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Talking Trash: The Cultural Politics of Daytime TV Talk Shows

New York University Press

Talking Trash: The Cultural Politics of Daytime TV Talk Shows Overview

When The Phil Donahue Show topped the ratings in 1979, it ushered in a new era in daytime television. Mixing controversial social issues, light topics, and audience participation, it created a new genre, one that is still flourishing, despite being harshly criticized, over two decades later. Now, the daytime TV landscape is littered with talk shows. But why do people watch these shows? How do they make sense of them? And how do these shows affect their viewers' sense of what constitutes appropriate public debate? In Talking Trash, Julie Engel Manga offers a fascinating exploration of these questions and reveals the wide range of reasons viewers are drawn to “trash talk.” Focusing on such shows as Oprah!, Jerry Springer, Ricki Lake, Jenny Jones, and Maury Povitch, and drawing upon interviews with women who watch these shows, Talking Trash is the first examination of the talk show phenomenon from the viewers’ perspective. In taking this approach, Manga is able to understand what talk shows mean to the women who watch them. And by refusing to judge either the shows or their viewers as good or bad, she is able to grasp how viewers relate to these shows-as escape, entertainment, uninhibited public discourse, or an accurate reflection of their own hardships and heartaches. Manga concludes that while the form of “trash-talk” shows may be relatively new, the socio-cultural experience they embody has been with us for a long time. Absorbing, entertaining, and keenly perceptive, Talking Trash illuminates the complex viewer response to “trash talk” and examines the cultural politics surrounding this wildly controversial popular phenomenon.

Talking Trash: The Cultural Politics of Daytime TV Talk Shows Table Of Content

1 Talk Shows, Public Discourse, and Cultural Politics 1
2 The Business of Talk 23
3 Talk Shows and Everyday Life 58
4 Making Sense of the Shows: Discerning "Legitimate" Discourse 94
5 The Lure of the Show: Talk Shows as Entertainment 157
6 Utopian Hauntings? 196
App. A: Methodology 205
App. B The Women Who Participated in the Study 209
Notes 219
Bibliography 227
Index 241
About the Author 255

Talking Trash: The Cultural Politics of Daytime TV Talk Shows Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Provides a stunningly effective analysis of the diverse ways in which viewers make sense of the contentious culture of TV talk shows. The result is a first-rate sociological contribution to the study of popular culture, mass media, and public discourse. Attentive to both personal experience and complex vectors of power, Talking Trash involves a subtle and challenging interpretation of the transgressive lure, structural limitations, and utopian yearnings underlying this controversial realm of televisionary entertainment.”
-Stephen J. Pfohl,author of Images of Deviance and Social Control: A Sociological History

“An important contribution to our understanding of the talkshow genre and its cultural political function.”
-American Journal of Sociology


“A wide-ranging exploration of some key theoretical issues in cultural sociology centering on subjectivity, sense-making, and cultural hierarchy.”
-Contemporary Sociology


“A cogent analysis of our culture.”
-The Times


Readers' Reviews