Make Room for TV: Television and the Family Ideal in Postwar America

University of Chicago Press
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Between 1948 and 1955, nearly two-thirds of all American families bought a television set—and a revolution in social life and popular culture was launched.

In this fascinating book, Lynn Spigel chronicles the enormous impact of television in the formative years of the new medium: how, over the course of a single decade, television became an intimate part of everyday life. What did Americans expect from it? What effects did the new daily ritual of watching television have on children? Was television welcomed as an unprecedented "window on the world," or as a "one-eyed monster" that would disrupt households and corrupt children?

Drawing on an ambitious array of unconventional sources, from sitcom scripts to articles and advertisements in women's magazines, Spigel offers the fullest available account of the popular response to television in the postwar years. She chronicles the role of television as a focus for evolving debates on issues ranging from the ideal of the perfect family and changes in women's role within the household to new uses of domestic space. The arrival of television did more than turn the living room into a private theater: it offered a national stage on which to play out and resolve conflicts about the way Americans should live.

Spigel chronicles this lively and contentious debate as it took place in the popular media. Of particular interest is her treatment of the way in which the phenomenon of television itself was constantly deliberated—from how programs should be watched to where the set was placed to whether Mom, Dad, or kids should control the dial.

Make Room for TV combines a powerful analysis of the growth of electronic culture with a nuanced social history of family life in postwar America, offering a provocative glimpse of the way television became the mirror of so many of America's hopes and fears and dreams.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Nov 26, 2013
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Pages
246
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ISBN
9780226769639
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Language
English
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Genres
Social Science / General
Social Science / Media Studies
Social Science / Sociology / Marriage & Family
Social Science / Women's Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Lynn Spigel
In Welcome to the Dreamhouse feminist media studies pioneer Lynn Spigel takes on Barbie collectors, African American media coverage of the early NASA space launches, and television’s changing role in the family home and its links to the broader visual culture of modern art. Exploring postwar U.S. media in the context of the period’s reigning ideals about home and family life, Spigel looks at a range of commercial objects and phenomena, from television and toys to comic books and magazines.
The volume considers not only how the media portrayed suburban family life, but also how both middle-class ideals and a perceived division between private and public worlds helped to shape the visual forms, storytelling practices, and reception of postwar media and consumer culture. Spigel also explores those aspects of suburban culture that media typically render invisible. She looks at the often unspoken assumptions about class, nation, ethnicity, race, and sexual orientation that underscored both media images (like those of 1960s space missions) and social policies of the mass-produced suburb. Issues of memory and nostalgia are central in the final section as Spigel considers how contemporary girls use television reruns as a source for women’s history and then analyzes the current nostalgia for baby boom era family ideals that runs through contemporary images of new household media technologies.
Containing some of Spigel’s well-known essays on television’s cultural history as well as new essays on a range of topics dealing with popular visual culture, Welcome to the Dreamhouse is important reading for students and scholars of media and communications studies, popular culture, American studies, women’s studies, and sociology.
Kathleen Gerson
In the controversial public debate over modern American families, the vast changes in family life--the rise of single, two-paycheck, and same-sex parents--have often been blamed for declining morality and unhappy children. Drawing upon pioneering research with the children of the gender revolution, Kathleen Gerson reveals that it is not a lack of "family values," but rigid social and economic forces that make it difficult to have a vibrant and committed family and work life. Despite the entrance of women into the workforce and the blurring of once clearly defined gender boundaries, men and women live in a world where the demands of balancing parenting and work, autonomy and commitment, time and money are left largely unresolved. Gerson finds that while an overwhelming majority of young men and women see an egalitarian balance within committed relationships as the ideal, today's social and economic realities remain based on conventional--and now obsolete--distinctions between breadwinning and caretaking. In this equity vacuum, men and women develop conflicting strategies, with women stressing self-reliance and men seeking a new traditionalism. With compassion for all perspectives, Gerson argues that whether one decides to give in to traditionally imbalanced relationships or to avoid marriage altogether, these approaches are second-best responses, not personal preferences or inherent attributes, and they will shift if new options can be created to help people achieve their egalitarian aspirations. The Unfinished Revolution offers clear recommendations for the kinds of workplace and community changes that would best bring about a more egalitarian family life--a new flexibility at work and at home that benefits families, encourages a thriving economy, and helps women and men integrate love and work. Praise for the Hardcover: "Over the past three decades, social change has blown apart the old-fashioned ideal of the nuclear family--and Gerson has set out to map where the pieces have landed." --New York Post "Valuable for the abundance and candor of the testimony from this unmoored generation pioneering through radically altered conceptions of personal and professional life." --Publishers Weekly "This is not a battle that can be won with legal challenges or legislation. Yes, it would undoubtedly be greatly aided by the passage of major social policies such as universal child care. But at its core, this is a fight that plays out within homes and between partners. And as Gerson's research makes clear, the fight has not changed all that dramatically in the past 30 years." --The American Prospect
Kevin M. Kruse
During the civil rights era, Atlanta thought of itself as "The City Too Busy to Hate," a rare place in the South where the races lived and thrived together. Over the course of the 1960s and 1970s, however, so many whites fled the city for the suburbs that Atlanta earned a new nickname: "The City Too Busy Moving to Hate."

