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The Making of American Audiences

28 Nov 2017Essay Samples

The Making of American Audiences: From Stage to Television 1750-1990 by Richard Butsch: An analysis

The Making of American Audiences: From Stage to Television 1750-1990 by Richard Butsch is a comprehensive survey of American entertainment audiences from the colonial period to the present. It provides coverage of the theatre, opera, vaudeville minstrelsy, movies, radio and television. (Butsch 2000)

Butsch, who is a professor of sociology, winner of the 2000 Cawelti Book Award of the American Culture Association for the insightful authorship of his book The Making of American Audiences: From Stage to Television 1750-1990 examines the evolution of the audience practices from each genre and compares it to the primary popular entertainment at the time. (Butsch 2000)

The Making of American Audiences: From Stage to Television 1750-1990, is Butch’s second book, in 1990 his book For Fun and Profit: The Transformation of Leisure into Consumption, was published with that book Butsch discusses the commericalization of leisure and how leisure changed into a business. (Butsch 2000)

Butsch has also been the author of other papers within major academic journals such as American Quarterly; Media, Culture and Society; and Critical Studies in Mass Communication. (Butsch 2000)

Whilst researching his book The Making of American Audiences, Butsch was awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation, this was carried out through the American Sociological Association, a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, and research grants and leaves from Rider. (Butsch 2000)

The Making of American Audiences, traces the line and change in audiences through time including any worries and problems that they may have faced over the two and half centuries that the book covers. (Butsch 2000)

Butsch examines the drama theatre and all forms of variety entertainment, through their developing stages as each one over took the other in the primary roles of entertaining the public whether in the home or in the theatre (Butsch 2000)

When his book was published last year, Butsch explained, "Moral panics recurred time and again about the debilitating influences of movies, radio and television on people of subordinate status, typically children, but also the working class, poor blacks and immigrants." (Butsch 2000)

The book is based upon original research carried out and exposes how audiences were made through their surrogate practices, how they asserted their control over certain forms of entertainment coupled with their own behavior. (Butsch 2000)

Butsch demonstrates two forms of long term processes, one of these is pacification and the other is privatization, it was discovered that during the nineteenth century audiences were overactive in nature and many represented a threat to civic order through their behavior which in many cases were unruly and rough. (Butsch 2000)

Although these audiences were expected to be actively involved and even rowdy, by the middle of the nineteenth century, theater manages became more adept at controlling their audiences coupled with the aim of managing to attract a middle class customer.

Moreover in the twentieth century, the audiences became more passive and dependent and vulnerable to the control of messages by the media. The study as carried out by Butsch gives an important and cultural contribution to the research in communicative mediums coupled with American cultural history and cultural studies.

There are nineteen chapters in the study these are as follows. (Butsch 2000)

Introduction: participative public, passive private?;

  1. Colonial theater, privileged audiences;
  2. Drama in early Republican audiences;
  3. The b’hoys in Jacksonian theaters;
  4. Knowledge and the demise of audience sovereignty;
  5. Matinee ladies: re-gendering theater audiences;
  6. Blackface, whiteface: ‘gentlemen, be seated’;
  7. Variety, liquor and lust;
  8. Vaudeville, incorporated;
  9. ‘Legitimate’ and ‘illegitimate’: theater around the turn of the century;
  10. Pictorial essay;
  11. The celluloid stage: nickelodeon audiences;
  12. Storefronts to theaters: seeking the middle class;
  13. Voices from the ether: early radio broadcasting;
  14. Radio cabinets and network chains;
  15. Rural radio: ‘we are seldom lonely anymore’;
  16. Fear and dreams: public discourses about radio;
  17. The electronic cyclops: fifties television;
  18. A TV in every home: television ‘effects’;
  19. Homevideo: viewer autonomy?

Conclusion: from effects to resistance and beyond. (Butsch 2000)

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References

  • (Butsch 2000) R The Making of American Audiences: From Stage to Television 1750-1990 Cambridge Studies in the History of Mass Communication (2000)   

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