Table of Contents
Format and Genre
Which football fan or national team supporter is not dreaming of being as close to his or her favourite team as possible? Who would not want to be a mouse in the locker room and watch how the coach gives your favourite players an energetic pep talk. This dream can be fulfilled by the web spots ´Die Deutsche 11 Backstage` (d11b), which is a humorous account of the events happening behind the scenes of the German national team before, during and after the 2006 world cup. In this animated and creative version of Sönke Wortmann`s documentary Deutschland – Ein Sommermärchen (ARD, 2006), the enthusiastic team kicks footballs, makes jokes and drinks beer while coach Klinsmann aka ´Klinsi` is trying to motivate them in the locker room or even via web cam from his residence in the US. The name of the show, which is only available on the web or on DVD, is an allusion to the German Football Association dfb. The show was created by two football fans and animation producers who put it on their business website and caused a big fan base to emerge. Picked up by television and other media, the show became very popular. Thereby, it profited from the generally increasing popularity of German football immediately after the world cup.
Being a well-organized and friendly host country did not only help to give Germany a better reputation in the world, but it also brought its people closer together gaining in more confidence and national pride. The web clips of d11b are not only reinforcing this popularity increase of German football, a deeper analysis will find this parody to be also critical towards the stereotypical and simple media representation of German national team members. Furthermore, it will be investigated in how far the d11b format can be pigeonholed into existing genre categories, especially that of television documentary. Particular interest here will be in the dichotomy between fact and fiction. Moreover, it will be interesting to look at the dichotomy between producers and consumers of web-based material. The findings of this comparative analysis to television documentary will give more insights in web-based programming and its opportunities for participation. The paper is structured so that the format of d11b is described before linking it to the genre while outlining the differences between the two categorizations of format and genre. After this general definition of how the term genre is used in this paper, a more detailed analysis of the specific genre of the documentary is made while comparing documentary elements to the d11b format in an attempt to categorize the programme.
Format and Genre
Before thinking further about the nature of the d11b format, its form of production and distribution has to be considered. d11b is created by Thomas Schneider-Trupp and Axel Sucrow, two German football fans who professionally produce animations for the scopas medien AG in Frankfurt (d11b.tv). This media company uses the stop-motion technique to animate figures made of clay (clay-mation). Starting out with the production of commercials and high-quality fictional programs for children, by now the company also produces documentaries for television and cinema (scopas.de). The d11b format is inspired by Sönke Wortmann`s more traditional documentary Deutschland – Ein Sommermärchen in which the film maker accompanied the German National team backstage with a camera throughout the world cup 2006. As a result of having enjoyed this traditional documentary, the first short and humorous animated clip was created by these two football fans and linked to their professional website (d11b.tv). After visitors of their website liked the clip and requested more, the creators of d11b produced more clips while involving their fans in the production process. The format could then even be sold to the German television channel ProSieben, which features the clips on their website ProSieben.de (scopas.de). By now Schneider-Trupp and Sucrow also produce clay-mation clips about the former Formula One driver Michael Schumacher for the private channel RTL (ibid.). Soon the creators of d11b also set up their own website d11b.tv featuring all clips available for watching on the internet or to download on mobile phone and computer, an online sale of the DVD and other merchandise, and a blog, forum and newsletters as tools for communicating with their fans. Even the layout of the website looks like a football locker room (see Appendix).
The forum gave fans an opportunity to exchange thoughts and ideas for new clips or to discuss previously created clips. The blog was an opportunity for the producers to keep their fans updated on recent developments of the project and to show personal fan material like them watching a qualification match for the Euro cup 2008 or of them meeting some of the players of the German National team and handing them a copy of the d11b DVD (d11b.tv). The animated short clips are primarily created for the web as a form of entertaining fan culture. The primary discourse around the format still takes place on the web, despite other media forms like television having picked up on them with the result of creating an even greater popularity of the project. Although these short clips are mainly created for and distributed by the web, they are inspired by a television documentary. Therefore, it does not seem too far-fetched to compare them to different types of documentaries in an attempt to get a better understanding of the format and genre and more generally of the web as a cultural form.
