How do serial narratives create a non-linear subjectivity?

To engage with the question, I will firstly provide a detailed explanation of the four key words in this question – serial; narratives; non-linear; and subjectivity. For this essay, I will then use contemporary television series/serials Desperate Housewives, Gossip Girl, Heroes, How I Met Your Mother, and 24 to illustrate some of my points.

Serial television has a very distinct set of characteristics. According to Christine Geraghty (1981: pp. 9-26), they include:

1) Organization of time
This includes the regular appearance in the same time every week of the year and within the show, the ‘unchronicled growth’ of the characters when the story shifts from a story to another.

2) The Sense of a Future
A very distinct characteristic of a serial is its “continual postponement of the final resolution” (Geraghty 1981: p.11).

3) The Interweaving of stories
Within a serial, though there may be a main story, several other storylines are always integrated into the episodes that may “reflect on and play off each other”. This keeps the show interesting in a method of “flexi-narrative” which I will explain later.

Heroes, an American television drama serial, tells the story of several ordinary individuals who discover their superhuman abilities, and their journey in adapting to these powers to ultimately save the world. The individual stories of these characters are interwoven as the story progresses, as you find out how they are connected to each other, and how they come together to achieve their final common goals.

4) Cliffhanger
To create anticipation and interest of the audience, the cliffhangers are the trademarks of serials.

In the case of 2005 television show, How I Met Your Mother, the lead character, Ted Mossby, has been telling his kids the story of how he met their mother for three seasons now, and is still in the process of finishing his story. He throws in bits of the “mother’s” appearance as a cliffhanger but never fully explains their meeting yet. This use of constant cliffhangers through the seasons is a great example of this characteristic of the serial.

5) Moments of Temporary Resolution
These moments of temporary resolutions of the story provide the audience with a suspension from the drama caused by the cliffhanger.

6) The Use of the Past
The use of the past is essential when a serial goes on for years, as it uses past information to update viewers who have just started watching the show with a little bit of history about the storyline and characters. However, the use of flashbacks in the show also aid the storyline forward, and this is very much used in How I Met Your Mother, where the show is fueled by the use of flashbacks to narrate the points of the story.

The use of flashbacks is also a significant introduction into new serials nowadays, with a collage of flashbacks introduced at the beginning of the show to illustrate the issues that they are touched on for the episode.

7) Gossip within the serial
Gossip is a great commentary for new information and details essential to the storyline without illustrating it. The use of gossip also helps to “create the feeling of day-to-dayness” (Geraghty 1981: p.24).

In the case of television serial based on a book by Cecily von Ziegasar, Gossip Girl’s storyline is narrated by an anonymous blogger, known as Gossip Girl, who reveals the secrets and lives of New York’s Upper East Side young socialites. Gossip Girl’s narration aids in the connecting of stories within the show, and provides more information on what the audience should know.

8) Gossip outside the serial
With the interesting plotlines and cliffhangers of the serial, it never fails to provide the audiences with curiosity, which in turn becomes speculation of what the story might become. This is highly evident in the adoption of seriality into reality television shows, where the gossip outside the reality serial is whether who wins American Idol or The Biggest Loser or Big Brother.

However, since this article by Geraghty in 1981, there have been major changes in the form of the classical serial television show, as “economic and commercial imperatives have developed and as tastes and styles have altered.” (Giddings & Selby 2001: p.1)

Television genres have collaborated and created hybrids of television serials, to create new and exciting shows to increase television ratings to bring in the cash. Therefore, the biggest hybrid now is the series and serial, where the “episodic series” with a main theme for each episode fuses with a continuous storylines that run through the entire season, like that of How I Met Your Mother. Other serial spawns have included miniseries, or episodic serial, sequential series and soap operas.

The integration of serialization into action drama is also depicted in 24, where it is based on “realtime production”, where each episode is an hour of the day, with the storyline continuing throughout the day and reaching the climax at the last few hours. (Cantor 2008: p.203)

The integration of seriality into shows nowadays is not only to keep audiences glued to the show, but is also a good way in producing character development, so that audiences can connect with the individual characters, like that of Sex and the City or Desperate Housewives, where women can connect with the character they feel most alike to.

