Rachel Maddow, School Marm
Janet Staiger / University of Texas at Austin


Rachel Maddow

Rachel Maddow

Choosing to watch an evening news/opinion show is probably both a matter of politics and personal taste. With the arrival several years ago of MSNBC and then Current TV (and excluding The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report), even a liberal/progressive has several choices. My top one used to be Keith Olbermann; with his departures from both MSNBC and Current TV, The Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, 2008-) wins out. Indeed, the program made Flow’s Top Ten shows for 2008 in its first year out. Lately, running second in my choices is the slowly improving Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer (Current TV, 2012-). Olbermann was instrumental in bringing both commentators to the attention of the network executives so family resemblances are not surprising.

What makes these programs–besides their politics–preferable to me? One major factor is that Rachel Maddow and Eliot Spitzer use their guests wisely. Unlike Chris Matthews (as energized as he may be), they let their guests talk; Matthews enjoys interrupting people after they finish their first sentence which occasionally has its certain satisfactions but usually is annoying when the person actually is contributing information or ideas. Perhaps because Current TV is developing its audiences (it does not even rate inclusion in the viewer numbers for news programs in “TV by the Numbers”), Spitzer seems to have fewer guests than the standard programs but in longer segments (this is a statement based on impression which should be fact-checked). However, the interviews become much more worthwhile since he goes more deeply into an issue with the person. It becomes an intelligent conversation rather than a battle.

Maddow also has very good interview segments, but additionally she takes up the role of school marm, as I shall argue below. At times this persona can be irritating–as when she repeats a point three times. However, as I learned in a communications theory class years ago, people listen poorly. We comprehend only about 25% of what is said in a lecture situation. So that Maddow repeats, as professors learn to do to emphasize ideas to classes, is understandable. And probably that is preferable, given that her audience is a TV audience, with all of the distractions of that viewing environment, and not a captured group of students. ((My thanks again to Peter Staiger for chatting about these ideas. However, as University of Wisconsin alumni, faculty, and graduate students debated in a recent listserv discussion, students are using laptops and smart phones to multi-task, changing dramatically the teaching environment.)) In any case, Maddow’s program is now running in the ratings at the top of the MSNBC news lineup for the evening and occasionally giving real challenge to the Fox competitors. CNN and HLN are much further behind. So her techniques indicate a generally favorable response. Two of these deserve special note as somewhat distinct from other news/opinion programs and as helpful to developing the “instructor” persona she performs.

Setting the Context

Maddow opens her nightly broadcast with a sometimes rather long (and repetitive) introduction to her first guest of the evening. This introduction may seem extended if the viewer has been following a story. However, if the viewer has not, the introduction provides a detailed background in fairly chronological order to the developments leading up to the current state of affairs. Maddow then does something I have never seen on any other news/opinion program and that is to ask the guest if she has summarized the situation accurately. Almost always, she has. In the rare occasion when something is not accurate or adequately nuanced, the guest corrects or amplifies the context. Then the actual standard interview proceeds. What this maneuver does is to push out of the way digressions to explain something that might arise during the conversation. It also adds much more informational detail than one could do via a conversation. Furthermore, it makes the interview seem more even-handed; the guest could provide corrections or alternative information if he/she thought it was necessary. Finally, however, it allows Maddow to set up the discussion on her terms. Usually her guests are compatriots or allies in the issue at hand. Yet this is very handy if she has a more challenging or unfriendly guest while also giving the person a voice in establishing what is at stake in the topic.

Visualizing the Facts

Maddow is not unique in using charts to display data. However, when I web search “Maddow charts,” the unusual plentitude of images is obvious. Here and there also included in the web search are parodies of Maddow charts which suggest the ubiquity of this teaching method for her program. MSNBC contributor Ezra Klein is often connected to the sharing of these charts since he occasionally presents the information. The charts are incredibly well done so that they make points very clearly. For instance, in a chart illustrating the National Debt by President since 1981, the graph colorfully and clearly demonstrates that two-thirds of our debt comes from the last three Republican presidents, with George W. Bush contributing over 40% of the current amount.

Chart National Debt by President

Chart #1: National Debt by President.

In another chart visualizing U.S. debt difficulties, the graphic representation projects what will contribute to furthering the deficit. The answers are not costs associated with stimulus programs but the dangers of continuing the Bush-era tax cuts at their current forecast rates.

