WELCOME TO THE DREAMHOUSE: Popular Media and Postwar Suburbs

Lynn Spigel, Author . Duke Univ. $21.95 (426p) ISBN 978-0-8223-2696-0

In these 10 engaging, witty and extraordinarily well-observed critical essays on the past five decades of television and other popular media, Spigel (Make Room for TV) delineates some major contradictions in postwar American society and culture. What does it mean, she queries, that suburban households of the 1950s often revolved around television, which brought public issues into a traditionally private space? Or, almost 50 years later, why did the same Congress that OK'd the V-chip then flood the media with the "pornographic" details of the Starr report? Spigel's wide-ranging interests and instinct for quirky but salient facts make for an intellectually rich and enjoyable read. In "White Flight," she discusses the 1960s genre of the "fantastic sitcom" (e.g., Lost in Space,Bewitched) as a commentary on and reflection of "the organization of social space and everyday life in suburbia." In "Seducing the Innocent," she analyzes opposing adult ideas about young viewers—as vulnerable children versus potential consumers—that have plagued children's TV programming since its inception. In "Outer Space and Inner Cities," she uncovers a strong critique of NASA by African-American media during the height of the space program in the 1960s. While overtly political—in her feminist analysis of Barbie (which is also a critique of feminism's failure regarding corporate sexism), she praises the Barbie Liberation Front, which switched the voice boxes of Barbie and GI Joe dolls to create gender-bending playthings—Spigel never sacrifices nuance or ignores the pleasure people derive from popular culture. Smart, often surprising, Spigel's essays are an important addition to feminist and cultural critiques of media culture. B&w photos. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/14/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
Ebook - 439 pages - 978-0-8223-8317-8
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