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Private Screenings

Private Screenings: Television and the Female Consumer

Lynn Spigel
Denise Mann
Copyright Date: 1992
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Private Screenings
    Book Description:

    Analyzes how television delivers definitions of “femininity” to its female audiences. Includes a source guide for television shows from 1946-1970. Contributors: Julie D’Acci, Sarah Berry, Aniko Bodroghkozy, Robert H. Deming, Dan Einstein, Sandy Flitterman-Lewis, Mary Beth Haralovich, Lynne Joyrich, William Lafferty, Nina Liebman, George Lipsitz, Denise Mann, Lynn Spigel, Jillian Steinberger and Randall Vogt.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8425-0
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. vii-1)
    Lynn Spigel and Denise Mann

    Television has always had its eye on women. Since its arrival in the late 1940s, it has particularly tried to attract female viewers, who, the industry assumes, are the primary consumers for their households. In this regard, television has much in common with other mass media (film, radio, magazines, romance fiction), which have also historically targeted women as their key source of revenue. But television’s pervasiveness as a domestic medium, a medium that is literally a piece of furniture in our homes, makes it a particularly important site for feminist analysis.

    Private Screeningsbrings together essays that focus on the...

  4. Installing the Television Set: Popular Discourses on Television and Domestic Space, 1948—1955
    (pp. 3-39)
    Lynn Spigel

    Between the years 1948 and 1955 more than half of all American homes installed a television set and the basic mechanisms of the network oligopoly were set in motion. Historical studies have concentrated upon the latter half of this problem. That is to say, the history of television has been conceived primarily as a history of the economic, regulatory, and political struggles which gave rise to the network industry.¹ But television histories have only marginally attended to the social and domestic context into which television inserted itself. At most, television histories typically explain the coming of television into the home...

  5. The Spectacularization of Everyday Life: Recycling Hollywood Stars and Fans in Early Television Variety Shows
    (pp. 41-69)
    Denise Mann

    At the turn of the century in America, the burgeoning field of mass amusement institutionalized the promise that "real life" was just around the corner. Hollywood, with its charged overpresence of stars, glitter and glamor, went on to institutionalize the idea that "real life" was to be found in the movie theater. Studio publicity departments singled out female fans, in particular, for their devoted attention to Hollywood stars and product tie-ins through fan magazines and mass circulation magazines.²

    The privileged relationship between the motion picture industry and the female fan at the turn of the century has been charted in...

  6. The Meaning of Memory: Family, Class, and Ethnicity in Early Network Television Programs
    (pp. 71-108)
    George Lipsitz

    Almost every Friday night between 1949 and 1956, millions of Americans watched Rosemary Rice turn the pages of an old photograph album. With music from Edvard Grieg’s “Holverg Suite” playing in the background, and with pictures of turn-of-the-century San Francisco displayed on the album pages, Rice assumed the identity of her television character, Katrin Hansen, on the CBS network programMama. She told the audience about her memories of her girlhood, her family’s house on Steiner Street, and her experiences there with her big brother Nels, her little sister Dagmar, her Papa, and her Mama—“most of all,” she said,...

  7. Sit-coms and Suburbs: Positioning the 1950s Homemaker
    (pp. 111-141)
    Mary Beth Haralovich

    The suburban middle-class family sit-com of the 1950s and 1960s centered on the family ensemble and its home life: breadwinner father, homemaker mother, and growing children placed within the domestic space of the suburban home. Structured within definitions of gender and the value of home life for family cohesion, these sit-coms drew upon particular historical conditions for their realist representation of family relations and domestic space. In the 1950s, a historically specific social subjectivity of the middle-class homemaker was engaged by suburban housing, the consumer product industry, market research, and the lifestyle represented in popular“growing family” sit-coms such asFather...

