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    Creating dramatic tension Essay

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    This type of short sentence structure is known as staccato rhythm. It’s a means of creating dramatic tension. The reason behind this tension could be the connotation of “interruption that speeds up the conversation. ” West and Zimmerman (1974:81) When someone doesn’t finish a sentence because they’re interrupted, this then hastens the next sentence, because they want to finish what they were saying. When people are speaking fast, especially Americans, they tend to substitute words in the dialogue. Aitchison and Lewis (2003) devised some theories about word substitution.

    “It’s very characteristic of spontaneous discourse to avoid tedious repetition. ” For example, words like “so” and “gonna” are common words in American slang that are difficult to detect because they are used so often in Will and Grace. Another type is ellipsis, which is omitting elements altogether. Speakers, who know each other well, often use ellipsis because they have many shared meanings that do not need stating explicitly. In Will and Grace, the two main characters have been friends forever and because sex is not a factor in their relationship, they can share things most cross-sex friendships can’t.

    Will: Yeah, and then Harpo and Zeppo could bring in the Dean’s wife, and we’ll all sail to Fredonia. Grace: Hey, don’t knock it. It was very funny when we did it in my Dad’s G. I series. They’re sharing a memory here that the audience would not know about. They don’t need to go into detail about it because they know what each other is trying to say. The conversational analysis of Will and Grace has shown a lot of common theories about dialogue patterns in broadcasting. These conversations also convey other meanings about the sitcom.

    They show different representations of men and women and in particular emphasise the speech patterns of homosexuals Will and Jack. Will and Grace put a positive spin on the representations of gender and sexuality, which was a taboo subject on television only a few years ago. According to Dirk Schulz of www. genderforum. uni-koeln. de, “the American sitcom Ellen caused outrage for NBC’s viewers, when she turned gay through her series. ” It was conceived as abnormal. However, Will and Grace’s producers characterised Will and Jack as gay from the beginning.

    This gave a feeling of safety and predictability for the viewers and would not propose any shock. The humour would be if Will and Jack decided to become straight, it would be uncharacteristic for them, but not have the same shock value for the audience. In most discourse, the representations of gay characters are either “presented as tragically doomed or laughing stock for the audience. ” Sandler (2001:131). This ideological inference is challenged in the 1981 film, The Celluliod Closet (1981).

    It examines our attitudes about sexuality and sex roles using celebrities as their focus. “Celebrities serve as potential role models for their audiences. ” Smith (2000:341) They identify with the role of the celebrities themselves. This is why this film gained critical acclaim for it’s insight into homosexuality and why the representation of homosexuals is more “politically correct. ” Will and Grace adopts this theory by having cameo roles for celebrities in their show. Madonna and Kevin Bacon are some of the many celebrities that have appeared in the series.

    Homosexuality is an essential part of media representation, but is a fairly new construction of discourse. Ellen was the first sitcom to really promote homosexuality, but Will and Grace managed to do it in a more effective way. It appears “normal” in their New York society and there is a big culture for it. Will and Jack have frequent partners in the show and society seems to accept them. However, in the episode, “Oh Dad, Poor Dad, He’s Kept Me in The Closet and I’, So Sad,” Will’s father, George is proud of his son but finds his homosexuality difficult to deal with in front of his peers.

    He tells them that Will and Grace are married, to avoid telling his fellow colleagues that he is gay. He thinks they will disapprove. In the end he tells them the truth and they accept it, with no qualms. Whether this would happen in real life is debateable, however, this sitcom shows that gender and sexuality “norms” are being challenged. Gender roles in Will and Grace could be argued as typically “21st Century. ” Grace is a strong female character, who runs her own business and has a good sense of humour. She is not oppressed by men and can’t even cook.

    Will often takes on the domestic responsibilities of the pair, but also works as a legal attorney. He is not feminised and appears to be an ordinary man in the city. Jack however, is extremely camp. His constant cabaret acts and high pitched tone are characteristic audiences would expect from a gay man. However, his character appears to emphasise these expectations for audience pleasures, so they can identify with their own norms about gay men. It’s part of Walker’s theory about “predictability. ” Walker (2000:51).

    “By affirming the cognitive stability of gay identity as a category, but rather endorsing gay identity as a signifier of resistance to the often exclusionary logic of identity that nonetheless makes possible at given moments for different constituencies, an identity of resistance. Endelman (1994). The character of Jack was allowed to be as gay as he liked, because he had a gay identity that was accepted by the audience. In conclusion, Will and Grace was an apt sitcom to analyse. The conversational analysis showed many theorists ideas about pauses and language rhythm.

    It showed how, when analysing the transcripts, a clear idea of how the dialogue is structured can be seen. This qualitative approach allowed me to do an in-depth research into the language and its structure. A quantitative analysis would have prevented me from doing so. The language also showed clear gender representations in the series. The main characters have strong representations, including homosexual representations, that are not commonly seen in other sitcoms. It challenges the preconceived ideologies that some viewers may have when watching television, but it is not shocking.

    Previous discourse has allowed Will and Grace to freely adopt gay representations for their characters that has proved a huge success internationally.


    Aitchison, J. & Lewis, D. (Eds). (2003). New Media Language. London: Routledge. COULTHARD, M. (1985). An Introduction to Discourse Analysis, 2nd edn. London: Longman. Davis, H. & Walton, P. (1983). Language, Image, Media. Oxford: Blackwell. Garfinkel, H. (1967). Studies in Ethnomethodology. Englewood Cliffs; NJ: Prentice Hall. Heritage, J. (1984). Garfinkel and Ethnomethodology. Cambridge: Polity. Scannell, P. (1991). Broadcast Talk. London: Sage.

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