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Film, Theater, and Performing Arts > Film and Media Studies

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Bad Women Cover

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Bad Women

Regulating Sexuality in Early American Cinema

Janet Staiger

It was a new age, and on movie screens the American middle class presented its visions of sexual morality, with definitions of good women and bad. Bad Women takes us back to this time of massive social, cultural, and economic change to show us how American cinema gave women and women’s sexuality images useful to the new consumer culture of the early 1900s and its exploitation of sexual pleasure.

Although aimed at producing a certain kind of woman, these new images did manage to put discussions of women and their sexuality on America’s agenda. Charting the resulting cultural tensions as they played out in movie regulation, Janet Staiger shows us how representations and their endless permutations enacted conflicts over women’s public and private behaviors. Rich in historical detail and theoretical insight, this book offers an original  depiction of a culture in transition, a sexual sensibility in the making, and film’s participation in the change.


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Barbara Stanwyck

The Miracle Woman

Dan Callahan

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Batman

Matt Yockey

ABC’s action-comedy series Batman (1966–68) famously offered a dual address in its wildly popular portayal of a comic book hero in a live action format. Children uncritically accepted the show’s plots and characters, who were guided by lofty ideals and social values, while adults reacted to the clear parody of the values on display. In Batman, author Matt Yockey argues that the series served as a safe space for viewers to engage with changing attitudes about consumerism, politics, the Vietnam war, celebrity, race, and gender during a period when social meaning was increasingly contested in America. Yockey examines Batman’s boundary pushing in four chapters. In “Bat-Civics,” he analyzes the superhero as a conflicted symbol of American identity and considers the ways in which the Batman character parodied that status. Yockey then looks at the show’s experimentation with the superhero genre’s conservative gender and racial politics in “Bat-Difference” and investigates the significance of the show’s choices of stars and guest stars in “Bat-Casting.” Finally, he considers how the series’ dual identity as straightforward crime serial and subversive mass culture text set it up for extratextual production in “Bat-Being.” The superhero is a conflicted symbol of American identity—representing both excessive individualism and the status quo—making it an especially useful figure for the kind of cultural work that Batman undertook. Batman fans, from popular culture enthusiasts to television history scholars, will enjoy this volume.

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The Battle for the Bs

1950s Hollywood and the Rebirth of Low-budget Cinema

Blair Davis

The emergence of the double-bill in the 1930s created a divide between A-pictures and B-pictures as theaters typically screened packages featuring one of each. With the former considered more prestigious because of their larger budgets and more popular actors, the lower-budgeted Bs served largely as a support mechanism to A-films of the major studios—most of which also owned the theater chains in which movies were shown. When a 1948 U.S. Supreme Court antitrust ruling severed ownership of theaters from the studios, the B-movie soon became a different entity in the wake of profound changes to the corporate organization and production methods of the major Hollywood studios.

 

In The Battle for the Bs, Blair Davis analyzes how B-films were produced, distributed, and exhibited in the 1950s and demonstrates the possibilities that existed for low-budget filmmaking at a time when many in Hollywood had abandoned the Bs. Made by newly formed independent companies, 1950s B-movies took advantage of changing demographic patterns to fashion innovative marketing approaches. They established such genre cycles as science fiction and teen-oriented films (think Destination Moon and I Was a Teenage Werewolf) well before the major studios and also contributed to the emergence of the movement now known as underground cinema. Although frequently proving to be multimillion-dollar box-office draws by the end of the decade, the Bs existed in opposition to the cinematic mainstream in the 1950s and created a legacy that was passed on to independent filmmakers in the decades to come.

 

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The Battle for the Mind

War and Peace in the Era of Mass Communication

Gary Messinger

Most people typically think of armed conflict in physical terms, involving guns and bombs, ships and planes, tanks and missiles. But today, because of mass communication, war and the effort to prevent it are increasingly dependent on non-physical factors-the capacity to persuade combatants and citizens to engage in violence or avoid it, and the packaging of the information on which decision making is based. This book explores the many ways that mass communication has revolutionized international relations, whether the aim is to make war effectively or to prevent it. Gary Messinger shows that over the last 150 years a succession of breakthroughs in the realm of media has reshaped the making of war and peace. Along with mass newspapers, magazines, books, motion pictures, radio, television, computer software, and telecommunication satellites comes an array of strategies for exploiting these media to control popular beliefs and emotions. Images of war now arrive in many forms and reach billions of people simultaneously. Political and military leaders must react to crowd impulses that sweep around the globe. Nation-states and nongovernmental groups, including terrorists, use mass communication to spread their portrayals of reality. Drawing on a wide range of media products, from books and articles to films and television programs, as well as his own research in the field of propaganda studies, Messinger offers a fresh and comprehensive overview. He skillfully charts the path that has led us to our current situation and suggests where we might go next.

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The Battle over Marriage

Gay Rights Activism through the Media

Leigh Moscowitz

Over the past decade, the controversial issue of gay marriage has emerged as a primary battle in the culture wars and a definitive social issue of our time. The subject moved to the forefront of mainstream public debate in 2004, when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom began authorizing same-sex marriage licenses, and it has remained in the forefront through three presidential campaigns and numerous state ballot initiatives. In this thorough analysis, Leigh Moscowitz examines how prominent news outlets presented this issue from 2003 to 2012, a time when intense news coverage focused unprecedented attention on gay and lesbian life.

