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A Companion to Media Authorship

August 4th, 2013 | Jonathan Gray

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While my blog was sleeping, I’ve had not one but two edited collections come out. One’s kind of a cheat, so I’ll discuss the non-cheat one in this post, then return in a later post to the other one.

 

If you happened to be at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Chicago this past academic year, you might have seen a very orange, very new book on Wiley-Blackwell’s stand: A Companion to Media Authorship, which I edited alongside my superb colleague and friend Derek Johnson. I’m extremely proud of it: we set out to challenge how authorship is discussed in media studies, and the collection of 23 essays, 4 interviews, and introduction do so from a wide variety of angles. Individual chapters explore film, television, radio, the Internet, videogames, comics, social media, academic authorship, magazines, popular music, theater, video, DVDs, and transmedia. And these media are explored in multiple settings, from the local video store to Kinshasan teleserial sets, from Mexico to France, from the slums of Nairobi to Japanese executive board rooms, from Twitter feeds to the spaces behind the camera in Hollywood, from San Francisco startups to Skywalker Ranch, from India to the UK, from courtrooms to advertising agencies, from the US to Hong Kong.

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Satire TV: The New Book

March 19th, 2009 | Jonathan Gray

satiretv

I’m really excited to announce the imminent publication of my latest book, Satire TV: Politics and Comedy in the Post-Network Era, a collection co-edited with the brilliant duo of Jeffrey P. Jones and Ethan Thompson. Just as Jon Stewart smacks down Cramer and CNBC, it seems a fine time for the book to come out.

I hope you’ll agree that the cover is really top-notch. We found the picture, but NYU Press did a great job of framing it, and it looks very snappy. After Routledge’s botching of my Simpsons book cover (if only you could see what it was meant to be, you’d share my pain), I guess I was owed some paratextual good fortune, and here it is.

The book began at the Flow conference in 2006, as (by my memory) a result of two walks between the University of Texas and the Dog and Duck Pub. One of them was with Ethan, the other with Jeff, neither of whom I’d met before. If you know Austin, you know that it’s not all that long a walk, but each trip was long enough for us to immediately get along with each other and for us to agree that there wasn’t enough good stuff on satire out there. So we floated the idea of doing a collection, and a month later we were working on it. Jeff and Ethan were an absolute joy to work with, always on the ball, fiercely intelligent, and darn funny guys, thus making the whole process a lot more enjoyable.

We also worked with a great group of contributors. Let me share with you the table of contents:

Foreword by David Marc

Part I: Post 9/11, Post Modern, or Just Post Network?

  • “The State of Satire, the Satire of State” (Jonathan Gray, Jeffrey P. Jones, Ethan Thompson)
  • “With All Due Respect Satirizing Presidents From Saturday Night Live to Lil’ Bush” (Jeffrey P. Jones)
  • “Tracing the ‘Fake’ Candidate in American Television Comedy” (Heather Osborne-Thompson)

Part II: Fake News, Real Funny

  • “And Now… the News? Mimesis and the Real in The Daily Show” (Amber Day)
  • “Jon Stewart and The Daily Show: I Thought You Were Going to Be Funny!” (Joanne Morreale)
  • “Stephen Colbert’s Parody of the Postmodern” (Geoffrey Baym)

Part III: Building in the Critical Rubble: Between Deconstruction and Reconstruction

  • “Throwing Out the Welcome Mat: Public Figures as Guests and Victims in TV Satire” (Jonathan Gray)
  • “Speaking ‘Truth’ to Power? Television Satire, Rick Mercer Report, and the Politics of Place and Space” (Serra Tinic)
  • “Why Mitt Romney Won’t Debate a Snowman” (Henry Jenkins)

Part IV: Shock and Guffaw: The Limits of Satire

  • “Good Demo, Bad Taste: South Park as Carnivalesque Satire” (Ethan Thompson)
  • “In the Wake of ‘The Nigger Pixie’: Dave Chappelle and the High Cost of De Facto Crossover” (Bambi Haggins)
  • “Of Niggas and Citizens: The Boondocks Fans and Differentiated Black American Politics” (Avi Santo)

It was a great group to work with, and they made our job so much easier. Ultimately, we made this book since it was one that we wanted to read, and the contributors didn’t disappoint.

