Looking at Men: 1980s Middlebrow TV and Visual Culture

Jenner, Mareike (2022) Looking at Men: 1980s Middlebrow TV and Visual Culture. Journal of Popular Television, 10 (1). pp. 59-78. ISSN 2046-9861

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1386/jptv_00070_1

Abstract

This article explores middlebrow culture on early 1980s television and the narrative structures and visual politics employed. The focus lies on Remington Steele (1983‐87) and Magnum, P.I. (1980‐88) as two middlebrow TV series that emphasize the male lead and link in with shifts in the visual culture of the era. Both series function within frameworks of middlebrow TV and visually focus on their male heroes’ bodies. The article analyses the term middlebrow in 1980s television and develops this concept more by exploring narrative structure and what Horace Newcomb has termed the ‘cumulative narrative’. The article then moves on to discuss the visual framing of the male lead as directed by an assumed heterosexual female gaze. In the course of this, it examines the parameters of the televisual image and the conditions that frame objectification on television. Due to the focus on a heterosexual female gaze, middlebrow television becomes strongly linked with women’s culture. This allows for conclusions surrounding the construction of the middlebrow, masculinity and early 1980s television culture. Exploring this cultural politics, and thus revealing a cultural hierarchy, is deemed important here, as it allows for an analysis of the role of nostalgia, both in 1980s and more contemporary television cultures going forward.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: 1980s Television, Middlebrow, Television Culture, Objectification, Tom Selleck, Pierce Brosnan, Masculinity, Narrative Structure, Magnum, P.I., Remington Steele
Faculty: Faculty of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences
SWORD Depositor: Symplectic User
Depositing User: Symplectic User
Date Deposited: 02 Dec 2021 16:22
Last Modified: 04 Apr 2022 13:21
URI: https://arro.anglia.ac.uk/id/eprint/707142

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