The appeal of “serialization lies in its ability to construct ‘open’ rather than ‘closed narrative forms” and it is this “paradigmatic complexity” that helps to push the boundaries of television fiction (Creeber 2004: p.4). It is also the open ended-ness and sheer breadth of a serial that allows it to cross the visual mediums – the big screen.

Like Sex and the City, the television serial that ended in 2004, the 2008 movie that was just released on the 5th of June in Australia is a continuation of the lives of the four characters – Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha and Miranda, four years later. Despite the time lapse from the end of the television series to the movie, the audience still feels a sense of connection to the characters which is an epitome of the “unchronicled growth” mentioned above, where characters still live on their own lives in this “serial world”.

Sue Thronham and Tony Purvis define narratives as that which “concerns the way in which the stories of our culture are put together”, which is why John Fiske suggests, “it is not surprising that television is predominantly narrational in mode.” (2005: p.29)

Roland Barthes notes the origins of narratives, where it “can only receive its meaning from the world which makes use of it… no fictional narrative is wholly separate from the realities of the world in which the narrative circulates.” (Thronham & Purvis 2005: pp.37-38)

Serial narratives nowadays adopt a new complex form of “flexi-narrative”, where it introduces “intricate and sophisticated layers of plot and subplot narrative levels which gradually enhance character and narrative density beyond the scope of the single ‘closed narrative’.” (Creeber 2004: p.15) It is this “multi-dimensional narrative structure” (Creeber 2004: p.15), which keeps the story interesting and keep the audiences on their toes, which in turn pulls the ratings for shows up.

Therefore, since the “flexi-narrative” form is denoted by fast-cuts and a “rapid change of shots”, with “an average length of a shot on television only 3.5 seconds” compared to the “cinematic images of greater visual depth and complexity, the limited information of each shot [must be] readily accessible” to interpretation by the audience, and with the accelerated literacy of the educated viewers today, these audiences are able to “accept bigger jumps in visual narration and even to accommodate – through their very awareness of established patterns – occasional breaches of normative perspective conventions without undermining the illusionistic world presented.” (Nelson 1997: pp.24-26)

This use of the ‘flexi-narrative’ form is argued by Nelson that it “better responds to and reveals the complexity, ambiguity and lack of closure that typifies the contemporary world” (Creeber 2004: p.5), which is why it is easier for audiences to connect with these new television serials.

Linearity is connoted by proportion, thus, to be non-linear indicates the multi-dimensional aspect of the subject. However, in terms of the behaviour of a machine or program, which I will further elaborate later, non-linearity suggests that “said machine or program is being forced to run far outside of design specifications.” ( 2008: Internet)

In Creeber’s “Serial Television”, he comments that “Russian theorist Mikhail Bakhtin applied his notion of ‘heteroglossia’ to explain the multilayered intertextual possibilities of the novel, [and] such a theory could equally be applied to serial television.” (2004: p.7)

This term of subjectivity has multiple meanings. In, it refers to subjectivity as a “state or quality of being subjective”, referring to that of “relating to or of the nature of an object as it is known in the mind as distinct from a thing in itself” (2008: Internet). However, Michel Foucault refers to subjectivity as the “sense of self” with the importance of discovery “how subjects are constituted through a multiplicity of representations.” (Thronham & Purvis 2005: p.57).

With the shift of culture in the society, “television drama has [also] seen a shift away from the depiction of external social/political realities to a more self-reflexive, multidimensional and subjective form.” (Creeber 2004: p.14)

“Subjective narration” on the other hand, uses the camera and other televisual modes to create an internal perception of the character, where we can see the point of views of the characters to form our own perceptions on what is going on. This is depicted in dreams, and the use of close-up shots as an “instrument of propaganda” to decontextualize the personal on television (Nelson 1997: p.46). The use of the close-up and extreme close-up shots in these serial narratives aid in the formation of cliffhangers and is used as an “emotive power” on the audience (Nelson 1997: p.46).

