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Selling The Slap: Television Studies and the Transnational Remake (Honours thesis, 2016)

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This honours thesis uses the 2015 American remake of the Australian television series The Slap as a case study to interrogate the notion that transnational remakes serve to translate the 'original' text. I explore the expectations and
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  Selling The Slap Television Studies and the Transnational Remake   Eleanor Louisa Barz   SID 311222110 Department of Gender and Cultural Studies University of Sydney  A treatise submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Arts (Honours)  June 2016  Abstract This thesis uses the 2015 American remake of The Slap as a case study to interrogate the notion that transnational remakes serve to translate the text on which they are based. I explore the expectations and preconceptions towards the remake that surface in online forums and in reviews. Of particular interest is the common rendering of remakes as failed translations or poor imitations of the ‘srcinal’ text. I question the extent to which the remake of The Slap  serves to ‘translate’ the Australian story into an American one. Drawing from translation theory and television studies, I contend that the remake appropriates the narrative devices of the srcinal series to produce an srcinal story of its own.   2  Table of Contents Abstract   2 Table of Contents   3 Acknowledgements   4 Introduction   5 Re-Theorising the Remake 8 Not a Translation   21 Selling Stories 33 The Task of the Remake   33 Conclusion   37 References 39 Appendix A    45    3  Acknowledgements I could not have written this thesis without the support of the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies. I would like specifically to thank Professor Lee Wallace, Dr Jane Park and Professor Elspeth Probyn for their guidance. I would also like to express my gratitude to my friends Michael, LynFay,  Jennifer, Elena, Alison, Jen, Nick, Barbara, Courtney, Jannus and Homer, as well as my parents Richard and Lucinda.  4  Introduction At a birthday barbecue, an unruly child wields a bat near other children’s heads. When the child’s parents do not intervene, a fellow guest grabs the misbehaving child and slaps him hard in the face. A court case ensues, driving a tight-knit network of family and friends into a state of disarray. Whether the boy brandishes a cricket bat or a baseball bat depends on whether the scene takes place in Melbourne or New York. So goes the story of The Slap, first told by the Australian author Christos Tsiolkas in his 2008 novel and adapted into an eight part miniseries that aired on Australia’s public broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), in 2011. In its most recent iteration, an American remake that aired on the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) in 2015, the story of The Slap  has ‘migrated’ to Brooklyn, New York. Based on the Australian television series rather than the novel, the U.S. remake is more than a collection of cultural substitutions. The various plot erasures, additions and reconfigurations dramatically alter its thematic and ideological content: indigenous characters  vanish, inter-ethnic tensions are downplayed, and the Australian version’s abortion subplot becomes a tale of unplanned motherhood. The remake recycles, rather than preserves, what it retains from the Australian series. Retained dialogue, for instance, is often spoken by different characters and in different contexts, such that near identical lines obtain new significance. For example, in an emotive scene from the Australian series, the indigenous character Bilal asks the Anglo-Celtic Australian character Rosie to keep away from his family. Read within an Australian context, the exchange evokes Australia’s dark history of brutality towards indigenous people. The American remake preserves only remnants of this scene, giving Bilal’s lines to a white woman thereby gutting it of its racial content. In the discussion that follows I explore on a larger scale how the narrative of The Slap transforms when it enters a new cultural and industrial context. I approach the production history and commercial afterlife of The S lap  as a case study on the commodification of televisual stories in an era characterised by financial instability, media fragmentation and audience diversification (Lotz 2014). The first chapter, “Re-Theorising the Remake”, builds on Constantine Verevis’s recent study of the expectations and attitudes viewers bring to remakes such as The Slap . Verevis wrote his article “on the eve” of the remake’s premier. Like Verevis, I survey attitudes towards the American remake of The Slap  that have surfaced on internet forums and in reviews, as well as in scholarly articles. His 5
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