Heartland TV: Prime Time Television and the Struggle for U.S. Identity

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The midwest of popular imagination is a "heart-land" characterized by traditional cultural values and mass market dispositions. Whether cast positively-as authentic, pastoral, populist, hardworking, and all-American-or negatively-as backward, narrow minded, unsophisticated, conservative, and out of touch-the myth of the Heartland continues to endure.

Heartland TV examines the centrality of this myth to television's promotion and development, programming and marketing appeals, and public debates over the medium's and its audience's cultural worth. Victoria E. Johnson investigates how the "square" image of the heartland has been ritually recuperated on prime time TV, from The Lawrence Welk Show in the 1960, to The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 1970s, to Ellen in the 1990s. She argues that non-white, queer, and urban culture is consistently erased from depictions of the Midwest in order to reinforce its "reassuring" image as white and straight. Through analyses of policy, industry discourse, and case studies of specific shows, Heartland TV exposes the cultural function of the Midwest as a site of national transference and disavowal with regard to race, sexuality, and citizenship ideals.

About the Author:
Victoria E. Johnson is Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies, Visual Studies, and African American Studies at the University of California, Irvine

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
&%8220;Network chieftains, advertising executives, and primetime performers generally fly over the heartland with barely a glance, but it's never far from their thoughts, or ours. In this remarkable analysis of American television, Victoria Johnson cogently explains why Middle America matters: on the screen, in the home, and in public life.”
-Michael Curtin,author of Playing to the World’s Biggest Audience

”Johnson shows how the opposition of “heartland” and various urbane, coastal foils went through a series of permutations, alternately deprecating and valorizing middle America through the 1960s, 1970s, and 1990s.”


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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814742921
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/2008
  • Pages: 262
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Victoria E. Johnson is Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies, Visual Studies, and African American Studies at the University of California, Irvine.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: TV, the Heartland Myth, and the Value of Cultural Populism
1 “Essential, Desirable, and Possible Markets”: Broadcasting Midwestern Tastes and Values
2 Square Dancing and Champagne Music: Regional Aesthetics and Middle America
3 “Strictly Conventional and Moral”: CBS Reports in Webster Groves
4 “You’re Gonna Make It After All!”: The Urbane Midwest in MTM Productions’ “Quality” Comedies
5 “There Is No ‘Dayton Chic’”: Queering the
Midwest in Roseanne, Ellen, and The Ellen Show
6 Fertility Among the Ruins: Reconstituting the Traumatized Heartland
Epilogue: Red State, Blue State, Purple Heartland
About the Author

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