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Freaks Talk Back: Tabloid Talk Shows and Sexual Nonconformity [Paperback]

Joshua Gamson
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 15 1999
Using extensive interviews, hundreds of transcripts, focus-group discussions with viewers, and his own experiences as an audience member, Joshua Gamson argues that talk shows give much-needed, high-impact public visibility to sexual nonconformists while also exacerbating all sorts of political tensions among those becoming visible. With wit and passion, Freaks Talk Back illuminates the joys, dilemmas, and practicalities of media visibility.

"This entertaining, accessible, sobering discussion should make every viewer sit up and ponder the effects and possibilities of America's daily talk-fest with newly sharpened eyes."—Publishers Weekly

"Bold, witty. . . . There's a lot of empirical work behind this deceptively easy read, then, and it allows for the most sophisticated and complex analysis of talk shows yet."—Elayne Rapping, Women's Review of Books

"Funny, well-researched, fully theorized. . . . Engaged and humane scholarship. . . . A pretty inspiring example of what talking back to the mass media can be."—Jesse Berrett, Village Voice

"An extraordinarily well-researched volume, one of the most comprehensive studies of popular media to appear in this decade."—James Ledbetter, Newsday

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From Amazon

In the recent past, lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgendered people had almost no presence on television. With the invention and propagation of tabloid talk shows such as Jerry Springer, Jenny Jones, Oprah, and Geraldo, people outside the sexual mainstream now appear in living rooms across America almost every day of the week. Often these appearances are rambunctious, ugly, and exploitative, with the "action" of the show predicated upon homophobic responses from the audience. Most gay media watchers question the worth of appearing on such programs: at what price, they ask, visibility? This view is startlingly revised in Joshua Gamson's Freaks Talk Back, an analysis of how tabloid TV may be the best--well, certainly the most engaging on a grassroots level--visibility that sex outsiders have ever garnered. Using surveys, news analysis, discussions of race and class differences, and readings from the shows themselves, Gamson argues that the endless yelling, bickering, and outright displays of homophobia--so different from the pre-packaged, insincere tolerance that passes for discourse in much of the media--give rise to discussions about people's genuine feelings and beliefs. Questioning the very precepts of how we think about media coverage, Freaks Talk Back is as provocative and disturbing as tabloid television itself. --Michael Bronski --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Gamson's fascinating study explores the sex and gender nonconformity portrayed in just about every national, topic-driven American television talk show. His book is based on interviews with production staff and talk-show participants, focus groups with talk-show viewers, 106 hours of talk-show programming, and all the available transcripts from the years 1984-86 and 1994-95 in which gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender topics and guests were central. Using this research, Gamson (sociology, Yale Univ.) explores the cultural phenomenon of the modern-day talk show, revealing through descriptions of specific programs and direct quotes from participants and audience members what happens on shows like Ricki Lake, Donahue, Sally Jessy Raphael, and Geraldo when the "freaks" talk back. He also offers a glimpse into talk-show culture and a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into producing these shows. Gamson's book is rich in detail and highly readable. It is of interest not only to scholars of lesbian/gay/bisexual studies but also to those interested in sociology, politics, media, and communication.?Jerilyn Veldof, Univ. of Arizona Lib., Tucson
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Let's begin here: talk shows are bad for you, so bad you could catch a cold. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Joshua Gamson is a signpost pointing hopefully to a bright new era of scholarly work on popular culture. In the past, books from university presses on everything from Barney to Barbie have either been hopelessly theoretical (usually toked out on Focault) or with the polite condescendion of an overworked television critic. With this book, Joshua Gamson has brilliantly changed the levels of the game.
Freaks Talk Back knows talk shows from the inside, outside and above. Gamson asserts that Oprah, Ricki and Donahue are meeting grounds for ideas on alternative genders, often expressing a progressive, if fleeting, level of acceptance. He underlines the ambivalence he feels as a gay man and a scholar, seeing Freaks talking to millions of homes via the talk show but doing so under the banner of freakishness.
While this might not be forceful leveling of trash TV we'd like, it is a thoughtfully developed and couragous conclusion. A sociologist, Gamson sat in on hundreds of talk shows, interviewing guests,personel, and audience to arrive at his conclusions. He includes himself in the discussion, admitting his weekness for TV trash, and his rollicking Saturday nights out in drag. Rather than indulgant, these anecdotes are refreshing, showing the author's willingness to be both intellecutally sophisticated and accessible, the true dream of quality writing on popular culture. Through humor, diligance, and self-awareness of his project's trip wires, Joshua Gamson shows us why "popular" and "scholarly" need not in front of a studio audience, screaming at each other.
Was this review helpful to you?
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
As a gay man, Gamson provides an interesting perspective on LGBT issues and exposes many of the hypocritical and often contradictory themes recurrent to the shows. There are many entertaining episodes recounted, but the book is more of a unique blend of sociological and personal importance. The writing can be a bit dry at times, but it is an intertaining and thought-provoking book for gays and non-gays alike.
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gamson raises the watermark on studies of sexuality & media Nov. 14 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Joshua Gamson is a signpost pointing hopefully to a bright new era of scholarly work on popular culture. In the past, books from university presses on everything from Barney to Barbie have either been hopelessly theoretical (usually toked out on Focault) or with the polite condescendion of an overworked television critic. With this book, Joshua Gamson has brilliantly changed the levels of the game.
Freaks Talk Back knows talk shows from the inside, outside and above. Gamson asserts that Oprah, Ricki and Donahue are meeting grounds for ideas on alternative genders, often expressing a progressive, if fleeting, level of acceptance. He underlines the ambivalence he feels as a gay man and a scholar, seeing Freaks talking to millions of homes via the talk show but doing so under the banner of freakishness.
While this might not be forceful leveling of trash TV we'd like, it is a thoughtfully developed and couragous conclusion. A sociologist, Gamson sat in on hundreds of talk shows, interviewing guests,personel, and audience to arrive at his conclusions. He includes himself in the discussion, admitting his weekness for TV trash, and his rollicking Saturday nights out in drag. Rather than indulgant, these anecdotes are refreshing, showing the author's willingness to be both intellecutally sophisticated and accessible, the true dream of quality writing on popular culture. Through humor, diligance, and self-awareness of his project's trip wires, Joshua Gamson shows us why "popular" and "scholarly" need not in front of a studio audience, screaming at each other.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging glimpse into the sordid world of TV talk. June 23 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
As a gay man, Gamson provides an interesting perspective on LGBT issues and exposes many of the hypocritical and often contradictory themes recurrent to the shows. There are many entertaining episodes recounted, but the book is more of a unique blend of sociological and personal importance. The writing can be a bit dry at times, but it is an intertaining and thought-provoking book for gays and non-gays alike.
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