By Geraldine Harris
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Extra resources for Beyond Representation: Television Drama and the Politics and Aesthetics of Identity
Rather than alternating detachment with emotional involvement, however, these texts ultimately promote and privilege the latter through encouraging an identification with, and significant investment in, psychologically motivated characters and performances – far beyond the identification and investment allowed by Twin Peaks. This does not necessarily reflect on the politics of these texts and I am not suggesting that, as a general principle, emotional identification is problematic. It cannot be denied that it actually constitutes one of the chief pleasures of a very large number of fictional forms, popular or otherwise.
What delimits these dislocations is, according to Nelson, that the flexi-narrative tends to flourish as part of ‘flexiad’ drama, which ‘echoes advertisements and pop video in deploying signifiers for their intrinsic “values and lifestyle” aesthetic appeal, rather than in any referential sense’ (25). He sees this as part of the ‘asetheticisation of the image’ that increasingly ‘distinguishes popular (post)modern TV drama output’, with such dramas showing an increased tendency to visual spectacle and to extensive use of a musical soundtrack (24).
Yet while earlier in this essay Collins pays attention to the political dimensions of the ‘postmodern condition’, he concludes that these texts are ‘responses to the contingent and conflicted set of circumstances that constitute cultural life at the end of the twentieth century’ (349). In short, they could be understood as a new form of television realism that reflects and expresses a new dominant mode of subjectivity. Personally, it has always seemed to me that on the level of specific representation, barely touched on by either Nelson or Collins, Twin Peaks repeats rather than subverts traditional discourses relating to gender, ‘race’ and sexuality, in ways that are not cancelled out by the ‘polysemic, multi-accentual nature’ of its form (Collins, 1992: 345).