources Howard Bloom (1995) TheWestern Canon, Harmondsworth: Penguin Howard Bloom (2000) How to Read andWhy, NewYork:Touchstone Pierre Bourdieu (1979/1984) Distinction: A SocialCritique of the Judgement ofTaste, (translated by R. Nice), London: Routledge, Pierre Bourdieu (1994/1998) Practical Reason: On theTheory of Action,Oxford: Polity Press. Lawrence Levine (1988) Highbrow/Lowbrow:The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America, Harvard: Harvard University Press 63