The meaning of the question
Therefore, to put all these definitions together, the question, in layman terms, is asking how serial television narratives in terms of text and genre, creates a multi-layered/faceted/dimensioned and disproportioned sense of self.


Treating the whole television culture as Karl Marx’s notion of the commodity is to treat the television medium as a something transcendent.

If Neil Postman says that “A technology is merely a machine, a medium is the social and intellectual environment a machine creates” (Nelson 1997: p.26), then television is the machine, and the serial, is the environment that this machine creates.

He also contends though, that “technologies are not neutral, and that modern television is disposed to be a visual medium” (Nelson 1997: p.26). And as Thronham & Purvis believes that “narrative orderings of stories are never neutral” (2005: p.35), this suggests that the machine and its workings inside it are all not neutral, creating the subjective.

As the television reflects the culture of the people, thus this machine is an assemblage of cultures, and these “machines arrange and connect flows’ (Guattari 1996: p. 153). These flows are the inputs and outputs of information between the serial narratives and the audiences sucked into this machine.

With the connected flows, this serial machine is therefore known as “Body without Organs” (BwO), a notion by Gilles Deleuze, and refers to the machine as a body, which is organ-less, but works through the dynamics that work within it, and in this case, is the serial narratives and the self’s constant change in semiotics which moves in circularity.

As the culture within the society changes, audiences are affected in their behaviour, thinking and way of life, which is reflected in these serial television shows. When different aspects of other people’s lives are reflected in these shows, they affect the Other which thereby provides them with a different aspect and dimension into the realism of life. This is the process of the becoming, where serials and portrayal of people provide dynamism of life and the strong energy of change and alteration.

With serial narrative’s new forms, it now produces a “heightened form of realism that enable[s] it to explore and examine social and human issues in a more ‘authentic manner’.” (Creeber 2004: p.4)

When serials take their journey of equilibrium-disequilibrium-equilibrium in their storylines of problems and resolutions, it causes non-linearity in culture visualization (McKinley 1997: p.23).

This constant incarnation of the serial then creates a multi-layered or non-linear sense of self when these people reflect on their life and change accordingly. This thus causes the initial subject to be disproportioned like that of the machine, which is known in a term of “machinic heterogenesis” by Felix Guattari (1995: p.2). Where one part of the equilibrium changes, the proportion of the other changes as well, which is similar to that of the Chaos theory.

This machine of television is fueled by ratings and their audience (self) is on the constant state of becoming as it seeks cultural identity where it tries to distinguish between realism and naturalism from what it sees on television.

This realism, developed by Raymond Williams, is depended on “a belief in an objective reality which we can experience accurately, represent authentically, and understand.” On the other hand, naturalism is the descriptive method which “positions us as observers of the material details of reality.” (Thronham & Purvis 2005: p.62)

However, both these terms are the experiencing and observation of what is perceived as the truth, known as a term “verisimilitude’, used by Tzventan Todorov on a film by Steve Neale. Neale the makes a further distinction in this term: between cultural verisimilitude and generic verisimilitude, [where] cultural versimilitude means conformity with then norms, values and expectations of the social world outside the text (or society’s ‘dominant ideological discources’)” and generic verisimilitude which operates on one hand a narrow sense of conforming with the rules of a particular genre, and on a broader sense, playing with the fantasy “which might seem to be outside our expectations of ‘reality’.” (Thronham & Purvis 2005: p.64)

The self also goes through a state of mimesis and referentiality where referentiality “claims to tell us something about the world outside” and mimetic “when it makes appeal to the verbal conventions by which we ‘imitate’ the world outside.” Though the differences are subtle, the distinctions between them are crucial as “a mimetic text is one that borrows the strategies of imitation and may intend to be referential or it may not.” The textual strategy of the mimetic, with the “immediacy of television’s flow”, “may induce credibility by seeming transparently to offer a truth-to-life”, which appeals to the accessible and vulnerable mind of the self (Nelson 1997: p.102).

