My book on paratexts is finally out: Show Sold Separately: Promos, Spoilers, and Other Paratexts. ($22, but I see Amazon’s selling it for $14.85. That’s cheaper than a season of Two and a Half Men on DVD! What are you waiting for?). I thought I’d give some tasters of it with a selection of paratexts. The cover, obviously enough is above.
Introduction – Film, Television, and Off-Screen Studies
Chapter 1 – From Spoilers to Spinoffs: A Theory of Paratexts
Chapter 2 – Coming Soon! Hype, Intros, and Textual Beginnings
Chapter 3 – Bonus Materials: Digital Auras and Authors
Chapter 4 – Under a Long Shadow: Sequels, Prequels, Pre-Texts, and Intertexts
Chapter 5 – Spoiled and Mashed Up: Viewer-Created Paratexts
Chapter 6 – In the World, Just Off Screen: Toys and Games
Conclusion – “In the DNA”: Creating Across Paratexts
The Back Copy
It is virtually impossible to watch a movie or TV show without preconceived notions because of the hype that precedes them, while a host of media extensions guarantees them a life long past their air dates. An onslaught of information from print media, trailers, internet discussion, merchandising, podcasts, and guerilla marketing, we generally know something about upcoming movies and TV shows well before they are even released or aired. The extras, or “paratexts,” that surround viewing experiences are far from peripheral, shaping our understanding of them and informing our decisions about what to watch or not watch and even how to watch before we even sit down for a show.
Show Sold Separately gives critical attention to this ubiquitous but often overlooked phenomenon, examining paratexts like DVD bonus materials for The Lord of the Rings, spoilers for Lost, the opening credits of The Simpsons, Star Wars actions figures, press reviews for Friday Night Lights, the framing of Batman Begins, the videogame of The Thing, and the trailers for The Sweet Hereafter. Plucking these extra materials from the wings and giving them the spotlight they deserve, Jonathan Gray examines the world of film and television that exists before and after the show.
Word Clouds, courtesy of wordle.com, of Chapters 2 & 3
“Show Sold Separately will rewrite the rules of what we look at when we want to understand how audiences make meaning of media franchises. Gray, who has long established himself in the top ranks of contemporary scholars of popular culture, writes with particularity about these varied media properties and their paratexts, yet also writes with a theoretical sophistication which feels effortless.”
- Henry Jenkins, author of Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide
“Exploring the myriad connections and connotations of a wide array of paratextual materials ranging from movie trailers to action figures, Gray deftly challenges established conceptions of textuality, and opens up intriguing and important new dimensions in media and cultural studies. This is an invaluable contribution, and will change how we think about, and make, media.”
- Derek Kompare, author of Rerun Nation: How Repeats Invented American Television
And a bit of the Work – the first par.
A common first line for books on contemporary media, and for many a student essay on the subject, notes the saturation of everyday life with media. Certainly, my list of available cable channels seems to grow every month, while the list of movies in cinemas, on television, for rent, or available for purchase similarly grows at a precipitous rate. However, media growth and saturation can only be measured in small part by the number of films or television shows – or books, games, blogs, magazines, or songs for that matter – as each and every media text is accompanied by textual proliferation at the level of hype, synergy, promos, and peripherals. As film and television viewers, we are all part-time residents of the highly populated cities of Time Warner, DirecTV, AMC, Sky, Comcast, ABC, Odeon, and so forth, and yet not all of these cities’ architecture is televisual or cinematic by nature. Rather, these cities are also made up of all manner of ads, previews, trailers, interviews with creative personnel, Internet discussion, entertainment news, reviews, merchandising, guerrilla marketing campaigns, fan creations, posters, games, DVDs, CDs, and spinoffs. Hype and synergy abound, forming the streets, bridges, and trading routes of the media world, but also frequently forming many of its parks, beaches, and leisure sites. They tell us about the media world around us, they prepare us for that world, and they guide us between its structures, but they also fill it with meaning, take up much of our viewing and thinking time, and give us the resources with which we will both interpret and discuss that world.
, Show Sold Separately
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