  8. “Is This What You Mean by Color TV?”: Race, Gender, and Contested Meanings in NBC’s Julia
    (pp. 143-167)
    Aniko Bodroghkozy

    America in 1968: Police clash with the militant Black Panthers while one of the group’s leaders, Huey Newton, is sentenced for murder; civil rights leader Martin Luther King is assassinated in Tennessee, sparking violent uprisings and riots in the nation’s black ghettos; the massive Poor People’s Campaign, a mobilization of indigent blacks and whites, sets up a tent city on the Mall in Washington, D.C.; at Cornell University, armed black students sporting bandoliers take over the administration building and demand a black studies program.¹ In the midst of all these events—events that many Americans saw as a revolutionary or...

  9. Defining Women: The Case of Cagney and Lacey
    (pp. 169-200)
    Julie D’Acci

    On Monday nights between 1983 and 1988, CBS attracted millions of American women to its “ladies’ night line-up.”¹ The last program in this line-up, a thorn in the network’s side for its controversial women characters and its mediocre ratings, was also renowned for delivering a deluxe “quality audience” to CBS and its advertisers week after week.² According to CBS research department vice president David Poltrack,Cagney and Laceyattracted women viewers who, by and large, watched less television than the average audience member, were college educated, over thirty-five, and earned over $40,000 a year.³

    Upscale female audiences were the coveted...

  10. Kate and Allie: “New Women” and the Audience’s Television Archives
    (pp. 203-215)
    Robert H. Deming

    Network television rediscovered the “new woman”againin the Fall 1984 season. Several prime-time programs featured female leads in take-charge roles rather than in their usual embourgeoised family roles. The reasons for this rediscovery have to do with the economic goals of the television industry. What this might mean to an audience whose memory extends back at least toThe Mary Tyler Moore Showand subsequent new-woman programs is not as easy to describe. The project of this essay is to suggest thatKate and Allieparticipates in the displacement, containment and repression which fictions for women often undergo on...

  11. All’s Well That Doesn’t End—Soap Opera and the Marriage Motif
    (pp. 217-225)
    Sandy Flitterman-Lewis

    It is a well-known fact that the desire for narrative closure—the resolution of a fiction’s complications—is the mainstay of classical Hollywood cinema. Raymond Bellour has effectively demonstrated, in fact, that a “slide from the familial into the conjugal,” with its constitution of the couple and harmonious institution of closure, structures thecinematicnarrative from start to finish.¹ But television soap opera—that quintessentialtelevisualform, whose very definition as a “continuing drama” implies the perpetual frustration of an ending—regards its “endings” in quite a different way. Where it might be said that all Hollywood movies lead us...

  12. All that Television Allows: TV Melodrama, Postmodernism, and Consumer Culture
    (pp. 227-251)
    Lynne Joyrich

    In an emotionally charged scene in Douglas Sirk’s 1955 melodramaAll That Heaven Allows, the protagonist (Jane Wyman) receives a TV set as a gift. Wyman plays Cary Scott, a middle-aged and upper-middle-class widow in love with a man who is not only younger than her, but of a lower social class—she first meets Ron Kirby (Rock Hudson) when he’s pruning her trees. In the course of the narrative, Cary faces increasing social and familial opposition to the romance and is forced to leave Ron. She receives the present from her two grown children who offer it as an...

  13. Source Guide to TV Family Comedy, Drama, and Serial Drama, 1946–1970
    (pp. 253-276)
    Dan Einstein, Nina Leibman, Randall Vogt, Sarah Berry, Jillian Steinberger and William Lafferty

    This source guide is designed to help researchers locate television programs, produced between 1946 and 1970, that featured plots about domestic life and family romance. The first section of this guide presents family situation comedies, dramas, and soap operas that are located at major archives across the country, including the UCLA Film and Television Archive, the Museum of Broadcasting, and the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research. It reflects holdings as of 1987, the time at which the guide was first compiled forCamera Obscura16. To that original list, we have added the holdings at the Museum of...

  14. Contributors
    (pp. 279-282)
  15. Index
    (pp. 285-293)