Do You Consider Dallas To Be Art?

Discussion in 'Dallas - The Original Series' started by Kenny Coyote, Sep 10, 2019.

  1. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    If your read more closely, you'll notice I didn't say that. What I said was in response to a poster's statement: "It's so much more fun to talk about trash." In fact, that quote is from you. I responded to that quote of yours by asking: "Who is trashier than a career criminal involved in organized crime?"

    Let me ask you a question: Since you describe Dallas and soap opera in general as "trash", and one would think that's because you consider "trash" the best description of Dallas and not because it's a flattering way to describe a show you like very much, then, that being said:

    If you had met Barbara Bel Geddes or Larry Hagman while they were still alive, and you felt like complimenting Dallas, would you have said anything along the lines of: "I love Dallas. It's such good trash! I especially appreciate the specific trash you contribute to the overall trash which is Dallas" or, would you have maybe chosen not to describe either Dallas, or their specific acting scenes as "trash"?
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2019
  2. Toni

    Toni Soap Chat Star

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    A great post in a very interesting thread indeed. I also took notice of little things every time I re-watch the show, or even when I just search on new clips to make my clips. For one of them ("Tour-de-force performances") I chose the scene with Dusty visiting Sue Ellen at the sanitarium from the Dream Season. Why? Because someone who was used to spend 2 hours at makeup and hair, obviously HAD TO act differently when she was not wearing it.

    I'm not talking about those scenes with the bums that have come across as shock value through the years. I'm talking about a scene where Linda is wearing a robe in bed and minimal makeup, and the camera is very close to her and Jared Martin. Well, what amazed me was how Linda was using her hands in that scene, which I'd never noticed. She embraces him, and then keeps him very close to her, almost in a creepy, desperate way (you can the scene below).

    The scene is not too long, but Linda keeps holding her arms around him tightly, until she lets him go and exquisitely (almost in a Joan-Van-Ark way) displays a lot of emotions within a couple of minutes. That´s an example of what "Dallas" could do best, talk about emotions, and they did this in its eight (ninth upon Warner) year. Of course, I used this scene as a proof of Linda's best work on the show, but it's subjective, of course. Here is the scene if you wanna re-watch it (I hope I didn't go too much off-topic):


    PS: The first time I watched this scene it was dubbed into French (in France "Dallas" was a couple of seasons over us in Spain) and I understood every little thing the writers wanted to transmit, though I probably missed some words. If I had turned the volume off, I think I´d have understood it perfectly too. That´s what the good "Dallas" scenes did.
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2019
  3. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson SoapLand Battles Moderator

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    That comment was very tongue in cheek, and only meant to emphasize why people are still talking about Dallas (well, this forum anyway) and not about the Sopranos (although I've never bothered to find a Sopranos fan website).

    TV shows like The Sopranos and Mad Men don't really guide the viewer from point A to B. The viewer doesn't watch it as being the "jury", moral conflicts are usually not presented in a good vs bad design - basically, the viewer is left to his own devices.
    That also makes it rather difficult to discuss, I think.

    I know we don't always like the exact same things, but generally speaking we know why we all like & dislike DALLAS (or any of the other soaps) and that's why it's much easier to make a connection with other fans.
    The fascination for soap opera is that it's often so good when it really shouldn't be, because these ongoing tv sagas weren't created for the purpose of being exceptional or to make a statement or to create an awareness. It's created to continue, and hopefully the viewers continue with it. But you won't be able to string the viewers along for such a long time if you offer them nothing but garbage.

    As for being the most popular -> that's why it has to be the best -> that's why it's art. Well, you may have noticed (or not) that the Knots forum is rather quite compared to the Dallas forum.
    That's not because there aren't any Knots fans here, or because it wasn't interesting, it's because there isn't much to complain about. We can almost totally accept it the way it is, like you would accept....well, art?

    The clashing ingredients are more apparent on Dallas and Dynasty, and that's why we can't stop talking about it. Trying to understand how it could be so good, or trying to justify why we watched this trash-with-class in the first place. It's a bit like dancing, and you're not sure who's leading who.
     
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  4. Alexis

    Alexis Soap Chat Warrior

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    Is art a good or almost perfect version of something. Or a version of something that challenges the norm? A painting, a sculpture, a book, a poem, a song? A play? A soap opera? Was Dallas, at it's peak innovative, creative and exciting? Probably. Then it's art. There's a whole creative process involved there. I think it's art, it stands there for all time now. To be viewed and appreciated and valued or depreciated or criticized. It's art in the medium of soap opera.
     
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  5. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson SoapLand Battles Moderator

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    I like that idea. But was Dallas the only one?

    And is it possible to be art in the medium of other genres? Sci-fiction, western, reality TV?
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2019
  6. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    Yes, except reality because there actually is no such thing as reality TV.. it's still scripted. The difference is that they cut costs by not having to pay professional actors. So it is a fraud - not what it claims to be.
     