So, if you’re teaching a class (or just a section: NYU Press price their books to sell, so this one’s list price is $22, yet I note that Amazon’s selling it for $14.85 right now) on popular politics, satire, or comedy, please consider the book. Or you don’t need to be teaching the book to enjoy it, so grab a copy yourself. It’s set to be released on April 1, no joke.

Here are the endorsements on the back:

“This smart and savvy crew has noticed something creeping up on us, something with bite. Now we have to take satire TV seriously; it turns out to be the bearer of the democratic spirit for the post-broadcast age. In this field-shaping book, some of the brightest talents in TV studies show us how the marginal has become the model for a much-needed media make-over. See what happens when entertainment bares its teeth.”
— John Hartley, author of Television Truths

“It has been said that if you have to explain a joke, it’s not funny.  This wonderful collection proves that nothing could be farther from the truth.  Satire TV takes the study of comedy in new directions, expanding beyond earlier work done on classical Hollywood cinema and the sitcom.  In politically trying times, the contributors to this volume reveal through analysis of programs such as South Park, The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report, laughter is not the best medicine—it is the surgeon’s scalpel.”
— Heather Hendershot, editor of Nickelodeon Nation

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Pimpin’ my Book: Battleground: The Media

January 22nd, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

Battleground coverSelf-promotion time. Recently, Greenwood Press published my third book, a two volume encyclopedia called Battleground: The Media. The Battleground series aim to bring a little life to the often oh-so-boring genre that is the encyclopedia, and thus are each arranged by hot-button, “battleground” issues. And because of the nature of the series, no entry needs to be “objective” (whatever that is) – authors were asked to remember that it’s encyclopedia-ish, and not to rant, but opinions were welcome.

My colleague and friend Robin Andersen asked me to edit it with her, and while much of the task was a giant cat-herding act (trying to get about 70 academics to do anything on a deadline is impossible. Sometimes I think Noah had an easier assignment), and involved more lists and spreadsheets than even a Class A OCD graphophile such as myself enjoys. But it was also great fun. We got to work out which issues we wanted included, and then find the people to write them. Robin and I run in very different circles, which helped the process, and ensured that the final product represents a variety of different takes on things. And Robin’s a treat to work with, an excellent editor, scholar, and person.

Entries cover issues across the mass media, though inevitably any given reader will think of others that should’ve or could’ve been added. Some writers dropped out at the last minute, leaving us stranded and the topic dead in the water. Some topics were non-starters, or at least with our contacts (and their contacts, and theirs, and theirs, and so on). And some things were important but Robin and I couldn’t find a way to frame them as controversial, battleground topics.

As is Greenwood’s style, the book will primarily be marketed to libraries, university, high school, and public. The $175 price tag will surely cause you to think twice before ordering one yourself, I’m sure! But given how accessible the articles are, we hope to reach a wider audience than just researchers and undergrads, and to introduce them to what academics are saying about these topics. Meanwhile, if your library does get a copy, some entries make for an effective, quick introduction to a topic, and hence might work well in Intro classes.

Oh, and yes, the cover stinks. But as several people have told me charitably, the spine looks great!

A few highlights after the fold:

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Extratextuals’ 2007 Awards Extraordinaire, Pt. 1

January 9th, 2008 | Derek Johnson

Franchising, Merchandising, and Licensing: Sleekest and Weakest of the Geekest

2007 is over, and organizations like the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science must now look back in judgment at a year’s worth of media production.  Unlike those august institutions, however, we here at The Extratextuals want to look for craftsmanship, innovation, and experimentation (and lack thereof!) not just in films and television programs themselves, but also in the networks of additional, extra texts that increasingly surround one another in our media-saturated experiences. 