Chart debt difficulties

Chart #2: Projected Deficit

Another chart details the effects of the 2009 stimulus on slowing the loss of jobs by looking at initial unemployment claims between 2007 and July 2012.

Chart unemployment claims

Chart #3: Unemployment Claims

These charts become silly but still insightful. Here is a chart on the growth of wealth controlled by the top 1% of Americans between 1976 and 2007, used to illustrate the effects of Republican policies on the middle class:

chart 1 percent

Chart #4: Top 1% in 1976 and 2007

These charts can even become absurd, which the show enjoys laughing about. On March 15, 2012, “in honor of Pi Day, Ezra Klein shares his favorite pie charts.” ((http://video.msnbc.msn.com/the-rachel-maddow-show/46741423#46741423)) Among them was a graph illustrating the “percentage of chart which resembles Pac-man”:

chart pi day

Chart #5: Pi Day

Education experts caution that people learn in different ways with many people favoring or even needing visual information to grasp concepts. Using the medium of television to provide information in multiple forms helps viewers grasp the implications of arguments that sometimes become quite esoteric when only presented verbally. This is repetition but via an alternative means.

Maddow received a DPhil in politics from Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship after earning a BA at Stanford University but was not particularly trained as an educator–any more than are most doctoral students. While she might well have gone into university teaching, applying her skills to educating her viewers seems a very worthwhile instance of “distance” learning in the best sense of the practice.

Image Credits:
1. NBCUniversal Media Village
2. The Rachel Maddow Show
3. The Rachel Maddow Show
4. The Rachel Maddow Show
5. The Rachel Maddow Show
6. The Rachel Maddow Show

Please feel free to comment.




It’s a Myth So Let’s Blow It Up: The Pleasures of Mythbusters
Janet Staiger / University of Texas at Austin


cast of Mythbusters

The cast of Mythbusters

Several issues ago in Flow, Ann Johnson provided an excellent analysis of the hypothesis-testing structures of Mythbusters (2003-). (( “Can Rational Thought Be Entertaining,” Flow 12, no. 1 (3 June 2010).)) I have seen nearly every episode of the program and agree. An episode starts with a “myth” (actually usually two which are presented through cross-cutting), a discussion of some of the science that might be involved, a building of an apparatus or set of procedures to test the myth, and then its confirmation–or not. While the production team certainly is counting on “a faith in a public appetite for reason” as Johnson phrases it, this is not quite the Watch Mr. Wizard (1951-65) of my childhood. Three characteristics beyond rational reasoning enhance the entertainment value: the use of the formulas of the detective genre, the narrator’s commentary, and, most of all, excess.

Puzzle-Solving: The Tropes of the Classical Detective Narrative

A Mythbusters narrative arc almost always begins with someone bringing a myth to the team to solve. From the start the “first” team has been Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage; over the series other teams have developed so that for the last several years the “second” team is Tori Belleci, Kari Byron, and Grant Imahara. A test dummy, Buster, assists.

Buster helps the investigations

Buster helps the investigations

Those bringing the myth are often viewers who send in suggestions; however, even President Obama asked Jamie and Adam to re-investigate the Ancient Death Ray myth which had been busted in an earlier episode. ((“President’s Challenge” (air date 8 December 2010). The myth remained busted.)) Just as clients or Inspector Lestrade or an important person from the royal family may initiate a case with Sherlock Holmes, most of the jobs come in from the outside. Drawing on their areas of expertise (both Jamie and Adam have been movie stunt men), the team considers the known facts and works out methods to solve the puzzle.

At times the team members can be put into danger, creating the pleasurable affect of suspense. In “Sinking Titanic” (air date 22 February 2004), Adam needs to sit on a boat to determine if he will be sucked down when it sinks, and Jamie is in murky San Francisco waters trying to attach cables to the boat to bring it back up for further tests. Our empathy is, as in the detective genre, with the investigators, and with the exception of a few minor scraps, everyone has been okay. For viewers, the detective-genre pleasures also involve using our own intelligence and knowledge of science to speculate in advance about the results, either being confirmed in our evolving hypotheses or surprised. One scholar of detective fiction states that the genre’s narrative trajectory involves “a battle of wits between the curious reader, who endeavors to beat the author . . . to the solution, and the author who does his utmost to mystify, misdirect, and baffle him.” ((Meir Sternberg, Expositional Modes and Temporal Ordering in Fiction (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978), p. 180.)) Here, everyone–team and viewers–wonders about the outcome and is rewarded at the same moment.

