Movie stars, entertainers, game-show hosts, jugglers, plate-spinners, gospel choirs, corporate executives posing with over-sized checks, household name-brand products, smiling children in leg braces-all were fixtures of the phenomenon that defined American culture in the second half of the twentieth century: the telethon. Hundreds of millions watched these weekend-long variety shows that raised billions of dollars for disability-related charities. Drawing on over two decades of in-depth research, Telethons trenchantly explores the complexity underneath the campy spectacles. At its center are the disabled children, who, thanks to a particular kind of historical-cultural marginalization, turned out to be ideal tools for promoting corporate interests, privatized healthcare, and class status. Offering a public message about helping these unfortunate victims, telethons perpetuated a misleading image of people with disabilities as helpless, passive, apolitical members of American society. Paul K. Longmore's revelatory chronicle shows how these images in fact helped major corporations increase their bottom lines, while filling gaps in the strange public-private hybrid U.S. health insurance system. Only once disabled people pushed back in public protests did the broader implications for all Americans become clear.
Mining insights from great thinkers such as Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, and Alexis de Tocqueville, along with contemporary cultural figures like Jerry Lewis, Ralph Nader, and several disability rights activists, Telethons offers a provocative meditation on big business, American government, popular culture, Cold War values, and "activism" both narrowly and broadly defined. As highly popular entertainment, telethons schooled Americans about how to feel about their bodies, fitness, health, and appropriate ways to interact with people whose bodies did not fit norms determined by advertisers. The programs also taught them about when to weep and how to cure guilt through "conspicuous contribution." Longmore's astute observations about psychology, economics, and society reveal how writing off telethons as kitsch and irrelevant has enabled many individual attitudes, corporate practices, and government policies to go unquestioned. Ultimately, Telethons reveals the passion, humanity, resistance, and triumph that were not center-stage on these popular telecasts by offering insights into the U.S. disability movement past and present.
|Publisher:||Oxford University Press|
|Edition description:||New Edition|
|Product dimensions:||6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
Paul K. Longmore was a respected disability rights activist and Professor of History at San Francisco State University until his unexpected death in 2010. His previous books include The Invention of George Washington and Why I Burned My Book and Other Essays on Disability. Longmore lived with significant mobility impairments as a result of childhood polio. He worked on Telethons for over two decades and believed it to be his crowning achievement. To learn more about the man and his legacy, visit longmoreinstitute.sfsu.edu.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Charity Professionals: Ambivalent Generosity and the New Business of Philanthropy
Chapter 2. Neither Public Nor Private: Telethons in the U.S. Health and Welfare System
Chapter 3. The Hidden Politics of Telethons: Where Volunteerism, Government, and Business Meet
Chapter 4. "They've Got a Good Thing with Us and We've Got a Good Thing with Them":
Telethons and Cause-Related Marketing
Chapter 5. Givers and Takers: Conspicuous Contribution and a Distinctly American Moral Community
Chapter 6. Dignity Thieves: Greed, Generosity, and Objects of Charity
Chapter 7. Suffering as Spectacle: Pity, Pathos, and Ideology
Chapter 8 "Look at Us We're Walking": Cure-Seekers, Invalids and Overcomers
Chapter 9 American and Un-American Bodies: Searching for Fitness through Technology and Sport
Chapter 10. Smashing Icons: Gender, Sexuality, and Disability
Chapter 11. "Heaven's Special Child": The Making of Poster Children
Chapter 12. Family Burdens: Parents, Children, and Disability
Chapter 13. Jerry's Kids Grow Up: Disability Rights Activists and Telethons
Conclusion: The End of Telethons and Challenges for Disability Rights