The self is also affected by when you live with the series, and with new technology being sucked into this machine, including the globalization and creation of the internet, where these serial narratives are readily available with the click of a button, and also the creation of DVDs, time (a characteristic previously mentioned in serials), has changed in a way that the serials can now be watched one after another, providing the self with an overload of naturalistic or realistic narratives to affect its own perception of its identity.
The continuous reception of seriality is also seen through the broadcasting of “uninterrupted stream of programs for up to twenty-four hours per day” (Nelson 1997: p.21), seven days a week, and even though an episode of the serial may take up only an hour a day, the quick succession into the next show with different storyline and new information can affect the audience’s interpretation of the ‘self’ again.

New technology also causes the self to participate even more closely with the serial machine by fansites on the internet. This is an environment where people who are involved in this serial machine, and when the machine becomes smaller into their own individual show machine, can come together to discuss their opinions about the show. This fandom allows the self to provide the serial machine with what they want to see and their own opinions on how the serial should go.

In Robin Nelson’s “Tv Drama in Transition”, he refers to Skovmand and Schroder, who says that “the conceptualization of television as flow rather than as strings of distinct texts further emphasizes that such notions as intertexuality and meta-fictionality are central to any conceptualization of what is happening between audiences and television screens.” (1997: p.22)

However, there is never one interpretation of the narrative to the subject. In Barthes’ model, it shows “how meanings encoded by producers are never simply decoded in any one way. Whilst these ‘dominant’ or preferred readings can never be ignored, there may be other readings which resist, contest or misinterpret the encoders’ ‘intention’ as it is realized in the program.” (Thronham & Purvis 2005: p.35)

Jennifer Hayward then ties this machine together by saying that “audiences’ social practices play an important role in helping to produce the narratives picked up and then naturalized by the mass media. To complete the circle, serial fictions, as mass-produced texts reaching audiences that in some cases number as high as one-fourth of a nation’s population, in turn work to shape the social practices of their audiences.” (1997: p.20) This is known as an “obsessive circularity” (Langford 2005: p.17).

Barthes’ theory of inoculation, is applicable to Deleuze’s “Body without organs”, where “inoculation is the process in which the physical body takes into itself a controlled dose of a disease that threatens in it order to strengthen its defences against that disease.” (McKinley 1997: p.26) Therefore, the serial narrative texts represents the disease that affects the self’s perception of its own identity which then affects culture.

Therefore, with reference to the works of Barthes and Foucault, the serial narrative text are “bound up with ideologies, histories and myths that are never neutral… but the particular inflections and emphases of the text’s form (its signifiers) are always unstable, never able to contain a final meaning.” (Thronham & Purvis 2005: p.43)

In conclusion, with this ever changing serial narrative, there is never one constant output this machine produces, and due to differences in reception, it creates a multi-layered and constantly changing influence on the subjectivity to the self.

References & Bibliography

American Psychological Association (APA): non-linear. (n.d.). Jargon File 4.2.0. Retrieved June 02, 2008, from website:

American Psychological Association (APA): subjectivity. (n.d.). Unabridged (v 1.1). Retrieved June 02, 2008, from website:

Cantor, Paul A. 2008, ‘Jack in Double Time’, in 24 and Philosophy: The World According to Jack, Jennifer Hart Weed, Richard Davis & Ronald Weed (eds), MA, Oxford, Victoria: Blackwell Publishing.

Dolan, Marc 1995, ‘Peaks and Valleys of Serial Creativity’, in Full of Secrets: Critical Approaches to Twin Peaks, David Lavery (ed), Detroit: Wayne State University Press.

Geraghty, Christine 1981, ‘The Continuous Serial – A Definition’, in Coronation Street, Richard Dyer, Christine Geraghty, Marion Jordan, Terry Lovell, Richard Patterson, John Stewart (eds), London: BFI Publishing.

Glen, Creeber 2004, ‘Introduction. From small to big drama’, in Serial Television: Big Drama on the Small Screen, London: BFI Publishing.