The Personable Narrator

Although not always a pleasure for me, the producers of Mythbusters have used a voice-over narrator (Robert Lee in the U.S.) to explain, recap, and comment about the action. Many of his remarks are (to me, silly or gratuitous) jokes about the team members or puns about what is happening. Given that at least two myths are being pursued in parallel and that commercial breaks interrupt the action, recaps are useful as is explanation beyond the conversation among the team members. I imagine the comedy is pleasurable to many people. Its saucy tone does create some intimacy as the narrator reveals and reminds us about the personalities of the investigators. It also is quite at a distance from the hard-boiled detective genre’s objective narration. This easy, not-much-is-really-at-stake tone also supports the third pleasure.

We’ve Busted the Myth but . . . .: The Value of Excess

If an episode ended with “busted,” “plausible,” or “confirmed,” the program would probably be successful. However, I do not think that is what draws spectators to watch. It is not rational hypothesis-testing and puzzle-solving but the excess that happens after that. As Jamie remarks in “Salsa Escape” (air date 23 February 2005), “This has got nothing to do with the myth. It’s just a big boom.” Anyone who scans the episode descriptions will notice how many times explosions are featured. As the narrator remarks in another episode, “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.” ((“Sinking Titanic” (air date 22 February 2004). The myth involved a firecracker in a trombone. Eventually the team and explosion experts packed it as fully as possible with explosives.)) Most narrative arcs–at least in terms of spectacle–end “too soon.” The team justifies this “going-on” by changing the question from whether the myth is true to what it would take to replicate the results the myth implied.

For example, in “Salsa Escape,” one myth being tested is whether people can clean out a cement truck using a stick of dynamite. After pouring out cement, a crust of one to two inches develops in the interior of the drum. So, rather than hand-chipping it out, can explosives do the job? Jamie, Adam, and explosive experts start small: a cherry bomb and then an M-80 (equivalent to 1/4 stick of dynamite). Nothing happens. As a team member says, and which will be said in many more episodes, they “need to step it way up.” They move to a one-pound black powder bomb. Only once they try explosives equal to a one-and-one-half sticks of dynamite does a result occur. In fact, it seems to clear off the cement crust, and the team labels the myth plausible.

However, that was fairly boring. We’ve seen a few pops of smoke out the top of a cement mixer and the resultant small slabs of freed cement. But we can step it up. Earlier in the episode, the question arises, what happens if a truck is caught in traffic before it can reach its worksite? Cement will harden in about ninety minutes. So, what will it take to clean out a truck full of cement? During the experiments with the caked-on crust of cement, the team also had tried to loosen a half-load of cement that was accidentally left to set. None of the small explosions had any effect on that. So, the team decide to deal with the truck: they will “blow [up] that sucker . . . [a] bigger boom than we’ve ever done before.” They drive the truck to a deserted site, even shut down a nearby highway, move away over one mile from the site, and use 850 pounds of commercial explosives, one-thousand times larger than any previous Mythbuster explosion. As Jamie says, “This has got nothing to do with the myth.” They are just blowing up a truck, and we enjoy the excessive spectacle with them.

Before the explosion

Before

During the explosion

During

After the explosion

After

Adam and Jamie

Adam (center) and Jamie (right) examine what little is left.

Mythbusters is a program that has “a premise based on reason,” and the average viewer learns lots of science along the way. I, for one, now know that I can escape bullets by diving into water. ((“Bulletproof Water” (air date 13 July 2005). )) I do watch it for the science, and, as Johnson notes, it may lessen “unnecessary fears.” However, other pleasures that make the program entertaining are likely the draws for most audiences: a certain gaming competition about predicting the outcome, the growing appearance of intimacy with the investigators, ((Hyneman and Savage are now well known celebrities. In their recent visit to the University of Texas, their event sold out within two hours of tickets being available so I could not obtain any.)) and the spectacles of excess. All of these extras do not come without caveats, of course, but stretching the mind in some ways is a very good outcome on the whole. As Johnson, asks, “can rational thought be entertaining?” Mark that one confirmed.

Image Credits:
1. Mythbusters website
2. Author’s Screencap
3. Author’s Screencap
4. Author’s Screencap
5. Author’s Screencap
6. Author’s Screencap

Please feel free to comment.




