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Infamy, Darkness, Evil, and Slime on Screen
Violence and corruption sell big, especially since the birth of action cinema, but even from cinema’s earliest days, the public has been delighted to be stunned by screen representations of negativity in all its forms—evil, monstrosity, corruption, ugliness, villainy, and darkness. Bad examines the long line of thieves, rapists, varmints, codgers, dodgers, manipulators, exploiters, conmen, killers, vamps, liars, demons, cold-blooded megalomaniacs, and warmhearted flakes that populate cinematic narrative. From Nosferatu to The Talented Mr. Ripley, the contributors consider a wide range of genres and use a variety of critical approaches to examine evil, villainy, and immorality in twentieth-century film.
How Communities Create Genres in Popular Music
Why do some music styles gain mass popularity while others thrive in small niches? Banding Together explores this question and reveals the attributes that together explain the growth of twentieth-century American popular music. Drawing on a vast array of examples from sixty musical styles--ranging from rap and bluegrass to death metal and South Texas polka, and including several created outside the United States--Jennifer Lena uncovers the shared grammar that allows us to understand the cultural language and evolution of popular music.
What are the common economic, organizational, ideological, and aesthetic traits among contemporary genres? Do genres follow patterns in their development? Lena discovers four dominant forms--Avant-garde, Scene-based, Industry-based, and Traditionalist--and two dominant trajectories that describe how American pop music genres develop. Outside the United States there exists a fifth form: the Government-purposed genre, which she examines in the music of China, Serbia, Nigeria, and Chile. Offering a rare analysis of how music communities operate, she looks at the shared obstacles and opportunities creative people face and reveals the ways in which people collaborate around ideas, artworks, individuals, and organizations that support their work.
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.
A Black Doctor's Civil Rights Struggle
This book, the first to focus on the integration of the Gulf Coast, is Dr. Gilbert R. Mason's eyewitness account of harrowing episodes that occurred there during the civil rights movement. Newly opened by court order, documents from the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission's secret files enhance this riveting memoir written by a major civil rights figure in Mississippi. He joined his friends and allies Aaron Henry and the martyred Medgar Evers to combat injustices in one of the nation's most notorious bastions of segregation.
In Mississippi, the civil rights struggle began in May 1959 with "wade-ins." In open and conscious defiance of segregation laws, Mason led nine black Biloxians onto a restricted spot along the twenty-six-mile beach. A year later more wade-ins on beaches reserved for whites set off the bloodiest race riot in the state's history and led the U.S. Justice Department to initiate the first-ever federal court challenge of Mississippi's segregationist laws and practices. Simultaneously, Mason and local activists began their work on the state's first school desegregation suit. As the coordinator of the strategy, he faced threats to his life.
Mason's memoir gives readers a documented journey through the daily humiliations that segregation and racism imposed upon the black populace -- upon fathers, mothers, children, laborers, and professionals. Born in 1928 in the slums of Jackson, Mason acknowledges the impact of his strong extended family and of the supportive system of institutions in the black neighborhood. They nurtured him to manhood and helped fulfill his dream of becoming a physician.
His story recalls the great migration of blacks to the North, of family members who remained in Mississippi, of family ties in Chicago and other northern cities. Following graduation from Tennessee State and Howard University Medical College, he set up his practice in the black section of Biloxi in 1955 and experienced the restrictions that even a black physician suffered in the segregated South. Four years later, he began his battle to dismantle the Jim Crow system. This is the story of his struggle and hard-won victory.
Gilbert R. Mason, M.D., continues as a practicing physician in Biloxi. Although a life-long Democrat, he served as a school-desegregation adviser to the Republican administration of President Nixon, as well as a friend, adviser, and appointee of several Mississippi governors.
James Patterson Smith is an associate professor of history at the University of Southern Mississippi. He has published in numerous periodicals, including the Journal of Negro History and the Journal of Mississippi History.
Image and the Media
The Beatles: Image and the Media charts the transformation of the Beatles from teen idols to leaders of the youth movement and powerful cultural agents. Drawing upon American mainstream print media, broadcasts, albums, films, and videos, the study covers the band's career in the United States. Michael R. Frontani explores how the Beatles' media image evolved and how this transformation related to cultural and historical events. Upon their arrival in the U.S., the Beatles wore sharply tailored suits and cast themselves as adorable, accessible teen heartthrobs. By the end of the decade, they had absorbed the fashion and consciousness of the burgeoning counterculture and were using their interviews, media events, and music to comment on issues such as the Vietnam War, drug culture, and civil rights. Frontani traces the steps that led to this change and comments on how the band's mantra of essential optimism never wavered despite the evolution of its media profile. Michael R. Frontani is associate professor of communications at Elon University. His work has appeared in American Journalism, Journal of American Culture, Journalism History, and African Studies Review.
