Considering first, then, the economy of the relation between spectator and representation in respect of the medium through which this event was witnessed, it is widely recognised that the experience of the televisual spectator necessarily differs from that of the cinematic or theatric spectator. Wendy Wheeler and Trevor Griffiths acknowledge the immediacy of theatre, observing that
In the theatre, and unlike film, the economy of seeing and hearing we are offered is just as immediate and as vital as the drama of the family from and through which we negotiate our precarious subjectivity. The danger of the theatre, the possibility of failing to maintain the illusion, of extraneous noises which should not be heard, of the collapse of the role and of the fiction of assumed identities, of fluffed or forgotten lines, of props which make noises which they shouldn't, all combine to reproduce precisely the erotic, libidinal danger of the Oedipal family.
Christian Metz considers the relation to fiction of theatre and of film, as experienced by the spectator, observing that
In the cinema as in the theatre, the represented is by definition imaginary: that is what characterises fiction as such independently of the signifiers in charge of it. But the representation is fully real in the theatre, whereas in the cinema it too is imaginary, the material being already a reflection. Thus the theatrical fiction is experienced more - it is only a matter of a different 'dosage', of a difference of economy, rather, but that is precisely why it is important - as a set of real pieces of behaviour actively directed at the evocation of something unreal, whereas cinematic fiction is experienced rather as the quasi-real presence of the unreal itself.
In terms of content, the representation in both cinema and theatre is - by definition - imaginary. In cinema, as Metz points out, the form also is imaginary: in his words, the projection is a 'quasi-real' presence.
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The economy of the relationship between the televisual image and the spectator is, again, different. Televisual representations enter the private domestic spaces of the subject in a way in which theatric and cinematic representations cannot. The experience of the spectator in this instance (although shared with a global audience) is not communal, not estranged by the environment; and as the images enter his/her own home, s/he has a certain control over their reception, a control which is not present in the environment of a cinema or theatre. John Ellis observes that
Broadcast TV proposes itself a very different spectator from that of cinema. The viewer for TV is very far from being in a position of producing a totalising vision of the truth from an initial stance of curiosity. For broadcast TV, the regime of viewing is rather one of complicity with TV's own look at the passing pageant of life. TV's regime is not one of enigma and solution of enigma, but rather one of continuous variety, a perpetual introduction of novelty on the basis of repetition which never reaches a final conclusion. Broadcast TV's viewer is therefore a bystander, but a bystander in very specific circumstances, those of home.
Theatric representation is characterised by physical embodiment, the danger of a re-presentation which is always a first performance, never a repetition or exact copy of the last. Cinematic images, on the other hand, offer a certain distance and a narrative certainty, in that they can be replayed; and televisual images domesticize, contextualizing and juxtaposing spectacular images within the familiarity of the domestic space. In the first few moments of the destruction of the Trade Center, however, the distinction between these three kinds of relation was momentarily blurred and compromised, and the libidinal danger of the theatric representation of real bodies overflowed into the quasi-spectacle of a Hollywood blockbuster viewed through the delimited lens of a television by a horrified and confused spectator who - momentarily disorientated - could not differentiate between the three. For those first few moments the schisms between content, medium, and spectator were difficult to reconcile into a coherent response.
_ Over the days which followed, the global audience seemed both fascinated and oc horrified by the developing narrative. Those first few moments, however, were j= moments of inadvertent spectatorship, where the spectator had to accommodate o the realisation that what s/he was watching was not fantasy, but reality, and to o reframe the experience accordingly. The medium (and the expectation of it) is likely to account to some extent for the disorientation of the spectator. The psychical economy of this moment of shift, the nature of the desire of the spectator ¡E immediately before and after, and the effect on the spectator's subsequent
construction of fantasy might bring us a little closer to understanding the allure of the 'unpleasurable'.
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