Abstract

This paper looks at the U.S. television industry's reaction to 9/11, focusing on the way the industry returned to the normal schedule of entertainment TV genres. In the immediate weeks following 9/11, industry trade journals and television/film executives continually expressed their sense that U.S. culture would change forever after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Industry executives worried that violence and light entertainment alike would offend a mourning nation. However, just one week after the attacks, the industry returned to its routine flow of commercially sponsored entertainment programming, and by the end of October 2001 the TV landscape looked pretty much the same as it had before the attacks. This paper examines this rapid transition in industry thinking about the effects of 9/11 on U.S. culture. It shows how entertainment television programs—from West Wing to the Emmy Awards—initially responded to 9/11 by featuring nationalist myths and turning stars into celebrity citizens. However, the article also explores the limits of nationalist myths in the contemporary post-network multi-channel media environment. This multi-channel market place is based on narrowcasting and taste cultures rather than national culture. This essay shows how quickly television returned to this logic of narrowcasting and the very kinds of programs industry executives initially considered "in bad taste." More generally, the article asks how media events operate in the new TV marketplace and the extent to which TV gathers audiences as citizen publics.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6490
Print ISSN
0003-0678
Pages
pp. 235-270
Launched on MUSE
2004-06-22
Open Access
No
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