CHANNELS OF DESIRE: Mass Images and the Shaping of the Ameriean Consciousness by Stuart & Elizabeth Ewen Ewen

CHANNELS OF DESIRE: Mass Images and the Shaping of the Ameriean Consciousness

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Yet another reproving history-cum-critique of American ""commodity culture."" I.e., ""The mass media and the industries of fashion and design, through the production and distribution of imagery, have reconciled widespread vernacular demands for a better life with the general priorities of corporate capitalism."" In the early chapters, the Ewens (Hunter, CUNY, and Stony Brook, SUNY, respectively) pursue the theoretical argument. A separate section is then devoted to ""Immigrant Women and the Rise of the Movies"": ""the imagery in the films--supported by the rapid growth of the ready-made clothing industry, the cosmetics industry, and new forms of advertising and display--made possible the liquidation of traditional culture."" Next comes ""Fashion and Democracy,"" the book's major section. The chapter on dungarees, ""The Ends Justify the Jeans"" (from an ad for the Gloria Vanderbilt product), exemplifies the approach. As the ""unemotional garb of miners"" in the 1850s, jeans were the ""signature of deprivation and sweat""; via movie cowboys, they became symbols of rugged individualism; in the 1950s, they ""became part of a statement, a rejection of postwar suburban society""; in the '60s, they were equated with social struggle (""denim provided an anti-fashion"" as well as a ""feminist weapon against restrictive fashion""); in the '80s, they became a mainstay of mainstream fashion. The final, brief section, ""Mass Culture and the Moral Economy of War,"" asks--somewhat murkily--for an end to ""the structural confusions of the mass culture"" (per ""the recent vodka war"") and ""an alternative form and vision."" Some apt examples in a stale, jargon-strewn, doctrinaire stow.

Pub Date: June 28th, 1982
Publisher: McGraw-Hill