The Work of Elmore Leonard
Widely known as the crime fiction writer whose work led to the movies Get Shorty and Out of Sight, Elmore Leonard has a special knack for creating cool characters, which for him means characters who are good at what they do. The dope dealers, bookies, grifters, financial advisers, talent agents, shady attorneys, hookers, models, and crooked cops of Leonard's world may be nefarious, but they are generally confident, skilled, and composed, and they cope without effort or thought. In Being Cool, Charles Rzepka draws on more than twelve hours of personal interviews with Leonard and applies what he learned to his close analysis of Leonard's long life and prodigious output: 45 published novels, 39 published and unpublished short stories, and numerous essays written over the course of six decades. Leonard's writing methods and style epitomize how he conceives "being cool." Rzepka delineates the stages and patterns that characterize the author's creative evolution. Like jazz greats, Leonard forged an individual style immediately recognizable for its voice and rhythm, including his characters' rat-a-tat recitations, curt backhands, and ragged trains of thought. Taking being cool as the highway through Leonard's life and works, Rzepka finds plenty of byways to explore along the way.
A Plantation Memory
“Belvidere is underwater too deep for any eye but that of memory to reach,” begins Anne Sinkler Fishburne reverential recollections of her ancestral home. Located in between Santee River and Eutaw Creek near present day Eutaw Springs, South Carolina, Belvidere plantation once produced Santee long cotton (a hybrid between Upland cotton and Sea Island cotton) and short staple cotton on its nearly 800 acres of rich Lowcountry soil and served as the home of the Sinkler family from the 1770s until the 1940s. An elegant two-story timber house was built on the property in 1803, complete with full-brick basement, brick foundation, a welcoming piazza across the front, and a large wing balanced on the opposite side with a brick-paved sun piazza. In 1936, a race track was constructed at Belvidere to host races for the St. John’s Jockey Club (originally the Santee Jockey Club). The storied and vibrant life at Belvidere came to a close in 1941, however, with the completion of the huge Santee Cooper hydroelectric development. Belvidere, like many plantations of the parish, now rests below the waters of Lake Marion, but its past can still be experienced by the modern reader in this plantation memory. First published in 1949, Belvidere chronicles life at the plantation through letters, memoir, and historical research. When Fishburne gathered the materials that compose this volume, she merely wished to preserve for her grandchildren the story of the plantation that was her beloved home and that of many generations of her forebears. Written in an invitingly authentic Lowcountry voice, the resulting narrative is an opportunity to sit on the piazza and walk the gardens once more and share stories of a way of life from a bygone era. Featuring twenty-four illustrations, this commemorative edition of Belvidere is enhanced with a new introduction by Fishburne’s granddaughter Anne Sinkler Whaley LeClercq, an accomplished family historian, author, and editor.
Television, Gender, and Identity
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.
The New Action Heroine in Popular Culture
Beyond Bombshells analyzes the cultural importance of strong women in a variety of current media forms. Action heroines are now more popular in movies, comic books, television, and literature than they have ever been. Their spectacular presence represents shifting ideas about female agency, power, and sexuality. Beyond Bombshells explores how action heroines reveal and reconfigure perceptions about “how” and “why” women are capable of physically dominating roles in modern fiction, indicating the various strategies used to contain and/or exploit female violence.
Focusing on a range of successful and controversial recent heroines in the mass media, including Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games books and movies, Lisabeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo novels and films, and Hit-Girl from the Kick-Ass movies and comic books, Brown argues that the role of action heroine reveals evolving beliefs about femininity. While women in action roles are still heavily sexualized and objectified, they also challenge preconceived myths about normal or culturally appropriate gender behavior. The ascribed sexuality of modern heroines remains Brown’s consistent theme, particularly how objectification intersects with issues of racial stereotyping, romantic fantasies, images of violent adolescent and preadolescent girls, and neoliberal feminist revolutionary parables.
Individual chapters study the gendered dynamics of torture in action films, the role of women in partnerships with male colleagues, young women as well as revolutionary leaders in dystopic societies, adolescent sexuality and romance in action narratives, the historical import of non-white heroines, and how modern African American, Asian, and Latina heroines both challenge and are restricted by longstanding racial stereotypes.