Gender and Popular Culture

November 8, 2012

Authors: Katie Milestone and Anneke Meyer

Edition: First

Publisher: Polity

Pages: 200

Price: £55.00 and £15.99

ISBN: 9780745643939 and 3946

Gender and Popular Culture presents readers with a rich analysis of the ways in which gender norms, identities and relations are produced in popular culture. Defining the subject area as a "range of cultural texts which signify meaning through words, images and practices", the book examines a wealth of contemporary popular cultural texts across three key axes: production, representation and consumption. The authors draw on both primary and secondary research, with emphasis on the socio-political implications of cultural processes. In particular, the book develops primarily a social constructionist analysis of femininity and masculinity; however, in many instances it adopts a clear feminist polemical approach.

Interestingly, the first section, "Production, gender and popular culture", steers clear of political economy analyses of media industries. Instead, the authors use the representation of the creative workplace in the television series Mad Men as a starting point for a historical discussion on the gendered ideas of genius, authorship and talent in the advertising, music and film industries. Indeed, in a comprehensive overview of cultural work in relation to the shifting patterns of gender relations in the West, the authors make sure that they also touch on key theoretical concepts in cultural studies. The student in media and cultural studies will find the careful application of these terms to real examples, from the record producer Phil Spector to Britain's Got Talent contestant Susan Boyle, particularly informative. Equally, the section on "Representation" provides relevant illustrations from magazines, television programmes, film and the news.

The chapters offer not only a rich basis from which readers can explore continuities in the representation of gender but also the emergence of new lifestyle and work identities, such as those of the "metrosexual" man, the "new lad" and the chef.

The third section, "Consumption", frames the production of gender identities through media consumption practices, placing emphasis on new media consumption and space/place. The distinct examples of sexualised spaces and gay villages may be especially helpful in the teaching of gender studies and cultural studies.

To gain a further perspective on the social reproduction of gender norms through popular culture, it would have been helpful to have some mention of the complexity of social dynamics, in other words the intersectionality of race, disability, class and gender. What is more, the book would benefit from some reference to non-Western, non-English-language media, cultural production, societies and gender policies.

Nonetheless, Gender and Popular Culture is a well-written, thoroughly well-structured and accessible introduction to the subject while providing a good sense of the concepts and a bibliography for further exploration.

Who is it for? Undergraduates in media and cultural studies, as well as in gender studies, will find this book very useful.

Presentation: Clear, concise and accessible.

Would you recommend it? A good reference for all levels of university study in cultural studies and gender.

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