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  7. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    Dallas isn't either. I can choose to take Bobby or Pam's side (during arguments), JR's side or Cliff's, Jock's or Miss Ellie's side (during one of their very few arguments. After all, how can it be anything different. How can they tell me not to like who I like or to like who I don't?

    Also I don't always take the same person's side. When Jock and Miss Ellie occasionally argue, sometimes I see reason in Jock's take on the matter, and at other times, Miss Ellie's take.

    Dallas dosn' tell us whose side to take.. Even if they did I'd be thinking "screw that", I'm an adult, I'll decide for myself. Your values (the producer's) aren't my values.
     
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  8. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson SoapLand Battles Moderator

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    But it still entices you to take side, regardless of the who or why.
    The Sopranos and Mad Men didn't really do that, I think. It's a different kind of confrontation between the narrative and the viewer. And maybe that's also the reason why a show like The Sopranos could exist.
    Dallas had "been told" many times before.
     
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  9. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    I don't remember it well, but in The Sopranos, they don't have to entice you to take a side. Naturally you will be on the side of The FBI because they're good men fighting crime and the mafia are scummy dirtbags. What "enticing would be necessary? Of course you want law and order to prevail over organized crime.
     
  10. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    I didn't feel that way.

    DALLAS has big driving background music and emotive close-ups that clue you in on how significant something is, or how sad or ominous or whatever. One is constantly and obviously being manipulated; that's part of the enjoyment. THE SOPRANOS and MAD MEN adopt a more neutral stance.
     
  11. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    Background music is a score. Any high budget drama should have it. All movies have them, don't they?

    Manipulation of emotions is something all the great actors do, they're selling the emotion they feel through their facial expressions, their body language, etc.

    Manipulation of emotions is something great directors like Hitchcock did. When a scary scene happened, there was scary music. It enhances the overall effect.

    Dallas still let you decide whose side to take. Look at the vast difference in opinions in the threads about Bobby and Pam's breakup on season 6. Lots of people felt sympathetic to Bobby and lots felt sympathetic to Pam. Most of us probably felt some sympathy towards each but primarily sympathetic to one or the other.

    In Jock vs Miss Ellie over him adding Ray to the trust fund without telling her, that led to a huge grudge on Miss Ellie's part. We were free to agree with her or with Jock. Personally I felt that he should have told her in advance. Jock made the first mistake, but her reaction was so far beyond what was reasonable that I eventually sympathized more with him. Then she came around to his way of thinking and ended up loving Ray as if he were her son, so the trust fund issue became a moot point.

    When JR began cheating on Sue Ellen, there's no justification for cheating, ever, so of course I took Sue Ellen's side. Later they both cheated on each other and I thought they were equally at fault for not getting a divorce and making John Ross grow up in an environment where he would learn that apparently what he saw between his mom and dad, the intense bitterness, the lack of affection, was what love looked like and was how love should be. That was unconscionable, equally from JR and Sue Ellen, so I took John Ross' side.

    I always used my own values in deciding how I felt. I never felt that I as being persuaded to take the side they wanted me to, anyway. If they had, I wouldn't have liked that. If there's one thing I hate in movies and tv shows, its the writers and directors trying to "teach us something." That's such arrogance. It's so sanctimonious. What makes them qualified to teach us anything? I go to a movie to be entertained, not to be indoctrinated into the director's system of ethics and morals. I think that, "movies trying to teach s something" was a thing in the 70s. I don't know if it's done much anymore. I sure hope not.
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2019
  12. Kenny Coyote

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    You mean you didn't hope that law and order would prevail and take down the Sopranos crime group?

    May I ask what made you like the mafiosos more than the men and women risking their lives to keep those types in prison where they belong so they can't rob and extort honest, hard working citizens?
     
  13. James from London

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    No, I didn't.

    I didn't say I did like the mafiosos more than the men and women risking their lives to keep those types in prison where they belong so they can't rob and extort honest, hard working citizens. I enjoyed all the characters.
     
  14. Alexis

    Alexis Soap Chat Warrior

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    But in a way that's leading the viewer. It's informing them of how they should be feeling in any given situation. It's manipulation. Like a laugh track on a sitcom.
     
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  15. Alexis

    Alexis Soap Chat Warrior

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    Certainly not. Though it's one of the more notable ones.
    Why not? I'm sure Keeping Up With Cardassians is art to some folk. :)
     
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  16. Toni

    Toni Soap Chat Star

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    I'm with you about this plot (the Takapa story). Funny we don't discuss it too much around here because it's one of the most subtle, Knotsian (sub)plots the patriarchs ever had.

    That´s why the John Ross character on TNT´s "Dallas" felt as the truest one in the sequel. Because we knew all about his backstory and what we saw (sort of) fit in the way John Ross acted. If he had behaved less as a teenager and more like a damaged adult...then maybe it wouldn't have been canceled.

