University of Pennsylvania Press

Feminist Cultural Studies, the Media, and Political Culture

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Feminist Cultural Studies, the Media, and Political Culture

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Beverly Hills, 90210

Television, Gender, and Identity

By E. Graham McKinley

In 1990 the fledgling Fox television network debuted its prime-time soap opera Beverly Hills, 90210, which was intended to appeal to viewers in their late teens and early twenties. Before long, not only did the network have a genuine hit with a large and devoted audience but the program had evolved into a cultural phenomenon as well, becoming a lens through which its youthful viewers defined much of their own sense of themselves.

By an overwhelming majority the fans were female-young women between eleven and twenty-five whose experience of the program was addictive and intensely communal. They met in small groups to watch the program, discussing its plot and characters against the backdrops of their own ongoing lives.

Wondering what this talk accomplished and what role it played in the construction of young female viewers' identities, Graham McKinley found several groups who watched the program and questioned them about the program's significance. Extracting generously from actual interviews, McKinley's investigation has the urgency of a heart-to-heart conversation, with rich anecdotal moments and revelations of self.

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Family Plots

The De-Oedipalization of Popular Culture

By Dana Heller

Family Plots traces the fault lines of the Freudian family romance and holds that the "family plot" is very much alive in post-World War II American culture. It cuts across all genres, insinuating, criticizing, reinforcing, and reinventing itself in all forms of cultural production and consumption. The family romance is everywhere because the family itself is nowhere.

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The Fantasy Factory

An Insider's View of the Phone Sex Industry

By Amy Flowers

The Fantasy Factory explores the world of women on the other end of the phone sex lines advertised in magazines like Playboy and Hustler. The author's interviews with these women, as well as her own first-hand experiences as an operator, reveal the complex ways operators and callers negotiate the shifting borders between desire and disgust, fantasy and reality, deception and belief. The Fantasy Factory raises provocative questions about the manufacture of artificial intimacy and the technological mediation of intimacy, as well as about the social construction of sexuality and gender.

Flowers discovers that operators—who assume names like Tiffany and Corvette—create a virtual reality in which callers can act out fantasies that operators may find boring, disgusting, or even frightening. She also discovers that even those women who are skilled at keeping their "true self" and their phone sex persona separate find that they have to struggle to protect that self and to maintain the ability to experience real intimacy.

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Rape on Prime Time

Television, Masculinity, and Sexual Violence

By Lisa M. Cuklanz

Depictions of rape on television have evolved dramatically, from hard-boiled stories about male detectives to more insightful shows focusing on rape victims. Rape on Prime Time is the first book to examine those changing depictions of rape.

Lisa M. Cuklanz reveals that prime-time television programs during the 1970s—usually detective shows—reflected traditional ideas that "real" rape is perpetrated by brutal strangers upon passive victims. Beginning in 1980, depictions of rape began to include attacks by known assailants, and victims began to address their feelings. By 1990, scripts portrayed date and marital rape and paid greater attention to the trial process, reflecting legal reformers' concerns.

While previous studies have examined one series or genre, Cuklanz examines programs as dissimilar as Barney Miller, Dallas, The Cosby Show, and Quincy. She outlines the "basic plot" for rape episodes, then traces the historical development of rape themes. In each chapter she includes close analyses of episodes that add depth to findings derived from scripts and taped episodes.

Rape on Prime Time provides important insight into the social construction of rape in mainstream mass media since the inception of rape law reform in 1974.

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Rape on Trial

How the Mass Media Construct Legal Reform and Social Change

By Lisa M. Cuklanz

Why has so much of the public discussion of rape focused on a few specific cases, and to what extent has this discussion incorporated the feminist perspective on rape? Rape on Trial explores these questions and provides answers based on a detailed examination of the mainstream news coverage of the John and Greta Rideout marital rape case, the Big Dan's Tavern gang rape case, and the Webb-Dotson rape recantation case.

Lisa M. Cuklanz traces where and how rape reform ideas were granted legitimacy in mainstream news coverage. She finds that while the subsequent fictionalized versions frequently adopted the themes foregrounded in the news coverage, they usually were more sympathetic toward—and indeed often took on—the rape victim's point of view.

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