Film viewing in South Africa in 2007: some vexed questions
This article examines the film-going habits and tastes of the South African public, focusing on which films generated the most income and were viewed by the largest public during 2007. It uses the data generated from cinema-going revenues and television viewership of film to engage the theoretical argument between Bourdieu's notion of habitus and the notion of cultural omnivorousness developed by Peterson and others. The article finds that elements of both Bourdieu's and Peterson's positions can be supported from the figures. In particular, the figures of channel switching among the wealthiest and highest educated viewers (indicated by the highest Living Standards Measurements or LSMs) show that this portion of the television audience shows considerable “restlessness” or range in viewing, supporting Peterson's findings that high cultural standing is often equated with cultural range rather than snobbish limitation. Yet this restlessness or lack of loyalty seems to work according to positions that accord quite well with Bourdieu's notion of habitus. In other words, higher LSMs are not equally restless with all cultural products and show a particular impatience with many South African films, to which lower LSMs are far more loyal — though it may be restricted channel choice that accounts for much of this difference. This study thus opens a methodological inquiry into film tastes and film consumption in a developing country and also offers, through an examination of channel switching, a new insight into the debate around cultural omnivores and taste.