Giddings, Robert & Selby, Keith 2001, ‘Definitions, Early History: the Classic Drama Serial’, in The Classic Serial on Television and Radio, New York: Palgrave.

Guattari, Felix 1995, ‘Machinic Heterogenesis’, in Chaosmosis: an ethico-aesthetic paradigm, P. Bains and J. Pefanis (trans.). Sydney: Power Publications.

Hayward, Jennifer 1997, ‘Introduction’, ‘Mutual Friends: The Development of the Mass Serial’, in Consuming Pleasures: Active Audiences & Serial Fictions from Dickens to Soap Opera, Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky.

Kaveney, Roz 2002, ‘She saved the world, a lot’, in Reading the Vampire Slayer: An Unofficial Critical Companion to Buffy & Angel, London & New York: Tauris Parke Paperbacks.

Langford, Barry 2005, ‘Our usual impasse’, in Popular television drama: Critical Perspective, Jonathan Bignell & Stephen Lacey (eds), Manchester & New York: Manchester University Press.

McKinley, E. Graham 1997, ‘Watching Beverly Hills, 90210’, in Beverly Hills 90210: Television, Gender & Identity, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Meehan, Eileen R. 1990, ‘Why we don’t count: The commodity audience’, in Logics of Television: Essays in Cultural Criticism, Patricia Mellencamp (ed), Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

Nelson, Robin 1997, ‘From Electronic Theatre to… Cyberspace?’, ‘Flexi-Narrative from Hill Street to Holby City: Upping the Tempo;Raising the Temperature’, ‘TV Drama Forms: Tradition and Innovation: Gradual (Un)realizations’, in TV Drama in Transition: Forms, Values & Cultural Change, Great Britain: Macmillan Press Ltd.

Self, David 1984, ‘Genres and Media’, in Television Drama: An Introduction, London: Macmillian Publishers Ltd.

Thronham, Sue & Purvis, Tony 2005, “Stories & Meanings”, in Television Drama: Theories and Identities, New York: Palgrave Macmillian.

Youtube 2008. ‘How I Met Your Mother 3×18 – Lilys flashback’. Retrieved 05 June 2008 from

Youtube 2008. ‘Heroes Trailer’. Retrieved 05 June 2008 from

Youtube 2008. ‘How I Met Your Mother in 3 Minutes!’. Retrieved 05 June 2008 from

Youtube 2008. ‘Gossip Girl Official Teaser Trailer’. Retrieved 05 June 2008 from

Youtube 2008. ’24 Season 4 – Official Trailer’. Retrieved 05 June 2008 from

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Youtube 2008. ‘Desperate Housewives – Season 3 Promo’. Retrieved 05 June 2008 from


Who’s that woman?

Madonna’s different images – the Madonna chameleon

Localizing the Global Idol Machine

Television Machine and its addiction


TV Addition: Image from

In ‘Regimes, Pathways, Subjects’, Felix Guattari addresses the ‘machine addiction’ which he describes as:

“an apparent democratization of access to data and modes of knowledge… a planetary intermixing of cultures, paradoxically accompanied by a rising tide of particularisms, racisms and nationalisms” (1995: p. 112)

In my following entry, i will address what Guattari mentions about the “access to data and modes of knowledge”, the “intermixing of cultures” and “nationalisms”, how it splits the “cultural assemblage” (Guattari 1995: p.113) of the machine from the Idol phenomenon up into its different culture and then piecing it back together in globalization.

But where did the idea of the “Media Machine” come from?

In this clip, called “Human Contraptions: The Media Machine“, it shows how the Media Machine came about, by telling people about what happened in real life, which then evolved into news, and then further on into sensationalizing it. Further down the clip, it shows how by making money for this media machine, it is unclear whether us as the audience is using the remote to watch the television, or if the television is using the remote to watch us, as we are the subjects for its content, like the fuel for the machine. Like a mirror, the television watches what we do and broadcasts it, except it blurs this reality with a lot more sensationalism.

This then moves further along into reality television, where it merely plays “around with representations of reality” (Siegel 2007: p.238), still using the machinic method of subjectifying its audience into its content, sucking people into its large media machine and churning these information back out to these same people.


