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The Movie of the Week

The Movie of the Week: Private Stories Public Events

Elayne Rapping
Volume: 5
Copyright Date: 1992
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 208
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttt7sh
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  • Book Info
    The Movie of the Week
    Book Description:

    Made-for-TV movies are unique in network television. Developed at a time when TV had ceased to be a novelty and the weekly schedule had become routine, these films became “must-see-special events,” something to be promoted as dramatically superior to series fare. More important, these movies were presented as socially charged documents, on the cutting edge of public debate, and, in fact, focal points for engaging the nation in issues in a much larger sphere--the real social world. The importance of made-for-TV movies to the networks increased as they continued to deal with socially vexed, controversial subjects. they became, says Rapping, cultural capital in the battle to have television taken seriously, often reflecting a somber, pseudocumentary tone and style (and refusing, with notable exceptions, to be ironic, cute, or intentionally silly). Subjects like slavery, domestic violence and incest, nuclear war, and corporate pollution, were first given dramatic representation in a TV movie. These productions crossed the line between fiction and fact, between drama and information, entering the realm of important social discourse not indirectly, through movie reviews, but quite directly through channels normally reserved for “real life” events. In The Movie of the Week, Elayne rapping places the TV movie in an historical and institutional framework first and then--in light of the political and cultural forces of production, and the contradictory nature of the media and hegemonic structure--analyzes the various, dominant types of TV movies in terms of narrative and textual strategies. In this first full-length study of its kind, The Movie of the Week analyzes a true “TV invention”--one that is not only fascinating but significant.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8411-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xvii-xliv)

    This is a book about an important public sphere within which social meanings and myths are constructed and circulated: television. It interrogates the role and workings of one particular fictional genre, the made-for-TV movie, within the context of that public sphere. It assumes that commercial television, in its modes of production and of consumption, matter very much in our common political life. It assumes that TV movies, in particular, matter because they operate in a unique way as discursive sites upon which representations and ideologies of “the family” are struggled over first in the text itself and then in the...

  5. 1 The American Dream Machine: Movies for Large and Small Screens
    (pp. 1-31)

    Before looking analytically at the various manifestations of the TV movie genre that is our subject, it is necessary to look at the history and institutional structure out of which it was born and through which it gradually took on the conventions and tensions that now characterize it. That is the purpose of this first, lengthy chapter. While in the body of the book I will look closely at the telefeature from a variety of critical perspectives, none of this makes much sense socially without a clear (if necessarily somewhat simplified) overview of the forces that produced it and the...

  6. 2 Genre, Narrative, and the Public Sphere
    (pp. 32-63)

    Laurie Anderson is obviously talking about the Reagan years. She is also obviously right. But her perspective is historically limited. In fact, this “desire for [we] don’t know what” has always been a fact of life in these United States. There has always been a promise of Utopia and a failure to deliver the goods. Our collective myths and dreams—now most prominently evident in pop culture—reflect that desire and provide moments of what feels almost like their fulfillment, “utopian moments” (Radway 1984, 215) of hope that grow out of the dimension of every form of mass culture that,...

  7. 3 Feminist Theory and the TV Movie: What the Genre Does Best
    (pp. 64-87)

    How to make viewers and critics of dramatic narrative take the movie of the week seriously—that is the project of this book. I have been arguing against the grain of just about everyone who has bothered to comment publicly on the form. Even theNew York TimesTV critic John O’Connor, a man whose job requires that he find virtue in at least some of what he reviews, consistently, and ever so loftily, reviles the TV movie for its “undeveloped, stereotypical characters,” its “oversimplification” (O’Connor 1983, C12), and other cardinal sins of the lit crit canon.

    As we have...

  8. 4 TV Movies As Women’s Genre
    (pp. 88-117)

    In the preceding chapter, I did two things. First, I placed the telefeature in the context of feminist film and media theory, since, as I hope is by now obvious, I believe the best of the form is more often than not found in movies that treat women’s issues from the subject position of the female viewer, for reasons that grow out of the structure and dynamic of the industry itself. In this, I was being theoretically polemical. Feminist debates and theories about “women’s culture” are very often on the cutting edge of critical discourse these days. But they have...

  9. 5 TV Movies As History: Class, Race, and the Past
    (pp. 118-146)

    While TV movies have been rooted predominantly in the domestic sphere and, in particular, in women’s experiences and issues, there are obviously many other matters that come up again and again in the genre and that need to be addressed. In particular, TV movies—mostly in the form of miniseries—have become, in sometimes alarming ways, the predominant discourse through which Americans, especially young Americans, are now “educated” about our national history. Series likeWinds of WarandThe Blue and the Graypresent dramatizations of major periods in our history—World War II and the Civil War, respectively—that...

  10. Afterword
    (pp. 147-150)

    We have looked at the world of TV movies as though they existed to a great extent outside of history. Having constructed a narrative of how they developed as a form, we then spent a great deal of time analyzing various subgenres. But of course, the social world that TV movies seek to represent, and the industrial one in which they are produced, are always changing. I have argued that TV movies about women and the family have, more than other forms, worked in progressive ways to articulate versions of our experiences, not only as women but as blacks and...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 151-156)
  12. Index
    (pp. 157-162)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 163-163)