So without further ado, we present to you our 2007 Awards Extraordinaire, highlighting the products and productions of the last year that demand recognition in our dense, overlapping, and cross-pollinated media landscape.  We’ll call attention to those that we think worked extremely well, but we’ll also point to some stinkers too—those that just didn’t seem to get it.  Of course, if you think we’ve got it all wrong, the real fun might happen in the comments section, where our picks can be interrogated, amended, and enhanced.  

To start off this series, we’ll explore Franchising, Merchandising, and Licensing.  A far cry from the austere nominees of the Golden Globes and Oscars, these are the categories in which the media industries and their creative personnel have worked tirelessly and without pause to extend intellectual properties to their maximum potential, multiplying them across product lines and across platforms.  As my terrible subtitle implies, these categories tend to involve appeals to those audiences (like myself) that will intensely follow properties from one market to another.  So for comics, toys, games, and other things you might expect to find in The Android’s Dungeon, read more below the fold…

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The Television Will Be Revolutionized, by Amanda D. Lotz

October 25th, 2007 | Jonathan Gray

Lotz.jpgIn a few days, New York University Press will be releasing Amanda D. Lotz’s The Television Will Be Revolutionized, and I wanted to give it a healthy plug here, since it really is a fantastic book. I was lucky enough to be asked to review it for NYU when it was a manuscript. At the time, I was struggling to piece together, from endless trade journal articles, recent academic journal articles, and conference papers, a picture of exactly how American television worked today, not five, ten, or twenty years ago. I felt sort of like the doctor at the beginning of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, who must study his patient through a small tear in a sheet, each day seeing just a tiny part of the whole. Then along came Lotz’s manuscript and did away with the sheet. Anyone who has read Lotz’s work (in seemingly every journal in the field by now) knows her remarkable capacity to explain how the system works, and this book offers an embarrassment of riches. It is the best book on the state of contemporary television that I know of, and a wonderful resource for teachers, students, or non-academics alike.

She carefully charts a variety of changes to television as we knew it, and, in an encompassing manner, discusses the ramifications of these changes, on advertising models, patterns of audience reception, production cultures, distribution practices, etc. The book covers a large and complex territory, but does so with deft skill, written in an accessible style: even when the material would appear dry and procedural by necessity, Lotz manages to present it in a way that reads well.

Furthermore (and important to those of us who love extratextuals), it has a very attractive cover, its colors screaming out at you, ironically mimicking the television test screens that are a product of a bygone, pre-revolutionized era when television actually stopped at the end of the day. But I must warn that the interior of the book will likely become quite ugly quite quickly following purchase, as you’ll find yourself underlining, highlighting, and jotting notes everywhere, till you make her book look something more akin to the crazed journals of Kevin Spacey’s serial killer in Se7en.

For those of you who still use Inside Prime Time, even though you know it’s woefully out of date by now, The Television Will Be Revolutionized will finally give you a chance to put Gitlin on the shelf. While there is less direct quotation from television production personnel than Gitlin offered, Lotz nevertheless offers just as much of an inside look, providing access to those of us who have little or none.

Quite refreshingly, though, Lotz clearly watches television, and hasn’t just consigned it to the trashcan. Thus her considerable knowledge of the industry is balanced by her familiarity with specific programs, and her examples and case studies often defy television studies’ “received wisdom” precisely because she’s able to get into the trenches and see how things work on an everyday level. I appreciate how it never reads as though the writer is sitting on a culture critic’s distant throne, eating grapes while pontificating without close analysis. It’s written by someone involved with television, for others involved with television, whether that mean researchers, producers, or viewers.

I just checked my initial review of the book for NYU Press, and see that I ended by writing:

The book serves as both a bible of television in the here-and-now, and as provocation for and contribution to a whole new wave of debates on television in the future. I will recommend it to colleagues, and assign it to students with swift resolve upon its release. Bravo

‘Nuff said. At $22 it’s a great deal.

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