Here is another look on how the Media Machine works–> Conservativemap.pdf

About Idol

As an introduction, let me tell you what Idol is about. It is basically a “showcase of unknown singers – some good, some very bad- from around the country. Each week, the finalists perform and the audience votes out one contestant. In the end, the surviving performer gets a record contract and a promotion deal.” (Jenkins 2006: p.60)

Addiction to Idol

I did my own drawing on what why i thought there was an addiction to the Idol Machine. The red words are from the consumer point of view, and the blue words from the Idol Franchise point of view.


The Idol Machine Addiction
Done by Laura Chong

Just as being sucked into this Idol Machine, American Idol says: “You ask an entire country to step forward and audition.” “Reality television invites an entire country to step forward and be calmed and stupefied and appeased.” (Siegel 2007: p. 246)

The Idol show first started in New Zealand on a show called Popstars, which then moved to the UK and took on as Pop Idol, and has then moved to the USA to be American Idol, and the rest moves on from there. (Hill 2005: p.33) The Idol franchise has become so big that “Forbes ranked American Idol as the most profitable of all reality series, estimating that it had netted the network more than $260 million in profits by the end of its third season.” (Jenkins 2006: p.60)


Past American Idol winners

So, this Idol Machine is really doing well huh? In fact, it did so well that it “sprouted” to 40 territories around the world, including:

1. United Kingdom (Pop Idol)
2. America (American Idol)
3. Australia (Australian Idol)
4. France (Nouvelle Star)
5. Singapore (Singapore Idol)
6. Malaysia (Malaysian Idol)
7. Canada (Canadian Idol)
8. Philippines (Pinoy Idol)
9. India (Indian Idol)
10. Ethiopia (Ethiopian Idol)

Australian Idols

Australian Idol finalists at Sydney Opera House

Localizing Idol
But in these countries, how do they repackage their show to make it appeal to its local audience?
How did they make a global franchise like Idol into a local content?

Idol has been a show which license of the format has been obtained from overseas then produced as a local version. This form of producing a show is “easier and safer to buy a format has proven successful elsewhere than it is to develop your own concept from scratch.” (Murphy 2006: p.23)

As Murphy says, “What makes reality TV uniquely suited to adaptation is that once you’ve made the necessary adjustments, the show becomes essentially ‘local’ because it is about whatever the participants (and of course the editors) choose to make about it.” (2006: p.24)

Including local people into the shows, it gives them a sense of identity, as the people on the show will speak the same language, roam the same streets, behave similarly. Localizing Idol particularly, provides the national audience with people who are from similar backgrounds as them, thus feeling more at home in their television sets.Thus, what exactly is this identity and culture that the locals can connect with? Rico Lie defines the concept of culture as being observed through “(inter)actions, products, and institutions” that exist in “collective minds” (2004: p.24) Thus, it is in the way they act, their landmarks, the things around them, and their day-to-day lives.

Commodification, as described by Andrea Schuld-Ergil,

“is bound to the process by which a thing is imbued with meaning so as to create within it a type of cultural identity… and this alteration occurs via an individual’s (or culture’s) mental projection or encoding of certain qualities or essences into the perception of that good or service… which then aid in the construction of our cultural environment.” (2006: p.171)

Here, Canadian Idol shows some of their culture by including the Canadian landmarks in its opening sequence (institutions).


Canadian Maple Leaf symbol to show where it’s from
Image retrieved from

Australian Idol shows its own lifestyle in its ads whether it is at school, in the office, skateboarding, or waiting for the bus (interactions).

For Singapore Idol, it shows its locality by using themes that are very Singaporean. For example, when it was Singapore’s National Day, the theme for the week was on “Home, Friends & Family” a culture that Singapore encourages (interactions).

Also, another way in pushing the localization of Idol in Singapore was having a week’s theme on singing songs from the contestants own second language (e.g. Chinese, Malay, Tamil).

Malaysian Idol made their ad very culturally unique too, by showing that they do enforce very strict rulings, with the example of receiving a visitor pass to park your car.