Serialization and Genre Expectations: The Case of The Killing
Janet Staiger / University of Texas at Austin


The Killing Season 2 Promotional Image

Promotional Image for the second season of The Killing

My experience watching the U.S. version of The Killing (AMC) leads me to ask about the limits of serialization in relation to genre. Specifically, the question is about an average viewer’s ability to retain sufficient narrative information pertinent to engaging with the story when the gaps between the episodes not only are seven days long but when a season break of some ten months occurs. I think I have a fairly normal memory. I do a lot better when I am taking notes on a narrative, but I only do that when I intend to write or teach the story.

For The Killing, the second season immediately launched itself into the story with possible suspect Belko Royce having just shot mayoral candidate Darren Richmond, claiming that he did it (killed Rosie Larsen?) and shooting himself. Meanwhile, detective Sarah Linden has discovered that a photo which seems to suggest that Richmond might have been the killer of Rosie Larsen was faked. What does not occur is any sort of recap of suspects or events. Perhaps this is because The Killing is constructed via throwing out for each episode a red herring which is then discovered to be just that: a false lead. ((The original Danish series also shares with the U.S. adaptation this narrative strategy as well as the structure of three interweaving plot lines of the mayoral election, the grieving family, and the police investigation. It also had a story break halfway through, with the second season’s episode starting up without any recap. The season break, however, was shorter–some six months–when Danish viewers were irate that crime’s solution was unresolved at the end of the first season.)) So giving us some ten to fifteen false clues from the first season would have been a waste of narrational time. What it does do, however, is suggest that the first thirteen hours of watching The Killing probably does not matter. Indeed, the second season promptly introduces a new set of issues: what was going on at the Casino and Reservation? Who is back-stabbing whom about the waterfront development? Who is Rosie’s biological father (and what does this have to do with anything)? A viewer arriving at the start of the second season probably could have entered the narrative at this point and been as able to solve the crime as the devoted first-season audience member.

Detectives Linden and Holder

Detectives Linden and Holder continue the investigation in Season 2

Of course, what I am supposing here is that the viewer is trying to handle the story as a classical detective narrative. In a Flow essay published after the first season’s conclusion, Kristen Warner and Lisa Schmidt argue that The Killing might be better considered as a “feminine narrative.” By this phrase, they posit that the “melodramatic emotion” of the series was as satisfying–and for them perhaps more satisfying–as a genre of engagement than the genre of detection. I can certainly appreciate this position. In a paper on the reading demands for Lost, I point out that for that program at least four reading strategies are operating for viewers:

. . . Jason Mittell argues that its pleasure was more than (1) its game strategy (solving the mystery of the island and the chronology of and causes for events); it was (2) an “operational aesthetic” in which viewers engaged with “how” the creators of Lost are authoring such a complex text. The operational aesthetic also had a sort of game aspect to it since the game was played with the creators of the story. Sharon Ross demurs somewhat, suggesting that primary pleasures included speculating about and predicting what would happen with (3) the characters and their relationships, a point backed up by Jonathan Gray and Mittell in a survey of fans . . . . One could also add to this list the pleasures of (4) the science fiction genre, once the program rather explicitly indicated that our characters were not hallucinating before the moment of their death . . . . ((Janet Staiger, “Lost in Lost: Reading Demands in a Convergent Media Era,” unpublished paper, 2010. I referenced Jason Mittell, “Narrative Complexity in Contemporary American Television,” The Velvet Light Trap, no. 58 (Fall 2006): 35; Sharon Ross, Beyond the Box: Television and the Internet (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2008), 183; and Jonathan Gray and Jason Mittell, “’Speculation on Spoilers’: Lost Fandom, Narrative Consumption and Rethinking Textuality,” Particip@tions 4, no. 1 (May 2007), www.participations.org. Accessed 6 June 2009. I also then noted that: “The game strategy is another name for the compositional practice of figuring out the narrative’s story from the plot information. Also a compositional practice, but one of a very different pleasure, is reading for characters and their relationships. The operational aesthetic involves focusing on the narrational source, especially the “external” source of the text and authorship activities. And genre reading is a familiar aesthetic and intertextual activity. Thus, these four reading strategies are quite typical interpretive practices.))

Certainly we recognize that different viewers may be preferring one approach over the other or enjoying several or moving from one to another.

