TV Discussion

Chalfen chalfeka
Fri Aug 28 17:53:49 EDT 1998

To: KineJapan at

To add to the interesting TV discussion, I want to endorse and restate some
of the very important points made by S.A. Thorton in a recent post.

In part some of those statements refer to what I meant previously by being
careful about ethnocentric judgments.  And this speaks to alternative
models of criticism, of approaching any product seen in the context of
cultural representation.  Only in limited cases is it significant to ask if
one can name any decent Japanese TV show.  "Decent" or "really good"
according to whom and in which schema of evaluation?  Or are we dealing
with a universally recognized and accepted set of criteria?  How might a
scheme of aesthetic judgments be connected to a kind of technological

More to the point, I feel, is to ask which Japanese shows/programs are
favored and disfavored in the context of Japanese production and reception.
As stated by SAT: >> I thought that the purpose of studying Japanese
film/TV was to figure out what the Japanese were doing? <<

For instance, jumping to film for a moment, if we are interested in a Top
Ten List in a particular time frame, can we get lists from several Japanese
film critics?  Can we get a list of the most "popular" films in terms of
attendance figures in Japan?

Another example might be to ask how a favored model of narrative style is
connected to other narrative structures, to other modes of communication
found in the culture.

Admittedly there is nothing very special about these directions and
questions -- and they should not be imposed as the only kinds of questions
to be asked.  I just happen to think they are interesting and worth

Dick Chalfen

P.S.  I have just received a post from Michael Badzik that seems to agree
with some of these assertions, namely: >> I am in complete agreement that
Japanese television has to be judged as a distinct medium - and have said
so here before. And yes, its meanings are tightly bound with the culture,
which is part of why I also see television as a real anthropologist's
playground. <<
While an anthropology of mass media is much less well developed than other
components of the discipline, things are changing -- and television becomes
less a playground and more a serious field of work.  Who knows -- attention
to home media might be next!

P.P.S.  And another post in from S.A. Thornton which seems to resonate
nicely with a point above, namely >>  And I think that the cliche of the
fast talking male "presenter" and his purely decorative and adoring female
sidekick has a long history in Japanese folk and folk religious
performing arts, not to mention monologue conversation patterns.  These
cliches, as the path of least resistance in production, are Japanese
culture. <<  I think that when one starts looking for these cross-media
connections, the stated awfulness is transformed into something else,
something "better."  Try looking at 400 hours of home movies...


 *  R  i  c  h  a  r  d   C  h  a  l  f  e  n
 *  Professor of Anthropology
 *  Temple University - Harbour Campus
 *  300 Commercial Street, Suite 204
 *  Boston, MA. USA  02109-1197
 *  Tel: 617-227-1534
 *  Fax: 617-495-9709

 * e-mail: rchalfen at
 * web page:

More information about the KineJapan mailing list