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

University of Chicago Press
6
Free sample

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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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.
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

This timely collection brings feminist critique to bear on contemporary postfeminist mass media culture, analyzing phenomena ranging from action films featuring violent heroines to the “girling” of aging women in productions such as the movie Something’s Gotta Give and the British television series 10 Years Younger. Broadly defined, “postfeminism” encompasses a set of assumptions that feminism has accomplished its goals and is now a thing of the past. It presumes that women are unsatisfied with their (taken for granted) legal and social equality and can find fulfillment only through practices of transformation and empowerment. Postfeminism is defined by class, age, and racial exclusions; it is youth-obsessed and white and middle-class by default. Anchored in consumption as a strategy and leisure as a site for the production of the self, postfeminist mass media assumes that the pleasures and lifestyles with which it is associated are somehow universally shared and, perhaps more significantly, universally accessible.

Essays by feminist film, media, and literature scholars based in the United States and United Kingdom provide an array of perspectives on the social and political implications of postfeminism. Examining magazines, mainstream and independent cinema, popular music, and broadcast genres from primetime drama to reality television, contributors consider how postfeminism informs self-fashioning through makeovers and cosmetic surgery, the “metrosexual” male, the “black chick flick,” and more. Interrogating Postfeminism demonstrates not only the viability of, but also the necessity for, a powerful feminist critique of contemporary popular culture.

Contributors. Sarah Banet-Weiser, Steven Cohan, Lisa Coulthard, Anna Feigenbaum, Suzanne Leonard, Angela McRobbie, Diane Negra, Sarah Projansky, Martin Roberts, Hannah E. Sanders, Kimberly Springer, Yvonne Tasker, Sadie Wearing

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

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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