In this reappraisal of racial politics in modern America, Kevin Kruse explains the causes and consequences of "white flight" in Atlanta and elsewhere. Seeking to understand segregationists on their own terms, White Flight moves past simple stereotypes to explore the meaning of white resistance. In the end, Kruse finds that segregationist resistance, which failed to stop the civil rights movement, nevertheless managed to preserve the world of segregation and even perfect it in subtler and stronger forms.

Challenging the conventional wisdom that white flight meant nothing more than a literal movement of whites to the suburbs, this book argues that it represented a more important transformation in the political ideology of those involved. In a provocative revision of postwar American history, Kruse demonstrates that traditional elements of modern conservatism, such as hostility to the federal government and faith in free enterprise, underwent important transformations during the postwar struggle over segregation. Likewise, white resistance gave birth to several new conservative causes, like the tax revolt, tuition vouchers, and privatization of public services. Tracing the journey of southern conservatives from white supremacy to white suburbia, Kruse locates the origins of modern American politics.

Some images inside the book are unavailable due to digital copyright restrictions.

Jan Olsson
In the last ten years, television has reinvented itself in numerous ways. The demise of the U.S. three-network system, the rise of multi-channel cable and global satellite delivery, changes in regulation policies and ownership rules, technological innovations in screen design, and the development of digital systems like TiVo have combined to transform the practice we call watching tv. If tv refers to the technologies, program forms, government policies, and practices of looking associated with the medium in its classic public service and three-network age, it appears that we are now entering a new phase of television. Exploring these changes, the essays in this collection consider the future of television in the United States and Europe and the scholarship and activism focused on it.

With historical, critical, and speculative essays by some of the leading television and media scholars, Television after TV examines both commercial and public service traditions and evaluates their dual (and some say merging) fates in our global, digital culture of convergence. The essays explore a broad range of topics, including contemporary programming and advertising strategies, the use of television and the Internet among diasporic and minority populations, the innovations of new technologies like TiVo, the rise of program forms from reality tv to lifestyle programs, television’s changing role in public places and at home, the Internet’s use as a means of social activism, and television’s role in education and the arts. In dialogue with previous media theorists and historians, the contributors collectively rethink the goals of media scholarship, pointing toward new ways of accounting for television’s past, present, and future.

Contributors. William Boddy, Charlotte Brunsdon, John T. Caldwell, Michael Curtin, Julie D’Acci, Anna Everett, Jostein Gripsrud, John Hartley, Anna McCarthy, David Morley, Jan Olsson, Priscilla Peña Ovalle, Lisa Parks, Jeffrey Sconce, Lynn Spigel, William Uricchio

Jan Olsson
In the last ten years, television has reinvented itself in numerous ways. The demise of the U.S. three-network system, the rise of multi-channel cable and global satellite delivery, changes in regulation policies and ownership rules, technological innovations in screen design, and the development of digital systems like TiVo have combined to transform the practice we call watching tv. If tv refers to the technologies, program forms, government policies, and practices of looking associated with the medium in its classic public service and three-network age, it appears that we are now entering a new phase of television. Exploring these changes, the essays in this collection consider the future of television in the United States and Europe and the scholarship and activism focused on it.

