Supplementary Sources and Histories

16 Oct

As requested, here are the sources I used for my presentation today on 1970’s culture and the representation of women:

  • Levine, Elana. Wallowing in Sex: the new sexual culture of 1970s American television. NC: Duke University Press, 2007.

This is really where the bulk of my information on the representation of women came from, and was supplemented by the following:

My cultural discussion was derived from the Levine as well as my own research into the 1970s through New Hollywood, and thereby collected from sources like Robin Wood (Hollywood from Vietnam to Regan 1986).

Alternative History: France, to 1980

In a brief follow up to my presentation today, I wanted offer some additional information on what was happening in France from essentially the end of WWII through the 1970s.  Looking at the development of TV in France, perhaps we can begin to draw some transnational contrasts and comparisons.

Following WWII, France as well as many other countries in Western Europe, underwent a dramatic period of modernization.  An unprecedented influx of consumerism and technology flooded the country, bringing with it a fundamental restructuring of daily life, economic consumption and mass media.  Cars, movies, gadgets and television all played a vital role in rapidly modernizing (Americanizing?) France in the post war years and would lead to the critical artistic and political events and attitudes of the 1960s and 70s.  For Kristin Ross, this period was embodied by objects like the car or appliance advertisements, which promised new visions the world through manipulations of time, the experience of the city, the domestic space and technology (6).  Yet as the banalities of everyday life took shape amidst the newly transformed society, France became aware of the subsequent social and cultural changes that came along with the commodity and technical object (19-44).

Television was included in this process.  Despite having established a broadcast station on the Eiffel Tower in 1935, television remained limited until the war, and essentially disappeared during. With the instatement of De Gaulle, renewed efforts expanded broadcasting and make it accessible to the entire nation by 1960 (Rozat).  During this period of expansion and modernization, television remained essentially under state monopoly.  Under De Gaulle, television was heavily censored and considered a deeply influential medium through which the nation and family could be depicted, and thereby had to be controlled: “Television penetrates families without knocking on the door. It imposes itself. We can prevent a child from entering a cinema, but we cannot prevent the electromagnetic waves from entering the house” (Scott 34). In an effort to control the potentially dangerous effects of television, De Gaulle launched a censorship campaign designed to warn viewers of inappropriate content through a disruptive white square (Scott 30).  However, rather than enforcing boundaries between forms of content, the introduction of this system actually drew attention to just how pervasive censorship on television (and within his regime) was at the time (Scott 35).  1968 marked a critical year for the rethinking of media (not just television), and television became central to the political revolts of spring.  The rise of student movements across Europe was sharply juxtaposed against De Gaulle’s restricted television, which in the same year increased censorship and expanded the use of advertising (Scott 35).  These events were dramatically under-broadcast by the state-run channels, and publications like Panorama called out for televisual attention (Rozat).

In 1974, with De Gaulle’s retirement and Pompidou’s new administration, the government passed an act to restructure the television industry in favor of a balance between state and public companies.  With the privatization of three of the television networks, France saw a rise in programming and advertising geared toward building ratings, including increasingly uncensored news (or as criticized by politicians, increasingly leftist news), and the rise of TV movies and documentaries (Smith 70-71).  Importantly, this shift in state control and television occurred during France’s period of increasing disillusionment and skepticism toward imported capitalist consumption and Americanization.  The 1970’s is marked by a rise in anti-American attitudes, with the popularity of publications like Le Defi Americain by Jean-Jacques Sevran-Schreiber, and the rise of increasingly leftist, anti-capitalist politics.  This is not to say that the television became a space of socialist political propaganda, rather it is an attempt to draw comparisons between the status of TV in France in the US.  If 1970s television can be labeled with an increasing concern for entertaining audiences, French television was conceived of as a creative space for political and cultural expression, and ultimately a source for exploring the filmic medium.  Like many other European countries, you saw established film directors look toward TV as a resource for showing their work to the masses (Smith 71).  Marcel Ophuls was one of the first directors to embrace the medium of television as a resource for cultural and political reflection with his banned documentary on the Nazi occupation The Sorrow and the Pity. Additionally, you saw directors like Jacques Tati (Parade 1974) and Jean Luc Godard (Letter to Jane: An Investigation About a Still 1972, among countless other projects up until today) utilize the mini series and TV documentary format in addition to their work with film. Thus, unlike stereotypes of American television as a kind of “low” form of art, European directors often considered TV as a separate but legitimate possibility for creative manipulation.  These films and documentaries often hardly resembled programs or movies aired in the US.  Rather, they pushed the boundaries of representation and attempted to explore the artistic boundaries of the medium; Godard on TV: “when you go to the cinema you look up, when you watch television you look down,” or “TV won’t see, it just shows.” (  Much more can (and should) be said about these specific TV programs and documentaries, but I’ll leave it to you to explore some of your favorite European directors from this period (I think you’d be surprised at how many turned toward TV at some point in their career.)

PS: if you are interested in these small posts on European television, I’d be happy to continue with them. (Next I’d hit Germany and you’d get some insight into television via Fassbinder- always a delight.)


Ross, Kristin. Fast Cars, Clean Bodies: the decolonization and reordering of French culture. MA: MIT Press, 1996.

Rozat, Pascal. “Television History: The French Exception?” INA Global. <>.

Scott, Victoria. Silk-Screens and Television Screens: Maoism and the Posters of May and June 1968. Diss.

Binghampton University, 2010.

Smith, Anthony. Television: an international history. UK:Oxford University Press, 1995.

2 Responses to “Supplementary Sources and Histories”

  1. footagefinder October 17, 2012 at 10:52 am #

    An amazingly informative post, Mikki! At least a couple of people in class are interested in exploring representations of women on television in different American contexts, so both your presentation and these sources should prove helpful.

    Also, personally, I’m in favor of additional posts about non-American and transnational television contexts, industries, and programs. This perspective on France defamiliarizes televisual contexts with which most of us have greater experience and on which we’re focusing this quarter. The history that you’re sharing here also suggests comparative methodologies that might prove helpful to some course projects, even for people working primarily on American programs or recent developments.

    There’s much more to say about variations among national television situations. The blog is an ideal space to continue that line of thought. And maybe it suggests a need for a Transnational TV coure in the future.

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