Back in the 1970’s the BBC’s I Claudius used a fictionalised representation of Roman history to push the boundaries of what was acceptable to contemporary viewers in terms of sex and violence on television.  In the twenty-first century these boundaries were pushed further, first by HBO’s Rome and then by the Starz series Spartacus: Blood and Sand, boasting graphic violence and full frontal nudity.  Polarised reactions to theses series have sprung up on web forums and fan sites, with viewers not only writing about the series because they love them, but also because they hate them, whether this is because of the sex and violence, the storylines and characterisation or the (lack of) historical accuracy.  Like Ien Ang’s early viewer study, published in English in 1985, Watching Dallas: Soap Opera and the Melodramatic Imagination , where Dutch viewers wrote in to explain why they loved or hated Dallas, strong reactions from viewers provide a useful opportunity for researchers.  Reviews from fans of films and television series are easy to obtain, but material from viewers who are less disposed towards the subject are not so readily available, and help to provide a more balanced study of viewer reactions .   Using online material created by viewers I will discuss how viewers are engaging with the classical world via Rome and Spartacus; Blood and Sand, and whether the strong reactions the series invokes are linked to the ancient setting of the series.  In order to illustrate the dialogic nature of viewer research I will be experimenting with using the voices of colleagues throughout my paper.

Advertisements