Tabloid Culture

Trash Taste, Popular Power, and the Transformation of American Television

Tabloid Culture

Console-ing Passions: Television and Cultural Power

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Book Pages: 336 Illustrations: 35 illustrations, 10 tables Published: September 2000

Author: Kevin Glynn

American Studies, Cultural Studies, Media Studies > TV

During the latter half of the 1980s and throughout the 1990s, television talk shows, infotainment news, and screaming supermarket headlines became ubiquitous in America as the “tabloidization” of the nation’s media took hold. In Tabloid Culture Kevin Glynn draws on diverse theoretical sources and an unprecedented range of electronic and print media in order to analyze important aspects and key debates that have emerged around this phenomenon.
Glynn begins by situating these media shifts within the context of Reaganism, which gave rise to distinctive ideological currents in society and led the socially and economically disenfranchised to access new forms of information via the exploding television industry. He then tackles specific daytime talk shows and tabloid newscasts such as Jerry Springer and A Current Affair, reality-TV programs such as Cops and America’s Most Wanted, and two different supermarket tabloids’ coverage of the O.J. Simpson case. Tabloid Culture is the first book to treat these diverse yet related media forms and events in tandem. Rejecting the elitist dismissal of sensationalist media, Glynn instead traces the cultural currents and countercurrents running through their forms and products. Locating both reactionary and oppositional meanings in these texts, he demonstrates how these particular media genres draw on and contribute to important cultural struggles over the meanings of race, sexuality, gender, class, “normality,” “truth,” and “reality.” The study ends by discussing how the growing use of the Internet provides an entirely new realm in which such material can circulate, distort, inform, and flourish.
This innovative and provocative study of contemporary mainstream media culture in the United States will be valuable to those interested in both print and television media, the cultural-political influence of the Reagan era, and American culture in general.


Tabloid Culture is a densely assembled work that focuses on the cutting edge of information culture, and as such it would be easy to conclude that the tabloid media was dangerous for society. Glynn, however, makes the vital point that such media should not be condemned outright. . . . Tabloid Culture has gone a long way towards helping us with this understanding, opening the way for us to approach the tabloid media in new ways.” — Elizabeth Delany , Austalasian Journal of American Studies

“[A] welcome addition to more positive assessments of this controversial media form. . . . “ — Gil Woodley , Media International Australia

“[Glynn] argues for their subversive role in challenging the hegemony of the ‘power bloc’, and his analysis is a refreshing counterbalance to the indignant harrumphing of media critics and ‘respectable’ journalists.” — S. Elizabeth Bird , Cultural Studies

“Drawing on a substantial body of research, an informed theoretical stance, and a capacity for penetrating analysis, Glynn offers an articulate study of a wide sampling of tabloid media as diverse as The Jerry Springer Show, America’s Most Wanted, A Current Affair, and the spectacles surrounding the O.J. Simpson case and Jesse Ventura’s metamorphosis from wrestler to politico. Approaching his subject from many angles, and discovering a complex interplay of ideas and currents in these texts, Glynn provides an indispensable contribution to the study of popular culture.” — L. Armstrong , Choice

“Glynn takes us meticulously through the world of the tabloid press and its television version. . . . Glynn argues convincingly for why we should study the tabloid media. It’s not going to go away, no matter how much ‘mainstream’ journalism demonizes it. . . .” — John Talbird , Quarterly Review of Film and Video

“The strongest parts of Tabloid Culture are its detailed case studies. . . . [It] consistently raises important questions about an immensely vital cultural phenomenon.” — James Deutsch , American Studies International

"Glynn provides a well-organized and well-researched narrative." — Doug Sudhoff , American Studies

"Rigorously knowledgeable and in firm control of his material. . . . [W]itty analysis . . . [and] a clearly accessible style." — Enrique Alejandro Basabe , Anclajes

“At last, a book that treats tabloidism seriously! Glynn’s multidimensional study— analytical, historical and theoretical—shows us how tabloid TV became the genre that reshaped the media environment of the 1980s and 1990s. Glynn’s treatment of the phenomenon itself and of the controversies around it provide insights into contemporary media culture that we cannot ignore. No one who is interested in how changing notions of popular culture shape both the commercial and textual forms of contemporary media can afford to miss this book.” — John Fiske, author of Media Matters: Everyday Culture and Political Change

“This is a very smart book about aspects of contemporary media culture that have never been more visible nor more in need of rigorous analysis. Glynn goes beyond the simplistic demonization of tabloid television to specify both the genre’s form and its cultural ramifications.” — Jim Collins, author of Architectures of Excess: Cultural Life in the Age of Information


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Kevin Glynn is Lecturer in American Studies at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.

Table of Contents Back to Top

Chapter 1: The Geneology of Tabloid Television

Chapter 2: Cops, Courts, and Criminal Justice: Evidence of Postmodernity in Tabloid Culture

Chapter 3: Bodies of Popular Knowledge: The High, The Low, and A Current Affair

Chapter 4: Fantastic Populism: A Walk on the Wild Side of Tabloid Culture

Chapter 5: Normalization and Its Discontents: The Conflictual Space of Daytime Talk Shows

Chapter 6: Conclusion: Cultural Struggle, The New News, and the Politics of Popularity in the Age of Jesse “The Body” Vent

Appendix; TVQ Scores for Tabloid Programs by Demographic Audience Category
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2569-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2550-5
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