    About Sue Ellen not cheating J.R., I´ve never been 100% sure that Ray was her first lover, as we saw in "Black Market Baby". If she picked him up just like that, in the middle of the night, why couldn't she be a member of the "Laura Avery Sisterhood" and go "gallivanting" once in awhile in Austin, or Houston, or wherever she wanted to. Not that I think that would be the right thing, but that´s the magic of the original early "Dallas", that there might be a lot of things we still don't know about the characters after all these years, the way they were created and characterized.

    I´ve stopped watching American network series just for that reason. If there´s a flawed character who makes bad things, set the chronometer and see in how many episodes they will get their comeuppance and leave, or become another goody-goody, and another "conflicted" character will replace them. The "case of the week" shows have the perfect excuse to do that because they have a different guest cast every week, but the rest of shows seem to be written by arrogant and sanctimonious (to use your words, @Kenny Coyote) people who just apply the same old formula. No wonder why streaming services are offering the products with a higher quality level...
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2019
  17. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I'm not sure about the "should" dictate. Most British UK prime time soaps don't use synthetic scores and the result overall is more layered and naturalistic than what was seen in Dallas. I'm not necessarily saying that's better. There are some forms of visual entertainment to which the score adds and also many cases where a synthetic soundtrack would feel most incongruous. It's a creative choice that people needn't feel compelled to use.


    Hitch was notorious for manipulating emotions, yes. It's worth noting, however, that some of his most effective films - Rear Window; The Birds; Rope - didn't use "scary music" nor any kind of traditional synthetic score. Apart from opening or closing titles in a couple of cases, they were restricted to diegetic sounds.

    Incidentally, Hitch wanted the shower scene in Psycho - and all the motel-based scenes in that film - to play out without a score. He wanted the challenge of manipulating the audience more subtly, without the safe Hollywood default of using music in order to do so. If Hitchcock's artistic vision had come to fruition it would have been a very different moment and a very different film. What we saw in the end was collaborative art.





    The other evening I found myself watching an episode of Helicopter ER - a reality series - and found it compelling and at times uplifting for its depiction of humanity at the most challenging of times.

    Is it a thing? Most certainly.

    Is it art? Debatable (though I'm sure a case could be made given the awards the series has won).

    Is it fraudulent? Absolutely not.

    I think we need to separate the wheat from the chaff before dismissing an entire genre.




    Isn't it a good thing, though, if art challenges us to look at things in a different way? To view things in less simplistic or absolute terms?

    Are the OLM good men? Harry McSween? Or the state senate before which JR appeared in Ewing-Gate? How about the Justice Department from Fall Of The House Of Ewing? Should we naturally be on their side based on their occupation?


    And does art (or trash? Or television?) need to be moral in order to enjoy it?

    [​IMG]
     
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  18. Snarky's Ghost

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    I sometimes think the less-is-more approach is effective, and sometimes not, regarding musical score. The PSYCHO comparison of the shower scene with and without music is interesting, and I'm not sure which is more impactful or how. Without music, it's a bit creepier; with music, you're kind of at an emotional arm's length from the crime.

    I recall when the DALLAS dvds came out and some scenes had their score removed, and while I didn't mostly like the change (because I had remembered the scores no longer there, and had liked them) the comparison was interesting... One was the scene in which Sue Ellen approaches the house of Holly Harwood to catch JR in bed with her...

    The other was at the end of "The Search" when Ellie wakes up in her bed with Jock gone, wanders downstairs, sits at the dining table, and then has her final flashback of Jock ("I have the rest of my life to listen to you"), the boys arrive back at the house, Bobby sits down to tell his mother what happened in South America, and the music only resumes once JR wanders out back to look at his father's necklace and get his freeze frame... There were things I liked about the removal of some of the music, and things I didn't. For one thing, it was one of Bruce Broughton most memorable scores. But I actually found the silence of Ellie getting up out of her bed and wandering downstairs to be very effective, the aloneness of it -- but once she sits down at the dining table for her final flashback, I want the music to resume.

    Anyway, yes music score is manipulation, but so is acting, direction, camerawork, editing, etc.
     
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  19. James from London

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    Yeah, it’s all manipulation but I guess my original point was that the manipulation is much more overt on DALLAS than on THE SOPRANOS - it’s clear where the show is leading you, what it wants you to feel : “this is a sad moment, this is an ominous one, etc”. Whether one actually feels that way is another story. The manipulation is far, far more ambiguous on THE SOPRANOS. There’s no scoring in it for instance, mostly just preexisting pop music, kind of like what Martin Scorsese did with MEAN STREETS. A scene rarely if ever ends on a close up reaction shot of a character the way DALLAS mostly does.
     
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  20. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    That's right. I'd go as far as to say if you're making a dramatic TV show or movie and you're not manipulating people's emotions, you're not doing your job.
     
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