'Which is the best Doctor Who story?' : a case study in value judgements outside the academy'

McKee, Alan (2001) 'Which is the best Doctor Who story?' : a case study in value judgements outside the academy'. Intensities : The Journal of Cult Media.

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One of Cultural Studies' most important contributions to academic thinking about culture is the acceptance as axiomatic that we must not simply accept traditional value hierarchies in relation to cultural objects (see, for example, McGuigan, 1992: 157; Brunsdon, 1997: 5; Wark, 2001). Since Richard Hoggart and Raymond Williams took popular culture as a worthy object of study, Cultural Studies practitioners have accepted that the terms in which cultural debate had previously been conducted involved a category error. Opera is not 'better' than pop music, we believe in Cultural Studies - 'better for what?', we would ask. Similarly, Shakespeare is not 'better' than Mills and Boon, unless you can specify the purpose for which you want to use the texts. Shakespeare is indeed better than Mills and Boon for understanding seventeenth century ideas about social organisation; but Mills and Boon is unquestionably better than Shakespeare if you want slightly scandalous, but ultimately reassuring representations of sexual intercourse. The reason that we do not accept traditional hierarchies of cultural value is that we know that the culture that is commonly understood to be 'best' also happens to be that which is preferred by the most educated and most materially well-off people in any given culture (Bourdieu, 1984: 1- 2; Ross, 1989: 211). We can interpret this information in at least two ways. On the one hand, it can be read as proving that the poorer and less well-educated members of a society do indeed have tastes which are innately less worthwhile than those of the material and educational elite. On the other hand, this information can be interpreted as demonstrating that the cultural and material elite publicly represent their own tastes as being the only correct ones. In Cultural Studies, we tend to favour the latter interpretation. We reject the idea that cultural objects have innate value, in terms of beauty, truth, excellence, simply 'there' in the object. That is, we reject 'aesthetic' approaches to culture (Bourdieu, 1984: 6; 485; Hartley, 1994: 6)1. In this, Cultural Studies is similar to other postmodern institutions, where high and popular culture can be mixed in ways unfamiliar to modernist culture (Sim, 1992: 1; Jameson, 1998: 100). So far, so familiar.

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ID Code: 41991
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: doctor who, cultural studies
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING (190000) > FILM TELEVISION AND DIGITAL MEDIA (190200)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Past > Disciplines > Film & Television
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2001 Brunel University
Deposited On: 15 Jun 2011 23:38
Last Modified: 16 Jun 2011 17:32

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