Tag Archives: Beyond the Box

Grown Up Cartoons

There are two types of Family Guy viewers in my household. The first group is the two young adults who are fluent enough in English to understand the witty scenarios woven into a nonsensical plot (my brother and I). The second category of viewers is attracted to the visual element of the show. What they see is a baby with the enormous head and his talking dog. They watch—or at least try to watch before someone catches them red handed—because this show is a cartoon. The second set of viewers is my elementary school aged niece and nephew.

I had a hard time getting into Family Guy for the same reasons that drew the kids in my life towards the show. I even remember once putting it on for them when all other cartoons called it quits for the night. I also remember how both of them screamed at me when I changed the channel. Mixed feelings towards the show were bubbling when my brother invited me to watch Stewie’s mishaps with him one evening. Of course I declined and, naturally, he persuaded me to at least sit through one episode. Needless to say, I enjoyed myself and can now understand the large fan base—adult fan base.

A little while after my Family Guy revelation, I went to my brother’s room only to find him watching more cartoons. I gave him a disapproving look; he needed to grow up already. This time it was an anime called Naruto. Again I had to sit through an episode. I can’t say I was converted into a fan just as I was for Family Guy because the show is very serialized and I walked into the middle of the series. My hour was spent with my brother’s personalized narration and frequent pauses of the show for explanation. I ended up just being frustrated with EVERYTHING thrown at me in such a short period of time. Or maybe my brother was just extending an invitation to me to join the allegiance? Was he sharing the cultural capital he earned through months of devotion? Nevertheless, I did appreciate it for what it was. Anime (or at least Naruto) is in fact very sophisticated, well structured, and sets up a world that is easy to fall into. This is by no means child’s play.

Lovers and Friends

It’s Saturday night at Middlebury College and a group of college students lounge around, order Chinese food and simply enjoy each others company. They sit on a sofa, directly in front of this sofa is a table, and on that is a MacBook playing Glee. Everyone in the room has already seen the episodes, but we are in the mood for some good clean fun. The dialogue going on over the show goes as follows:

Friend 1: Puck dated Santana.

Friend 2: That’s a hot couple. Who’s he dating now?

Friend 1: Don’t know.

Friend 3: Rachael is dating Mr. Shu supposedly. They’re actually close in age.

Friend 1: That’s just a rumor. And she’s like my age, 22 going on 23, and he’s in his thirties.

Friend 4: Quinn is so pretty.

Friend 1: Yeah she and Rachael are actually best friends in real life and they live together.

Friend 2: Who are Finn, Rachael and Puck dating in real life then?

Friend 1: Dunno.

Friend 3: I have a hunch Puck and Quinn like each other. I youtubed an interview of all of them and those two were giving each other the eye.

Friend 4: Can we just watch the show?

All this information (or should I say misinformation) has come from the Internet. Although we four friends are not at this moment surfing the web for answers of blogging our speculations, this conversation is a form of teleeparticipation. Essentially, if teleparticipation is the ways in which audiences engage with TV programming, then this is a clear example. In addition, the Internet changes this relationship by serving as a resource where fans can work out ideas surrounding shows and then share these ideas with the world (16). At the time, my friends continued to watch the show, but I feel confident in saying that at least one looked up something on Glee’s characters—or at least I did.

Lastly, think about the following statement: that which is not told to us is the most telling. The fact that we cannot readily state the relationship statuses of the show’s leads like we can for our friends (yes, facebook stalking is encouraged here) feels like a setup. The personal lives of these specific characters are held apart from the fans to create mystery and stimulate conversations like this one. As Ross states, the industry invites viewers to the teleparticipation party and therefore certain “behavioral expectations” and “rules” exist (21). These expectations take the form of maintaining the hype around the show’s characters, while giving the audience something to keep them hanging on.