With historical, critical, and speculative essays by some of the leading television and media scholars, Television after TV examines both commercial and public service traditions and evaluates their dual (and some say merging) fates in our global, digital culture of convergence. The essays explore a broad range of topics, including contemporary programming and advertising strategies, the use of television and the Internet among diasporic and minority populations, the innovations of new technologies like TiVo, the rise of program forms from reality tv to lifestyle programs, television’s changing role in public places and at home, the Internet’s use as a means of social activism, and television’s role in education and the arts. In dialogue with previous media theorists and historians, the contributors collectively rethink the goals of media scholarship, pointing toward new ways of accounting for television’s past, present, and future.

Contributors. William Boddy, Charlotte Brunsdon, John T. Caldwell, Michael Curtin, Julie D’Acci, Anna Everett, Jostein Gripsrud, John Hartley, Anna McCarthy, David Morley, Jan Olsson, Priscilla Peña Ovalle, Lisa Parks, Jeffrey Sconce, Lynn Spigel, William Uricchio

Chris Berry
Mobile Cultures provides much-needed, empirically grounded studies of the connections between new media technologies, the globalization of sexual cultures, and the rise of queer Asia. The availability and use of new media—fax machines, mobile phones, the Internet, electronic message boards, pagers, and global television—have grown exponentially in Asia over the past decade. This explosion of information technology has sparked a revolution, transforming lives and lifestyles, enabling the creation of communities and the expression of sexual identities in a region notorious for the regulation of both information and sexual conduct. Whether looking at the hanging of toy cartoon characters like “Hello Kitty” from mobile phones to signify queer identity in Japan or at the development of queer identities in Indonesia or Singapore, the essays collected here emphasize the enormous variance in the appeal and uses of new media from one locale to another.

Scholars, artists, and activists from a range of countries, the contributors chronicle the different ways new media galvanize Asian queer communities in Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, India, and around the world. They consider phenomena such as the uses of the Internet among gay, lesbian, or queer individuals in Taiwan and South Korea; the international popularization of Japanese queer pop culture products such as Yaoi manga; and a Thai website’s reading of a scientific tract on gay genetics in light of Buddhist beliefs. Essays also explore the politically subversive possibilities opened up by the proliferation of media technologies, examining, for instance, the use of Cyberjaya—Malaysia’s government-backed online portal—to form online communities in the face of strict antigay laws.

Contributors. Chris Berry, Tom Boellstorff, Larissa Hjorth, Katrien Jacobs, Olivia Khoo, Fran Martin, Mark McLelland, David Mullaly, Baden Offord, Sandip Roy, Veruska Sabucco, Audrey Yue

Lynn Spigel
In Welcome to the Dreamhouse feminist media studies pioneer Lynn Spigel takes on Barbie collectors, African American media coverage of the early NASA space launches, and television’s changing role in the family home and its links to the broader visual culture of modern art. Exploring postwar U.S. media in the context of the period’s reigning ideals about home and family life, Spigel looks at a range of commercial objects and phenomena, from television and toys to comic books and magazines.
The volume considers not only how the media portrayed suburban family life, but also how both middle-class ideals and a perceived division between private and public worlds helped to shape the visual forms, storytelling practices, and reception of postwar media and consumer culture. Spigel also explores those aspects of suburban culture that media typically render invisible. She looks at the often unspoken assumptions about class, nation, ethnicity, race, and sexual orientation that underscored both media images (like those of 1960s space missions) and social policies of the mass-produced suburb. Issues of memory and nostalgia are central in the final section as Spigel considers how contemporary girls use television reruns as a source for women’s history and then analyzes the current nostalgia for baby boom era family ideals that runs through contemporary images of new household media technologies.
Containing some of Spigel’s well-known essays on television’s cultural history as well as new essays on a range of topics dealing with popular visual culture, Welcome to the Dreamhouse is important reading for students and scholars of media and communications studies, popular culture, American studies, women’s studies, and sociology.
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