Before performing such a comparative analysis of d11b, the difference between a format and a genre will be clarified. Furthermore, it will be briefly outlined in what sense the term genre is used here and what role and function it performs while keeping in mind the various competing definitions of these terms. The d11b short clips can be classified as a format or production category, since they are an original which can be protected by copyright. There are rigid boundaries to other formats. If we put d11b in the more inclusive genre category of the documentary for example, a number of related formats could be fitted in that category. While d11b can transcend one genre and be part of a second genre, animation or comedy for example, it cannot be part of another format. It follows then that a genre is a more widely defined category than the format. Genre recognition is helpful for an audience, academics and an industry. The television and film industry markets formats through categorising them in genres which elicit expectations in viewers. Viewers use genre categorizations to make sense of a format by comparing it to other formats of the same genre. Academics find patterns and principal features in formats which help them to categorize and classify formats into genres in order to theorise about the social and cultural roles that these genres perform (Altman, in Creeber, 2001).
However, as Allen (in Creeber, 2001) and many other genre theorists point out, genres and formats become ever more hybridised. Apart from the fact that these terms in themselves describe constructed ideal types which in practice often overlap, a tendency of hybridization can be traced over the past years (Turner, in Creeber, 2001). While the boundaries of series and serial are often blurred by dramas and sitcoms, the boundaries of genres are transgressed by docu-soaps or docu-dramas that combine two distinct genres without clearly favouring one over the other (ibid.). Especially the boundaries between factual television and light entertainment became more dynamic with the trend towards ´infotainment` and the rise of ´reality TV` (ibid.). Hybrid popular factual entertainment has evolved out of a need for more commercial viability in the 1980s and 90s (Beattie, 2004). While the definition of ´reality TV` has evolved from being applied to news magazine programmes based round emergency service activities to describe talk shows, docu-soaps and ´constructed` documentaries (Dovey, J., in Creeber, pp. 134-35). The hybridization already begins with the blurring of John Ellis` distinction of series and serial in contemporary television (Turner, in Creeber, 2001). Having defined a series as self-contained episodes with autonomous plot lines and a serial as containing story lines with character developments, US sitcoms such as Friends or hospital dramas such as Emergency Room blur this neat boundary by containing elements of the serial in what the industry would regard as series (Turner, in Creeber). Television series and serial open up new opportunities for programme and genre categorization, very different from the ones used in cinema.
Ellis (1982) argues that TV’s process of segmentalisation through series and serial is a different form and approach than the cinema’s emphasis on a single text. The series provides the necessary expectancy and anticipation that the cinema can provide in one narrative image (Ellis, 1982, p. 126). A soap opera for example would not be a soap opera, if it would only have one episode. The succession of segments organized according to the logic of series and serial are a characteristic particular to the medium of television (ibid.). Hence, it becomes apparent that each medium develops its own forms of genre categorizations. For this reason, it has to be considered that d11b is designed for the Web with its own forms of programming and genre categorization, though the format is organized according to the logic of the television series and contains many elements from television genres. Though the form of d11b can be neatly defined as a series without any character development involved, it is harder to categorize its content under a particular genre heading. That is why a comparative analysis will outline similarities and differences to various documentary types in search for a suitable genre classification. At the same time d11b is compared to the medium of television with its peculiar approach to genre. These comparative analyses will also provide more insights about the Web as a cultural form.
Since d11b is inspired by a conventional or traditional documentary, the question arises what elements make a conventional documentary and in what way is d11b different. The term documentary itself is very hotly debated. Corner (1996, p. 3) states that “documentary work is almost always premised on a certain epistemology which itself is grounded in the recording of the particular, physical real by camera and microphone.” Ellis (2005, p. 351) then expresses a certain insecurity about the truth value of these recordings when saying that “Documentary depends on a constantly renegotiated understanding of the status of its footage as evidence” in an impossible attempt “of aligning recording with reality”. Winston (2000, p. 20) goes even further by describing these recordings as “images of the real world (used) for the purposes of personal expression.” Ward (2005, p. 11) tries to account for the complexity of the genre by describing documentary as “complex interaction between text, context, producer and spectator.” Kilborn and Izod (1997, p. 7) describe the reputation of documentary as “a serious, worthy, but ultimately boring form of programming”.