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The Movie of the Week

Private Stories Public Events

1992
Author:

Elayne Rapping

The Movie of the Week

Makes a significant contribution to both women’s studies and television studies. In a style refreshingly free of academic or political jargon, Rapping shows that patriarchal though the industry is, its women audiences can and do find in its products voices and points of view which resonate with their own experience.

John Fiske, University of Wisconsin, Madison

The Movie of the Week

Made-for-television movies, Rapping argues cogently and thoughtfully, probe serious issues better than most other TV genres. She makes her feminist and media theories accessible throughout the book.

Publishers Weekly

Here’s a sophisticated, against-the-grain study of the politics of popular TV by Elayne Rapping. The essays in this work focus on a particular genre: the made-for-TV movie, which is usually dismissed as schmaltzy, low-brow, vacuous, apolitical fare by contemptuous critics. But Rapping takes on this prevailing elitist attitude; she defends many of these movies for being public events that wrestle with urgent social issues, and she argues that they often carry progressive, even subversive, messages, albeit in a contradictory way. Rappings’s feminist perspective is especially illuminating, and her two chapters on women in these movies carry the day.

The Progressive

In The Movie of the Week Rapping sets out to defend a genre that suffers from society's contempt for is audience. Briefly tracing the history of the genre, Rapping compares it to both the ‘women's film’ and the ‘gangster film’ of the 1930's, which depicted the concerns of women and the economically oppressed. Rapping is convinced that the creators of the genre realized instinctively that it would appeal to women, and argues that this is reflected in its dominant sensibility. By also insisting that some telefilms are indeed artistic achievements, she offers a double challenge to the conventional wisdom that sneers condescendingly at the most accessible forms of mass culture.

Women's Review of Books

Makes a significant contribution to both women’s studies and television studies. In a style refreshingly free of academic or political jargon, Rapping shows that patriarchal though the industry is, its women audiences can and do find in its products voices and points of view which resonate with their own experience.

John Fiske, University of Wisconsin, Madison

She argues that, despite their poor reputation, TV movies sometimes do important political work. Movie of the Week makes this case rather well, combining institutional analysis with textual and contextual analysis and keeping in mind that ‘texts do not organize, demonstrate, take up arms.’ Rapping’s chapters on the history of TV movies and their generic and narrative structure are thorough and support her claim that the form is unique in its embrace of social issues.

Quarterly Journal of Speech

In her fascinating new study of the genre, academic and alternative press cultural critic Elayne Rapping argues that the films that are churned out of the movie-of-the-week production mill offer some of our best insights into cultural tensions, and many promote critical, even progressive, agendas. According to Rapping, in an age when public discourse takes place primarily on commercial television, TV movies are important because they explore rape, domestic violence, racism, AIDS, incest, and other social concerns—often from the perspective of women—more readily and regularly than most other television programming. There is a tradeoff, of course: only because they tend to privatize issues and ultimately resolve them within the family—without probing their social and political causes—can TV movies get away with airing subjects that would otherwise be too risky for the profit-minded networks. Still, TV movies can , at their best, be vehicles for 'shattering moments of collective radical insight,' says Rapping. She documents how ideas of feminism and other social movements have been incorporated into TV movies, thus allowing an 'entire nation-at least 25 percent of which is functionally illiterate-to participate in a common cultural and political experience.' The impact of these films is significant, although sometimes ambivalent as well as difficult to document. Aimed at a diverse audience of media critics, scholars, and people who actually watch TV, Movie of the Week provides the first well-written documentation and analysis of this neglected genre, and speaks to the need to give the cultural barometers called TV movies the credit they deserve.

Utne Reader

About This Book