To begin with, let me give you a snapshot of my television love affairs. Some of my current favourite television shows include True Lies, House of Cards, Hannibal, Game of Thrones and The Real Housewives enterprise. Even in the past I adored the narratives of Degrassi High, The O.C and Round the Twist.
Though if you round up all of these television shows in aims to find one underlying principle amongst them, you will find that they are all Western based texts. Cinema, for me personally, is quite different as I froth over Hong Kong thriller’s and Japanese anime, yet my television viewing outside of Western broadcasts is limited.
As disappointing as this is, there is the issue of broadcasters choosing what is to be aired on their channels for local, state and/or national viewing. Thus raising ideology surrounding what content accurately portrays, or helps to mould, our national identity. Who decides that Eastern content should not make up a large portion of content on Australian screens? From what I’ve seen, channel SBS is the only station to take this leap of faith, broadcasting shows from a variety of Eastern texts. And yet, majority of these texts are limited to news, and not television series as such.
Sabine Trepte agrees by asserting that cultural proximity is defined by “nationally or locally produced material that is closer to and more reinforcing of traditional identities, based in regional, ethnic, dialect/language, religious and other elements” (Cultural Proximity in TV entertainment, p4-5). It makes perfect sense, a lot of people watch TV to relax, not read subtitles and work their eyes double as hard to watch what’s going on whilst trying to read subtitles simultaneously (though take it from me, if you do it enough, you start to get real good at it).
Returning to the lecture last week, we looked into in depth sections from one popular East Asian television programs (Tokyo Love Story, Japan) and one popular Danish/Swedish crime series, The Bridge. I had not before watched an extended excerpt from a foreign program before, only film.
Yet it was with these excerpts that demonstrated that television shows are one way in which similarities and differences between cultures can be revealed.
In the same way that Tokyo Love Story was able to drive a romantic narrative with elements of comedy, we are able to see the similarity in the construction of western shows, such as Friends (USA) or Secret Diary of a Call Girl (UK). I’d like to think of the situation as a “What came first? The chicken or the egg?” yet I believe there would be quite a lot of qualitative evidence to suggest Western texts had a large influence of current Eastern programs today.
The Bridge, I found, was more of a culture shock than that of Tokyo Love Story; in the sense that the use of framing and production style within the show was much more familiar as a short indie film. There was no cut and pasting between scenes, no extreme close ups to assert tension. It felt very real, to the point where the stylization of the show downplayed the seriousness of the situations each character was placed in. Normally in an a similar ‘Westernised’ show, such as CSI: Miami (USA), we would be shown characters zoomed up upon alongside dramatic music to create tension; to the point where you feel the need to roll your eyes at its cliché setup. Though in The Bridge everything was quite minimal, and almost too full on through its use of realism.
With the globalisation of communication technologies and the migration of people, a proportional size of success seems to be derived from concentrating on narratives which tap into the ideology surrounding the human condition and each country’s portrayal of such.
Trepte, Sabine, Cultural proximity in TV entertainment: An eight-country study on the relationship of nationality and the evaluation of U.S. prime-time fiction, p1-p8, 2008, accessed 28/08/14