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Avi Santo

great clip,Susan. I’ve also shown this clip in one of my classes and gotten eerily similar reactions. Many of my students find shows like South Park, The Chappelle Show , and Mind of Mencia to be their preferred spaces for encountering challenging and taboo political subject matter precisely because they are not “preachy” and seem to address issues from an ironic/”the lesson is self-evident” position. I wonder how this scenario would play out today if handled by Sarah Silverman ?

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Avi Santo

Yes, I didn’t mean my comment in contradiction, actually I was thinking in compliment. It strikes me that given your observations, and honestly I hadn’t noticed so I am sort of improvising here, that despite the selling of “edginess” by Showtime and HBO one finds surprisingly normative even to some extent hyperized gender roles (I think Queer as Folk or L-word might complicate this, but then again might not). I was also thinking of the way that SaTC ended in a completely gender normative pattern: the over sexualized woman got cancer, the career woman turns domestic, the mother gets her child, and the central character rejects the foreign for the domestic. But, given the trends which you point to here perhaps this is not as surprising as it might initially seem.

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Madhavi Mallapragada

Hi radhika! Your question made me think about how desi is often used just as a generic term for Indian-American and NRI for Indian citizens in America. Yet both groups do their share of imagining a romantized des even as there are many “Indian-American” and NRI groups that don’t. So it is interesting in this context to think about the diverse and deliberate ways in which desi-ness is being imagined in the US. i think desi is definitely being mobilized to imagine a more nuanced identity along the axes of race, class, gender, sexuality and location. But that is not the only way it is being mobilized. I see plenty of desi voices on the soon to be extinct MTV Desi where they offer cliched definitions of desi being the best of East and West, desi as being one with a great culture, good food and being exotic!

As for your question about urbanity, have to think about it

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Avi Santo
Avi Santo

Good points all. I am not suggesting that HBO doesn’t cater to both men and women, gay and straight subscribers. Of course they do. I am arguing that HBO’s branding strategies promise these groups a masculinizing non-televisual experience. Whether by suggesting that SaTC or SFU could not be offered on regular TV, or by emphasizing narratives about failed masculinity (and in the end SaTC is as much about the lack of good men as it is about female friendship; arguably more so toward the end of its run and SFU’s narrative thrust is about the re-imagining of the American family following the death of its patriarch), HBO’s branding has worked to offer marginalized groups a viewing experience outside the realm of the feminized. This strategy is ambivalent and is sustained by promoting a kind of masochistic pleasure that comes from simultaneously recuperating and deconstructing patriarchy, but I think it quite different than a queering or feminist strategy, which would seek to challenge the gendered assumption upon which television consumption is premised, not offer safe haven from them…

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Madhavi Mallapragada

Well, great clips Avi. This idea of investing in the homeland is a very prominent discourse, particularly in the late ’90s with a change in state policy towards NRIs, liberalization and banking reform in India and the global aspirations of India’s leading banks. I find them very prevalent on the Web where it is fairly common to articulate NRI identity with mobility and travel (virtual banking, e-money transfers) while rooting belonging to one’s ageing parents and one’s home. So send money home to one’s parents is often the message of the ad, while the overall idea is send your dollars to india’s foreign exchange reserves. I find the ad that i featured problematic in some respects. Particularly the idea that to be desi one has to ignore the idea of India rising and focus on the ills of India. There is no in-between space that is articulated here. I think the different ads work different to construct very competing discourses on what it means to be desi.

Finally, MTV desi is being cancelled, so are MTV Korea and MTV Chi. It will be interesting to see what reason MTV has to offer for this cancellation.

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Jason Mittell
Avi Santo

Just to follow-up Dave’s point, I think HBO does play multiple sides of the gender street, as Sex in the City and Six Feet Under are both invested in heavily female & gay sensibilities (and created by gay men), just as Sopranos, Entourage, Rome, Deadwood, Oz, The Wire etc. cover (& recover) masculine terrain. I wonder if this is more starkly gendered than any other cable channel’s original programming line-up? Certainly FX has bet its chips on male-drama, while Bravo aims the other direction. Might HBO actually be more gender-inclusive than other channels?

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Avi Santo

I haven’t been following the current developments here regarding Rome and the Tudors. But, it is probably worth throwing in here that one of the first successful shows in this move (by this I mean a show on HBO/Showtime to get get subscribers to pay for these channels, a way to provide more than movies) was Sex and the City, or as I tell my students the contemporary Jane Austen. And it seems that since that time most of the shows I can think of in this genre are fairly gendered (or at least more gendered then the networks).

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Jonathan Gray
Avi Santo

Opportune timing, Avi — I was on the subway the other day, and madly scrawled down all the marketing slogans in a Tudors-full subway car, since I was amazed by how much Showtime seemed to be feminizing the show, as a sort of anti-Rome. Already, HBO’s logo is all dark, Showtime’s white and red, and The Tudors’ posters threw in some heaving breasts for male gaze appeal, but otherwise directed seemingly all appeals to women or gay men (ie: Jonathan Rhys Meyers as “Sixteenth Century Fox”; characters described in terms of the romance, not the politics, nor the action; pictures clearly meant to evoke “bodice-ripping” romance novels, Meyers eye-f***ing the camera, etc.). Admittedly, Sleeper Cell was hardly feminized, so I’m not posing a channel-wide strategy. I also haven’t *seen* The Tudors. Anyone else? Is it a feminized response to Rome? Are we seeing a gendered division developing?

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Radhika Gajjala

wow - cant believe I missed this episode (I am a guilty soap watcher from time to time - but havent been watching this past year much).

An interesting incorporation of multiple genres into a daytime soap …

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Radhika Gajjala

Is it possible that a more globally aware and nuanced “desi” is emerging out of this? It will be interesting to see how they position themselves in relation to or against the NRI populations that image a romanticized and fetishized “Des” while living in “pardes”.

Can these productions get past urbanity?

just some thoughts - I did enjoy the clips both of you provided.