Integrating people from different backgrounds into Idol


William Hung was made famous when he went on to the American Idol auditions and sang a bad rendition of Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs”. However, his sincere effort and believing in himself despite his inability to sing made audiences in America fall in love with him and the American Idol Machine decided to pull him in as part of their promotional strategy as well.

However, are integrating people from different backgrounds into completely different cultural groups really beneficial?

In the case of William Hung, many have spoken up and said that he has been a disgrace to Asian people, as they now think that all Asians behave like William Hung.

Disgrace William Hung

Giving people from other backgrounds the wrong impression of the Chinese

And to add to the fuel, the latest Season 7 of American Idol has shown another Asian, Philippino, Renaldo Lapuz, to disgrace the Asian community.

Thankfully, there is still the latest Season 7’s Ramiele Malubay from Philippino heritage, who proves that Asians still have talent and redeeming the culture.


Picture retrieved from

Effects of Cultural integration

In Kerrie Murphy’s “TV Land: Australia’s Obsession with Reality Television”, she says that:

“Simon Cowell, who was a judge in both Pop Idol and American Idol, spotted cultural difference from his place on the panel. ‘As [season one of] American Idol ended, I clearly saw what was so American about it: it was the scope, the excitement, the glamour,’ wrote Cowell. But the pageantry wasn’t the only thing that made it so American; another trait, brashness, was also there in abundance.’ (2006: p.38)

Thus, she continues to say that since “Australian viewers are exposed to both US and British styles of reality TV, it’s no surprise that we tend to blend both styles, keeping whatever is most likely to appeal to local audiences”, and “what makes a reality show essentially Australian is the attitude espoused by those participating in and watching it.” (Murphy 2006: p.39)

Globalising of the localised Idol

Assemblage of the cultures – together as one ‘machine’


Picture retrieved from

In 2004, the winners from Idol came together to form World Idol. They were from:

-UK – Pop Idol – Will Young
– South Africa, Idols– Heinz Winckler
-Poland – Idol – Alicja Janosz
-USA – American Idol – Kelly Clarkson
-Netherlands – Idols – Jamai Loman
-Deutschland – Superstar – Alexander Klaws
-Norway – Idol- Kurt Nilsen
-Pan-Arabic region Lebanon- SuperStar – Diana Karazon
-Belgium – Idool – Peter Evrard
-Canada – Canadian Idol – Ryan Malcolm
– Australia – Australian Idol -Guy Sebastian

World Idol contestants

World Idol contestants

The contestants were gathered in London, and the two-part special World Idol was aired to those countries listed, which eventually crowned Norway’s Kurt Nilsen the very first World Idol (Murphy 2006: pp.30-31).

And since Asia caught on on the Idol Franchise much later, they also decided to bring together the cultures like World Idol, creating Asian Idol 2007.

Asian Idol

Asian Idol Contestants

Contestants from:

– India – Indian Idol, Abhijeet Sawant
– Singapore – Singapore Idol, Hady Mirza
-Malaysia – Malaysian Idol, Jaclyn Victor
– Philippine – Philippine Idol, Mau Marcelo
– Vietnam – Vietnam Idol, Phương Vy
– Indonesia – Indonesian Idol, Mike Mohede

In both World Idol and Asian Idol, each singer has his/her own localised sections to present its own culture to the world.

This shows that each countries’ culture has become commodified and churned into a larger commodification – the Idol Machine. Thus, to form the globalization of this Idol Machine, it “requires the constant production of new commodities (new Idols from around the world) and new markets (new countries to break into) so that capitalism is inherently expansionist and dynamic.” (Barker 1999: p.45)

Idol Machine shapes everyone into one mould


Same Mould?
Photo retrieved from

So is this Idol Machine really moulding everyone into the same person, no matter where they come from?

