Treating television as a semiotic system, this article charts the various pleasure/meaning/identity configurations that are possible when audiences engage televisual texts. Reflecting on the uniquely postmodern character of television as a communication medium, it is argued that traditional hermeneutic and interpretive approaches to television such as artistic or ideological criticism should be accompanied by alternative approaches rooted in erotics. Developing the simile "television as lover," the article theorizes a transgressive pleasure of television viewing that undermines hegemonic ideology by transforming viewers from patrons into producers. The concluding section explores how such a practice necessitates fundamentally shifting the aim of criticism from critical explication to critical pedagogy. A follow-up article models this approach to television by undertaking a sustained auto(erotic)ethnography.
- Roland Barthes