However, my concern here is the memory demands required for engaging with detection versus melodramatic emotion, or perhaps detection and melodramatic emotion. In fact, not only has the temporal gaps in presentation made it difficult to figure out who killed Rosie and why, but a great deal of the emotional pathos of The Killing is lost when viewers cannot recall earlier circumstances alluded to later in the plot. For instance, take one of the first-season scenes that Warner and Schmidt rightfully praise: “Far from being bored, we were engrossed, even deeply moved by the ‘red herring’ dealing with the misidentification of a young Somali teacher Bennet Ahmed as a key suspect. This was a plot arc of several episodes, exploring the ugly but very ordinary racism of nearly every one of the protagonists.” ((Kristen Warner and Lisa Schmidt, “Reconsidering The Killing as a Feminine Narrative Form,” Flow, 7 July 2011. http://flowjournal.org/2011/07/reconsidering-the-killing/. Accessed 11 June 2012.)) Because of the police suspicion directed toward Bennet, Rosie’s father, Stan Larsen, and Belko brutally beat him. Stan is caught and arrested for the assault, based on a confession from Belko. As the second season continues, only one small reference returns to Stan’s pending conviction. Then in the tenth episode of season two, Stan waits at the Ahmeds’ home for their return and tries to apologize for his mistake. The Ahmeds reject him. After Stan leaves, Bennet’s wife notices that Stan has fixed their porch light. Stan’s gesture of contrition–one painfully small given the harm that he has committed–is gigantic in terms of the melodramatic moral about racism. ((Unfortunately, the second season’s lengthy representation of the Native American female tribal chief as a sadistic lesbian is undoing the gains of scene.)) But is it lost for many people?

Bennet Ahmed and Stan Larson

Bennet Ahmed and Stan Larson in a scene from Season 1

Scholars have noted that devoted viewers of soap operas retain information about character relations that may span twenty to thirty years. But I wonder whether remembering who had whose love child years ago is quite the same memory feat as piecing together who could have been where the night of Rosie’s murder. Programs such as The Killing try to solicit viewer involvement in solving the crime: AMC is offering a prize of $10,000 to someone who figures out who is the killer. ((“The Killing Suspect Track,” http://suspecttracker.amctv.com. Accessed 11 June 2012.)) To assist, AMC offers at its website bios of the possible suspects, episode guides, and newsletters. So, if someone wanted to do the work to piece this together, he or she could try–although each new episode is offering additional details that add to and even refute earlier data. So, in some ways, even the most devoted viewer in the classical detective mode probably just needs to give up trying to read the show that way since he/she has little chance of “beating” the narrative. The program 24 has some similarities to The Killing; however, soon into each “day,” the narrative develops a rather straightforward goal with internal deadlines propelling the action. So the “game,” or compositional demand of creating a story from the plot, is much reduced in its memory requirements.

Another solution to the temporal gaps between episodes and the consequent demand on memory is binge viewing: waiting until the program comes out on DVD and watching it in a concentrated form. Still, given the way The Killing is presenting its clues, that would probably not help–although some of the emotional drama may have more resonance. I watched the Danish version of the program on DVD in that concentrated way before beginning to view the U.S. program in “real” time last year. Narrationally, the writers for both versions did the same thing: each episode raised a possible suspect only to eliminate him/her (at least for that proposed reason), with new information ending the episode in cliffhanger mode. So it was as “impossible” to figure out the killer until the last episode in the binge viewing method as it is in the current week-to-week process.

Does this narrational strategy diminish my pleasure? In one way, yes. I like the game classical detective stories offer. As the Ellery Queen mysteries explicitly announce at a reasonable point in the story, the reader has been given all of the clues he/she needs to solve the mystery. ((Ellery Queen initiates this device in his first mystery novel and continues it for many stories thereafter. See The Roman Hat Mystery (1929; rpt. NY: Pocket Books, 1962), p. 235, in an edition that is 284 pages in length.)) However, the classical mystery has proliferated into many other generic varieties of investigating crime and attempting to render justice. These variants have different affective requests and rewards. So it must become just a matter of adjusting my expectations to the text and giving up worrying about remembering the clues. The fact is, I will not solve in advance the case of the killing of Rosie Larsen; I will just have to watch the final episode.

Image Credits:
1. The Killing Season 2 Wikipedia page
2. Small Screen Scoop
3. The Killing website

Please feel free to comment.




