This weekend I challenge you to spend at least an hour watching the greatest contemporary television phenomenon, QVC. QVC is broadcast over there air here in Chicago and the livestream is available for free over YouTube.
Is shopping from home a form of literacy? It would be hard to argue that it is, but I can’t help seeing connections to QVC and today’s reading. Let’s look at two forms of shopping over the television: Shopping Networks (QVC, Home Shopping Network, etc) and infomercials (Ron Popeil, Magic Bullet, etc). I see a direct relationship between the gendered content of Ladies Home Journal and QVC and Saturday Evening Post and infomercials.
When you watch QVC men are almost never mentioned. Even though several of the hosts are men, and many of the products sold are used by men. I also know men purchase items from QVC because I am a man and I ordered the 2105 Holiday Barbie to use as my Christmas tree topper. The price was a real bargain! Viewers are rarely encouraged to purchase something for their son or husband but are often encouraged to purchase a gift for their mother or daughter. QVC is live 24 hours a day 7 days a week and it is a masterwork of timing. Each set lasts only a few minutes and the planning for the set starts hours in advance. Imagine a set on cookware where the host must open the lid to a pot to reveal a perfectly cooked chicken at 3:47pm and a perfectly cooked roast to 3:49 pm. There is no detail left unattended and this includes the gendered language of the hosts.
Now lets look at one of the greatest hours available on television, The Magic Bullet Show. One morning a group of men and women wake up in a mansion after what was obviously a swinging orgy. People get touched like they’ve never been touched before and Ethel emerges disheveled and smoking a cigarette. The hosts immediately wow the assembled with the kitchen wizardry of The Magic Bullet. There is not time for crying in Magic Bullet Land so onions are diced with ease. This is obviously the great grandchild of the Saturday Evening Post. Ron Popiel attempted an infomercial directed only to men, Hair in a Can, and it flopped. The Magic Bullet show broadened the audience for men and women and is a rip roaring success.
Watching TV is not reading necessarily reading, but we cannot ignore the role print media played in hour television is produced. When the idea for individual 30 second commercial on television gained ground (as opposed to to a single sponsor for a single show like the 40 Mule Team Borax Theater Hour) they were called magazine commercials. Some of the issues brought up in the reading also apply here. Why are people watching QVC? Is it to find a bargain or are they bored out of their wits at 3am and need the soothing flamboyance of Alberti Papaj to get them through the night?
Seriously, spend some time watching QVC. It is quality TV. Though I don’t recommend having cocktails while you do it because you could wind up with a 2015 Holiday Barbie to use as a Christmas tree topper.