An American Idol skeptic says that these Idol contestants are

“processed like American Cheese into singers molded into a “type” by board-room career planners, style consultants and song-crafters. To me, this is an evil process, and waters down the entire industry.” (Goodfella 2007: Internet)

Writer from Indiana Daily Student, Cory Barker, believes that the reason behind the failure of the past American Idol winners or as he refers to as “fallen idols”, is to do with the Idol Machine itself. He says that

“The labels refuse to re-mold their business plan and instead continuously trot out their talent as “from American Idol” and expect that to work… Not all of the winners’ styles fit the classic “Idol” mold and the labels should have recognized that and promoted them differently.” (2008: Internet)

I completely agree with this notion. Despite the Idol Franchise being a big machine, it should also consider the nitty gritty details that people should be individually marketed to ensure their best potential being shown. And though Idol seems like it is churning out the same people over and over again, they actually aren’t the same, and though we come from the same world, each individual country still has its own identities and cultures that makes it truely unique.

Future of Idol? Stepping onto another platform, another world

Is the Internet a place with a culture where things can be “localized” as well?

Has the Idol Machine move so far beyond the physical world that it has stepped in and pulled in a new territory?

As Marshall McLuhan describes as “Medium as an extension of the body”, with the vast nature of the internet spurring on globalization, which culture, then would Sims Idol be connected to? Or does it take on an identity or culture of its own?

So far, cultural imperialism of the internet has moved into the Westernization of the world. Which is why most of the Idols series, including now’s Sims Idol, has taken a Westernized outlook as well.


Therefore, I have illustrated the machanics of the Idol Franchise, splitting it up to the different cultures and countries, and within the localized country, further splitting the machanics of its individual Idol and what makes these Idols so localized.

These cultures are then assembled back into one, being more apparent when they are literally brought back together in World Idol and Asian Idol and the effects of the interaction of these cultures.

This entire movement of cultures are churned into Idol Machine, but what is important is, will this machine last long and how far it will go in the future. For this, only time and the different movements in culture can tell. Like the reality of television, we’ll see who is the last one standing in the end – culture or Idol.


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(2007). Makeover Television: Realities Remodelled. London & New York, I.B. Tauris.

(2007). “The Media Machine.” Retrieved 24 March 2008, 2008, from

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Barker, C. (1999). Television, Globalization and Cultural Identities. Buckingham & Philidelphia, Open University Press.

Barker, C. (2008). “Fallen “Idol”.” Retrieved 24 March 2008, 2008, from

Bignell, J. (2005). Big Brother: Reality Tv in the Twenty-First Century. Hampshire & New York, Palgrave Macmillan.

Cheryl Pawlowski, P. D. (2000). Glued to the Tube: The Threat of Television Addiction to Today’s Family. Illinois, Sourcebooks, Inc.

Foege, A. (1996). The Empire God Built: Inside Pat Robertson’s Media Machine. New York & Toronto, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

goodfella. (2007). “Daughtry: The Tortured American Idol Rocker Guy.” Retrieved 24 March 2008, 2008, from

Hill, A. (2005). Reality Tv: Audiences and Popular Factual Television. London & USA, Routledge.

Lie, R. (2003). Spaces of Intercultural Communication: An Interdisciplinary Introduction to Communication, Culture, and Globalizing/Localizing Identities. New Jersey, Hampton Press, Inc.

Murphy, K. (2006). TV Land: Australia’s Obsession with Reality Television. Queensland, John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd.

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Fuller, Simon. American Idol Season 1-7. 2002-2008.

Fuller, Simon. Australian Idol Season 1-4. 2003-2007.

Fuller, Simon. Asian Idol. 2007.

Fuller, Simon. Malaysian Idol Season 1-2. 2004-2005.

Fuller, Simon. Singapore Idol Season 1-2. 2004-2006.

Fuller, Simon. World Idol. 2003.

Ken Lee (Chinese dude?) in Bulgarian Idol

This brings Singlish (see‘s Coxford dictionary) or Engrish (see … to another level… Gibberish!

Hello world!

Hi all, this is my blog where i’ll be uploading my rants, presentation and my essay for TVCC. Haha. But if you would like a more personal blog of mine.. it’s at 🙂 Seeya soon!


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