Welcome to the Dreamhouse

Popular Media and Postwar Suburbs

Welcome to the Dreamhouse

Console-ing Passions: Television and Cultural Power

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Book Pages: 440 Illustrations: 37 b&w photographs Published: June 2001

Author: Lynn Spigel

American Studies, Cultural Studies, Media Studies

In Welcome to the Dreamhouse feminist media studies pioneer Lynn Spigel takes on Barbie collectors, African American media coverage of the early NASA space launches, and television’s changing role in the family home and its links to the broader visual culture of modern art. Exploring postwar U.S. media in the context of the period’s reigning ideals about home and family life, Spigel looks at a range of commercial objects and phenomena, from television and toys to comic books and magazines.
The volume considers not only how the media portrayed suburban family life, but also how both middle-class ideals and a perceived division between private and public worlds helped to shape the visual forms, storytelling practices, and reception of postwar media and consumer culture. Spigel also explores those aspects of suburban culture that media typically render invisible. She looks at the often unspoken assumptions about class, nation, ethnicity, race, and sexual orientation that underscored both media images (like those of 1960s space missions) and social policies of the mass-produced suburb. Issues of memory and nostalgia are central in the final section as Spigel considers how contemporary girls use television reruns as a source for women’s history and then analyzes the current nostalgia for baby boom era family ideals that runs through contemporary images of new household media technologies.
Containing some of Spigel’s well-known essays on television’s cultural history as well as new essays on a range of topics dealing with popular visual culture, Welcome to the Dreamhouse is important reading for students and scholars of media and communications studies, popular culture, American studies, women’s studies, and sociology.


Dreamhouse is a provocative look behind the apple pie and hum of lawnmowers.” — Leon Freeman , Genre

“[A] valuable contribution to the study of media and American culture.”

— Judy Solberg , American Studies International

“[An] excellent new book . . . . [H]ighly recommended to all students of media studies, cultural studies, and modern history.” — Adam Dodd, M/C Reviews

“[E]ngaging, witty, and extraordinarily well-observed critical essays. . . . Spigel’s wide-ranging interest and instinct for quirky but salient facts make for an intellectually rich and enjoyable read. . . . [She] never sacrifices nuance or ignores the pleasure people derive from popular culture. Smart, often surprising, Spigel’s essays are an important addition to feminist and cultural critiques of media culture.” — Publishers Weekly

“Spigel changes the terms of television criticism in a collection of essays that range from the surprising to the sublime.” — James Highfill , Foreword Reviews

“Spigel develops her argument with clarity, confidence, and a compassionate understanding of the human condition. Highly recommended . . . .” — M. R. Grant , Choice

"[A]n eclectic assortment of essays. . . . [A] significant contribution to media studies, [the book] is singularly spectacular in its feminist attempt to recuperate the private sphere by recovering the marginalized voices historically lost in the 'race' to the suburbs. . . . Remarkable for the integration of race, gender, and class into the analysis. . . ." — Isabel Molina Guzman, Journal of Communication

"[Spigel's] rich sensibility for the subtle inflections of popular culture treats the reader to many provocative meanings that typically elude more traditional scholars in media, contemporary history, and the sociology of culture." — Sam Binkley , Contemporary Sociology

"Spigel bases each study on an impressively wide and interesting set of sources, which include archival research in ‘women’s magazines, advertisements, television shows, films, [and] books’ as well as ‘participant observation and interviews’. . . . [Welcome to the Dreamhouse] yield[s] thought-provoking questions and observations as well as wonderfully enlivened historical portraits of the postwar period. . . . [E]xcellent. . . . I found myself learning things from Spigel’s book at every turn." — Susan Edmunds , American Literary History

"Spigel blends her academic work with her personal consumption habits. While other cultural critics do this, few combine the two as well. . . . The book is suitable for classes that delve into visual media and popular culture. . . . The essays are meticulously documented and are based on extensive reading of relevant sources and textual analysis. I found the endnotes valuable in terms of explaining terms or concepts that needed further exploration." — Patricia L. Dooley, Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly

"The complex and unusual linkages made in this collection expertly manage to work gender into the analysis in profound ways, going far beyond a simple 'images of women' or 'gendered genre' approach. Spigel's essays show the profound ways in which gendered meanings infiltrate a very disparate set of postwar media texts." — Lisa M. Cuklanz , NWSA Journal

"The introductory essay alone is a historiographical tour-de-force. . . . [A]n important collection for anyone interested in television, post-World War II American cultural history, or cultural geography. Its accessible language and historical scope make it ideal for classroom use. . . . [C]ompelling." — Erin A. Smith , American Quarterly

“Lynn Spigel’s Welcome to the Dreamhouse is quite simply superb. It is original, impeccably researched, dazzlingly intelligent, and prickling with humor.” — Julie D’Acci, author of Defining Women: Television and the Case of Cagney and Lacey

“Spigel possesses one of the few indispensable voices in American cultural studies. She sees the complexity of popular culture where others have tended to see formula and repetition. This is a perfect anthology, one that reflects the intellectual growth of an important thinker and at the same time represents a coherent argument about an important topic.” — Henry Jenkins, author of From Barbie to Mortal Combat


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Price: $30.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Lynn Spigel is Professor of Radio, Television, and Film at Northwestern University. She is the author of Make Room for TV: Television and the Family Ideal in Postwar America.

Table of Contents Back to Top

Part I. TV Households

1. The Suburban Home Companion: Television and the Neighborhood Ideal in Postwar America

2. Portable TV: Studies in Domestic Space Travel

Part II. White Flight

3. From Domestic Space to Outer Space: The 1960s Fantastic Family Sit-Com

Part III. Baby Boom Kids

5. Seducing the Innocent: Television and Childhood in Postwar America

6. Innocence Abroad: The Geopolitics of Childhood in Postwar Kid Strips

Part IV. Living Room to Gallery

7. High Culture in Low Places: Television and Modern Art, 1950–1970

8. Barbies without Ken: Femininity, Feminism, and the Art-Culture System

Part V. Rewind and Fast Forward

9. From the Dark Ages to the Golden Age: Women’s Memories and Television Reruns

10. Yesterday’s Future, Tomorrow’s Home


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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2696-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2687-8
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