Using extensive interviews, hundreds of transcripts, focus-group discussions with viewers, and his own experiences as an audience member, Joshua Gamson argues that talk shows give much-needed, high-impact public visibility to sexual nonconformists while also exacerbating all sorts of political tensions among those becoming visible. With wit and passion, Freaks Talk Back illuminates the joys, dilemmas, and practicalities of media visibility.
"This entertaining, accessible, sobering discussion should make every viewer sit up and ponder the effects and possibilities of America's daily talk-fest with newly sharpened eyes."—Publishers Weekly
"Bold, witty. . . . There's a lot of empirical work behind this deceptively easy read, then, and it allows for the most sophisticated and complex analysis of talk shows yet."—Elayne Rapping, Women's Review of Books
"Funny, well-researched, fully theorized. . . . Engaged and humane scholarship. . . . A pretty inspiring example of what talking back to the mass media can be."—Jesse Berrett, Village Voice
"An extraordinarily well-researched volume, one of the most comprehensive studies of popular media to appear in this decade."—James Ledbetter, Newsday
Public affairs—or sex scandals—involving prominent politicians are as revealing of American culture as they are of individual peccadillos. Implicated in their unfolding are a broad range of institutions, trends, questions, and struggles, including political parties, Hollywood, the Christian right, new communications technologies, the restructuring of corporate media, feminist and civil rights debates, and the meaning of public life in the “society of the spectacle.” The contributors to Public Affairs examine, from a variety of perspectives, how political sex scandals take shape, gain momentum, and alter the U.S. political and cultural landscape.
The essays in Public Affairs reflect on a number of sex scandals while emphasizing the Clinton/Lewinsky affair, certainly the most avidly followed and momentous sex scandal in American political history. Leading scholars situate contemporary public affairs in the context not only of earlier sex scandals in American politics (such as Thomas Jefferson’s and Sally Hemings’s affair), but also of more purely political scandals (including Teapot Dome and Watergate) and sex scandals centered around public figures other than politicians (such as the actor Hugh Grant and the minister Jimmy Swaggart). Some essays consider the Clinton affair in light of feminist and anti-racist politics, while others discuss the dynamics of scandals as major media events. By charting a critical path through the muck of scandal rather than around it, Public Affairs illuminates why sex scandals have become such a prominent feature of American public life.
Contributors. Paul Apostolidis, Jodi Dean, Joshua Gamson, Theodore J. Lowi, Joshua D. Rothman, George Shulman, Anna Marie Smith, Jeremy Varon, Juliet A. Williams