chapter  15
6 Pages

Teaching Australian television studies

WithBelinda Smaill

The topic of this special issue – questions of taste and value in canonically bad cinema, or

marginal cinema that troubles the boundaries of the discipline – is figured differently

when films are considered as ‘bad’ teaching and learning objects in a classroom. ‘Badness’

is determined not through genre or industrial principles but by, in part, student responses to

viewing material. Without an understanding of disciplinarity or even the canon, students

locate ‘badness’ in a way that aligns with their own learning goals and taste preferences.

In the case of television studies the issue of preference and discernment becomes more

complex. As noted in the Introduction, the increasing number of edited journal issues in

film studies and related disciplines that reflect on the teaching of screen texts suggests an

intensification of interest in how we teach, what we teach and why we teach it. Invariably

they focus on the problems and experiences of teaching ‘difficult films’ – most often

pornography, but also exploitation film, racist films or even experimental film. In most of

these cases the difficulty is located in how modes of affect are activated in ways that

overshadow specific learning objectives, especially aversion, frustration or confusion. Yet

if this affect can be harnessed in class, it can also produce the most dramatic and successful

examples of learning. In my teaching experience bad (or difficult) teaching objects are

actually those that are met with indifference or boredom, not aversion.