Women Watching Sports

by: Janet Staiger / University of Texas at Austin

Avid WNBA fans

Avid WNBA fans

I knew something had changed when I called my then-mid-70-year-old mom in Omaha several years ago on a Saturday afternoon before Christmas to ask her about clothing sizes for gifts and she responded: “I can’t talk now. Texas is beating Nebraska for the Big XII Championship.”

Granted my brother Don and his son Kevin had been a bit extreme as fans for Nebraska football. Although working in Houston and Los Angeles and now Perth, Australia, Don managed to come back until his Perth job to nearly every home game during a season, especially when Kevin was still at home. Even now, with Kevin working in Washington, D.C., both make it to about half the games. And when he can’t come home, Don will call mom from Perth several times during the game for updates. She tapes the games to send him (sorry about that!; I’m sure he destroys them after watching).

But having my mother become so devoted to watching the game marked an escalation of family commitment to the team. When she watches the game (I’ve been home to see this), she keeps jumping off the couch and paces around the room, holding her arms close to her body until the play is over, and then relaxing. My own recent involvement in Texas sports has been in part due to being able to offer Don and Kevin 50-yardline seats for Texas home-games against Nebraska.

My family life memories are vividly of the family gathered in the evenings around the (sole) television set during the 1950s and 1960s (dad bought a TV in 1952 when Omaha had its second station, but we did not move up to more than one set in the household until after I left for graduate school in 1968). So watching TV always meant negotiating which program to watch and then enjoying it together.

So I have understood my mother’s involvement in Nebraska team sports “escalate” to this new stage potentially as a way to relate virtually with my brother and nephew’s obsessions. But it is also the ability to watch the game on television that has permitted her commitment.

I use this example to suggest that while Title IX has been important in the last thirty years to the development of women’s sports and women (and men) fans of women’s sports, I speculate that television has been an important facilitator of women’s engagement. Particularly cable — with its proliferation of channels and avaricious appetite for content — has enabled fans for most major college teams to see almost all of the conference games. While radio used to supply coverage, now television provides this service as well, with the visual information intensifying the experience. (This raises the question for me as to whether radio or television might be better for certain sports; certainly baseball seems almost a radio game because of its long periods of “inaction” versus the multiple events occurring simultaneously during football and basketball games. Has anyone researched this?)

In fact, I would also argue that fans of sports are increasingly more distributed between the sexes as a result of cable coverage of sports. Often, I will raise the topic of sports — like weather — as a means to engage conversation with new acquaintances. Frequently, recently, men have indicated to me that it is their wives, girl friends, or boy friends (but not they) who follow sports.

Yet we do not know much about women’s sports fandom. My mother, for instance, knows very well what is going on in a game and can intelligently understand and predict plays. However, statistics and recollections of past games are not part of her arena for football fandom.

Other women, however, seem as capable as well-trained men in providing the on-going narrative arcs of a team: the triumphs and difficulties of the players, the inter-school rivalries, and so forth. Trained as soap-opera viewers, this sort of long-term engagement with a text is not difficult for women to do.

We also do not know much about the progression of fandom or its progression in relation to access through various media. Mom also enjoys watching (and playing) golf, a sport I cannot contemplate viewing on TV. Meanwhile, for various reasons, I have recently added the Texas Women’s Basketball team to my sports watching. Being able to see the games on cable television led, finally, to the purchase this year of a season ticket. Lately I have actually been reading the sports pages and watching the headline news tickertape for game results. That has lead this fall to following the coverage of the Pistons-Pacers and their fans’ brawl and actually bothering to watch the Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O’Neill re-union match last week. Clearly knowledge leads to curiosity, leads to more information, and so on.

The growth in the popularity of women’s sports and women watching sports (men’s or women’s) is partially a result of second-wave feminism and Title IX. (I haven’t even touched on scopophilia or attention to body images in the past thirty years as partial causes.) But the impact of cable television to facilitate virtual attendance for some intensely visual sports also needs recognition as a factor in the changes that are evident. Personally, as odd as it may seem, Saturday afternoon football viewing has become family time even though my family is spread as “near” as Omaha and as far as Australia. It’s really nice to know that we are still gathered together watching the same program on TV.

Links
Title IX
Women’s Sports Online homepage

Image Credits:

WNBA fans

Please feel free to comment.