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Beautiful TV

The Art and Argument of Ally McBeal

By Greg M. Smith

During its five-year run from 1997 to 2002, the popular TV show Ally McBeal engaged viewers in debates over what it means to be a woman or a man in the modern workplace; how romance factors into the therapeutic understanding of relationships; what value eccentricity has and how much oddity society should tolerate; and what utility fantasy has in the pragmatic world. In addition to these social concerns, however, Ally McBeal stood out for being well-constructed, narratively complex, and stylistically rich—in short, beautiful TV. Starting from the premise that much of television today is "drop-dead gorgeous" and that TV should be studied for its formal qualities as well as its social impact, Greg M. Smith analyzes Ally McBeal in terms of its aesthetic principles and narrative construction. He explores how Ally's innovative use of music, special effects, fantasy sequences, voiceovers, and flashbacks structures a distinctive fictional universe, while it also opens up new possibilities for televisual expression. Smith also discusses the complex narrative strategies that Ally's creator David E. Kelley used to develop a long-running storyline and shows how these serial narrative practices can help us understand a wide range of prime-time TV serials. By taking seriously the art and argument of Ally McBeal, Beautiful TV conclusively demonstrates that aesthetic and narrative analysis is an indispensable key for unlocking the richness of contemporary television.

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Before the Crash

Early Video Game History

Edited by Mark J. P. Wolf

Following the first appearance of arcade video games in 1971 and home video game systems in 1972, the commercial video game market was exuberant with fast-paced innovation and profit. New games, gaming systems, and technologies flooded into the market until around 1983, when sales of home game systems dropped, thousands of arcades closed, and major video game makers suffered steep losses or left the market altogether. In Before the Crash: Early Video Game History, editor Mark J. P. Wolf assembles essays that examine the fleeting golden age of video games, an era sometimes overlooked for older games’ lack of availability or their perceived “primitiveness” when compared to contemporary video games. In twelve chapters, contributors consider much of what was going on during the pre-crash era: arcade games, home game consoles, home computer games, handheld games, and even early online games. The technologies of early video games are investigated, as well as the cultural context of the early period—from aesthetic, economic, industrial, and legal perspectives. Since the video game industry and culture got their start and found their form in this era, these years shaped much of what video games would come to be. This volume of early history, then, not only helps readers to understand the pre-crash era, but also reveals much about the present state of the industry. Before the Crash will give readers a thorough overview of the early days of video games along with a sense of the optimism, enthusiasm, and excitement of those times. Students and teachers of media studies will enjoy this compelling volume.

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Behind the Gas Mask

The U.S. Chemical Warfare Service in War and Peace

Thomas I. Faith

In Behind the Gas Mask , Thomas Faith offers an institutional history of the Chemical Warfare Service, the department tasked with improving the Army's ability to use and defend against chemical weapons during and after World War One. Taking the CWS's story from the trenches to peacetime, he explores how the CWS's work on chemical warfare continued through the 1920s despite deep opposition to the weapons in both military and civilian circles. As Faith shows, the believers in chemical weapons staffing the CWS allied with supporters in the military, government, and private industry to lobby to add chemical warfare to the country's permanent arsenal. Their argument: poison gas represented an advanced and even humane tool in modern war, while its applications for pest control and crowd control made a chemical capacity relevant in peacetime. But conflict with those aligned against chemical warfare forced the CWS to fight for its institutional life--and ultimately led to the U.S. military's rejection of battlefield chemical weapons.

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Being Available and Reachable

New Media and Cameroonian Transnational Sociality

The book investigates what have become of Cameroonian transnational family and friendship ties in the age of the mobile phone and the internet that make people readily available and reachable. Most theoretical literature states that these tools of sociality cement transnational social relationships through instantaneous interaction. To capture the different experiences and impressions on the significance of these media in easing communication for migrants and non-migrants, Tazanu draws on ethnographic accounts based on his fieldwork in Freiburg (Germany) and Buea (Cameroon). He argues that it is mainly the migrants who maintain or are expected to maintain ties with non-migrants back in Cameroon through calls and material support. The main finding of the study is that cell phones and the internet have facilitated discontents, grudges, insults, fights, avoidance, arguments and estrangement of relationships much more than they have contributed to binding friends or families through direct mediation. Underlying these aspects of distanciation are the high expectations and sometimes contradictory motives for instant virtual interaction. Non-migrantsí accounts suggest that direct availability and reachability should lead to uninterrupted transnational interaction and also that the cultural practices of remittances from migrants are easily requested and coordinated. Such motives are generally contrary to migrantsí wishes, willingness or ability to support friends and families in Cameroon. These unexpected outcomes arising from rapid speed of interaction questions the advantages that are often associated with instant sociality across space and time. The finding is a call for the cultural background and life-world experiences of media users to be taken into consideration when theorising the significance of information technology in the debate on media globalisation.

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