The Bee and the Blob: Will Prime-time Change the National Spelling Bee?

With prime-time broadcast exposure the
national spelling bee has entered into new territory. Will this change the bee
and its participants?

With prime-time broadcast exposure the national spelling bee has moved from the school auditorium to the living room screen and it has been absorbed by the media blob, as Thomas de Zingotita calls it. Zingotita’s thesis is that the media process the stories of our lives through narrative that, in effect, re-shapes reality.

The event itself is defined as much by the storytelling as by actual facts. For a revealing illustration of this process see the The Bee, the New Celebrity Showcase in the Sunday New York Times. It’s a sympathetic piece but still reveals how the event is interpreted and processed as representative of something beyond the actual event. Besides the prime time broadcast production, writer Tamar Lewin tells us the spelling bee is the subject of a documentary (“Spellbound”), a Broadway musical (“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”), a movie based on a best-selling novel (“Bee Season”) and now a new movie about a girl overcoming adversity to become a winner (“Akeelah and the Bee”)

The Bee is being absorbed and processed. Lewin’s story says it’s becoming a vehicle for children who otherwise don’t stand out to bask in celebrity and for achievement oriented parents to value their children for what they accomplish and not for who they are.

According to these narratives the Bee is not merely about spelling or joy of learning, competition or love of words. It’s about achievement, celebrity, the projection of high expectations by parents onto their children, and overcoming adversity.

Resistance is futile. The Bee is being absorbed.

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