Branded Women in U.S. Television: When People Become Corporations (Critical Studies in Television)

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Branded Women in U.S. Television examines how The Real Housewives of New York City, Martha Stewart, and other female entrepreneurs create branded televised versions of the iconic U.S. housewife. Using their television presence to establish and promote their own product lines, including jewelry, cookware, clothing, and skincare, they become the primary physical representations of these brands. While their businesses are serious and seriously lucrative, especially reality television enables a certain representational flexibility that allows participants to create campy and sometimes tongue-in-cheek personas. Peter Bjelskou explores their innovative branding strategies, specifically the complex relationships between their entrepreneurial endeavors and their physical bodies, attires, tastes, and personal histories. Generally these branded women speak volumes about their contemporaneous political environments, and this book illustrates how they, and many other women in U.S. television history, are indicative of larger societal trends and structures.

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About the Author:

Peter Bjelskou teaches American history, politics, and cultural studies at the University of Copenhagen.

Review:

This textual analysis provides insightful commentary on reality TV and contemporary media culture. . . .A short and dense read, Branded Women is a recommended case study for the implications of unabashed consumerism and industry-sanctioned narcissism--critical facets to grasp in today's media landscape. (Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly)

[T]his book-length study of The Real Housewives of New York City offers sustained analysis of the show’s housewife-entrepreneur stars. . . .I learnt a great deal from Bjelskou’s opening overview of ‘Women and Products as a Staple in US Television’, as well as from the following chapter on the branding of RHONY’s network Bravo TV. . . . Bjelskou remind[s] us forcefully that the medium’s capacity for bestowing value on products outside itself cannot be detached from the specific representational politics of its particular mode of entertainment. (Critical Studies in Television: The International Journal of Television Studies)

Peter Bjelskou admirably synthesizes a half century of cultural critiques of the audience/commodity nexus, and takes the critique a full step further in his groundbreaking analysis of Real Housewives of New York. This Bravo cable reality show features women who are neither "real" nor "housewives," but are the most current version of the modernist conflation of hucksterism and culture. Identifying matches between everyday life and television is the holy grail of cultural studies, and Branded Women in U.S. Television is a solid new contribution. Scholars and students of media, cultural, and American studies will appreciate the accessibility of Bjelskou’s treatment of this important topic. (Frederick Wasser, Brooklyn College, City University of New York)

In this exceptionally well-written book, Bjelskou skillfully navigates Bravo’s commercial offerings where viewers are regaled with narratives of conspicuous consumption and not the everyday lives of average housewives. Here is a clear view into television’s latest entertainment that explains in detail how these programs make cultural sense of the present neoliberal moment. Ultimately these insights reveal a new level of commodification where product-pushing housewives become themselves, the brand. (Robin Andersen, Fordham University)

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