Reading Joss Whedon

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In an age when geek chic has come to define mainstream pop culture,
few writers and producers inspire more admiration and response than
Joss Whedon. From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Much Ado About Nothing,
from Dr. Horrible’s Sing–Along Blog to The Avengers, the works of
Whedon have been the focus of increasing academic attention. This collection
of articles represents some of the best work covering a wide array of
topics that clarify Whedon’s importance, including considerations of narrative
and visual techniques, myth construction, symbolism, gender, heroism,
and the business side of television. The editors argue that Whedon’s work
is of both social and aesthetic significance; that he creates "canonical television."
He is a master of his artistic medium and has managed this success
on broadcast networks rather than on cable.
From the focus on a single episode to the exploration of an entire season,
from the discussion of a particular narrative technique to a recounting
of the history of Whedon studies, this collection will both entertain and
educate those exploring Whedon scholarship for the first time and those
planning to teach a course on his works.
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About the author

Rhonda V. Wilcox is professor of English at Gordon State College in Georgia.
Tanya R. Cochran is associate professor of English at Union College in Nebraska.
Cynthea Masson is professor of English at Vancouver Island University.
David Lavery is professor of English at Middle Tennessee State University.

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2 total

Additional Information

Syracuse University Press
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Published on
May 16, 2014
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Performing Arts / Film / History & Criticism
Performing Arts / Individual Director
Performing Arts / Television / History & Criticism
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Content Protection
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Eligible for Family Library

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Toward the end of the twentieth century, science fiction television took a dark turn. Series like The X-Files, Millennium, and Dark Skies wove menacing technologies, paranormal forces, and shadowy government agencies into complex tales of corruption and cover-ups. Mind control, alien abductions, secret government laboratories, and implacable “men in black” moved from the fringes to the mainstream of American culture, making weekly appearances in living rooms everywhere. Other series that played on fears of new technologies—such as virtual reality—set the stage for unfamiliar kinds of exploitation, while Dark Angel offered glimpses of a near-future wasteland devastated by a technological catastrophe.

In The Paranormal and the Paranoid: Conspiratorial Science Fiction Television, Aaron John Gulyas explores the themes that permeated and defined science fiction television at the turn of the millennium. The author traces the roots of this phenomenon in an earlier generation of series including The Invaders, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and Project U.F.O. and examines how changes in the cultural landscape led to the proliferation of these types of shows. This book delves into the internal mythology of shows like The X-Files, resurrects now-forgotten series like Wild Palms and VR.5, and provides an important glimpse into American culture at the close of the twentieth century.

While exploring the pervasive grimness of these shows, Gulyas also examines how they offer hope in the form of heroes—like agents Scully and Mulder—who relentlessly dug through the tissue of lies and distortions to find and expose the truth. The Paranormal and the Paranoid will appeal to scholars of media studies, sociology, and science fiction—not to mention fans of these programs and even conspiracy theorists.
At a time when television offered limited opportunities for women, Donna Reed was an Oscar-winning Hollywood actress who became both producer (though largely uncredited) and star of her own television show. Distinct from the patriarchal family sitcoms of the era, The Donna Reed Show's storylines focused on the mother instead of the father, and its production brought a cinematic aesthetic to television situation comedy. In The Donna Reed Show, author Joanne Morreale illustrates how the program pushed the boundaries of the domestic sitcom at a time when the genre was evolving and also reflected the subtle shifts and undercurrents of unrest in the larger social and political culture. Morreale begins by locating Donna Reed in relation to her predecessors Gertrude Berg and Lucille Ball, both of whom were strong female presences in front of and behind the camera. She also explores the telefilm aesthetics of The Donna Reed Show and argues that the series is a prime example of the emergent synergy between Hollywood and the television industry in the late fifties. In addition, Morreale argues that the Donna Stone character's femininity acts as a kind of masquerade, as well as provides a proto-feminist model for housewives. She also examines the show's representation of teen culture and its role in launching the singing careers of its two teenaged stars. Finally, Morreale considers the legacy of The Donna Reed Show in the representation of its values in later sitcoms and its dialogue with contemporary television texts. Morreale illustrates the interplay of gender, industry, and culture at work in the history of this classic TV series. Fans of the show, as well as students and teachers of television history, will enjoy this close look at The Donna Reed Show.
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Discussing the roles television has played in different institutions from 1945 to the present day, McCarthy draws on a wide array of sources. These include retail merchandising literature, TV industry trade journals, and journalistic discussions of public viewing, as well as the work of cultural geographers, architectural theorists, media scholars, and anthropologists. She also uses photography as a research tool, documenting the uses and meanings of television sets in the built environment, and focuses on such locations as the tavern and the department store to show how television is used to support very different ideas about gender, class, and consumption. Turning to contemporary examples, McCarthy discusses practices such as Turner Private Networks’ efforts to transform waiting room populations into advertising audiences and the use of point-of-sale video that influences brand visibility and consumer behavior. Finally, she inquires into the activist potential of out-of-home television through a discussion of the video practices of two contemporary artists in everyday public settings.
Scholars and students of cultural, visual, urban, American, film, and television studies will be interested in this thought-provoking, interdisciplinary book.
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