Prime-Time Feminism: Television, Media Culture, and the Women's Movement since 1970

By Kitch, Carolyn | Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA), Fall 1997 | Go to article overview

Prime-Time Feminism: Television, Media Culture, and the Women's Movement since 1970


Kitch, Carolyn, Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA)


Prime-Time Feminism: Television, Media Culture, and the Women's Movement Since 1970. Bonnie J. Dow. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996. $17.50 paper; $39.95 cloth.

In Prime-Time Feminism, Bonnie Dow has provided a comprehensive and thoughtful analysis of televisual representations of women since the "second wave" of the American women's rights movement. This book will engage readers inside and outside the academy: it is both intellectually grounded in cultural theory and politically contextualized by a discussion of the real-world move from feminism to postfeminism.

The author, an assistant professor of communication at North Dakota State University, considers the rhetorical strategies employed in five popular shows: The Mary Tyler Moore Show, One Day at a Time, Designing Women, Murphy Brown, and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. These programs, she argues, have collectively offered a "powerful and popular vision of liberated women...a journey through phases of popular consciousness over the past quarter century." She further maintains that "[t]elevision entertainment, as much as a sociological study, can tell us what we like about feminism, what we fear about feminism, and, perhaps most interesting, what aspects of feminism we simply refuse to represent in popular narrative" (xxii).

By treating her specific choices as part of a larger representational trajectory, Dow offers a broad view of TV imagery that will be useful not only to feminist scholars, but to all media critics. She makes a persuasive argument that fictional television shows are important forms of cultural production, a primary terrain on which political and social notions about American life are tested and contested. …

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