Montageman: A dude who writes

September 12, 2006

Hermeneutic Code and Contextuality

Filed under: barthes — montageman @ 3:33 am

Last night on A&E an one hour special called Meth in the City aired. As the title so lucidly states, the hour was spent on enlightening the general population about meth and how it is no longer a primarily rural drug. Atlanta, in fact, is one of the central distribution hubs for meth. Ok, fine, meth is a problem in the city, but why? Throughout the program, former addict after former addict claims to have had a perfect life prior to meth, but after meth, his life turns to shambles. What caused the initial usage? Why meth? A girl claimed to have taken her 1st hit at 12 – how does a 12 year old find meth in the first place? Documentaries like the Meth in the City fail to contextualize the problem. Rather, it uses a rhetorical stance similar to the fear mongering the Bush administration uses to justify wire-tapping and the elimination of civil liberties. Instead of a historical examination of the problem, the concentration is on decontextualized events that distance the viewer rather than forcing the viewer to come to any sort of realization about the problem.

Working through Barthes’ 5 codes of S/Z, Elsaesser and Buckland define hermeneutic code as an enigma that the text establishes, holds in suspense, and the eventually discloses (153). Documentaries like Meth define the enigma but do not disclose enough information to bring the viewer closure.

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