Friday, September 12, 2008

I Would Like Mussel Soup

As an A-Level Media Studies student and later, as a Journalism undergraduate, I quickly became aware that it was almost impossible to offer an incorrect theory when analysing texts. With a bit of confidence and the power of persuasion, I managed to convince my teachers that there were deep hidden meanings in everything from Hi-De-Hi to the Shake N Vac advertisements.

Before long, I was pulling all kinds of nonsense out of thin air, justifying it with lengthy paragraphs consisting of a large dose of bluffing and a side order of accepted media theory. By the time I got to work on the music video for Bohemian Rhapsody, my essays were like a cross between the cryptic clues on 3-2-1 and the impossibly hard Logic Problems that always got left until last in the Christmas Puzzle Compendium.

I once wrote three thousand words on the significant colour of Terry Scott's socks in an episode of Terry & June and received a standing ovation.

Teachers were amazed by my insights and enthralled by my class presentations. But I never believed a word that came out of my mouth. Or indeed, my pen. I was aware that a large amount of supposed subtext was almost certainly accidental and unintentional. I had simply mastered the art of reading anything into everything. Or everything into anything. Either way, it got me into university and my bluffing skills became even more elaborate.

Watching The Best Of Benny Hill recently, I was reminded of one of my favourite sketches. Surprisingly for me (and for Benny), it's not a scene involving large breasts and/or stockings. Instead, it's a brilliantly well-written and extremely well-timed piece that pokes fun at the world of the pretentious critic. It was written twenty years before I sat my A-Level Media Studies exam, and well over a decade has passed since, but I have never seen a better examination of the laughable theories I encountered and, in some cases, invented.

"It's a dog's life":

Television has always been my passion, but if Media Studies taught me anything, it's that the medium should be enjoyed first and analysed later. Much later.

I once knew somebody who refused to watch films with Media students. His enjoyment was ruined by their constant criticism and analysis. I had a similar experience with, of all things, an episode of Neighbours. I never made the mistake of watching it in the Sixth Form common room again.

Benny/Pierre's actions at the end of the sketch say it perfectly. When I'm watching, say, Coronation Street, I don't need to actively appreciate every small detail in each scene. Most of it is processed subconsciously anyway, and I'm usually too busy ogling Katherine Kelly's legs.

These days it's less talking, more watching and a far more enjoyable experience is had by all.

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