SERIES EDITOR’S FOREWORD
Looking across the array of ongoing public debates concerning television, it is striking to note how fiercely contested the ones revolving around human sexuality and its representation tend to be. From one society to the next, alarm bells are recurrently being sounded, not least by those intent on holding television culpable for undermining what they consider to be proper moral values or standards of taste and decency. Typically, much is made of the perceived power of television to influence public attitudes unduly in this regard – witness, for example, the extraordinary furore ignited when singer Janet Jackson’s ‘wardrobe malfunction’ left her breast briefly exposed on US television. ‘It took the Bush administration 10 months to launch an inquiry into the apparent failures of intelligence in the lead-up to the war on Iraq’, remarked journalist Marina Hyde at the time. ‘It took them less than eight hours to launch a full-scale probe into the apparent failure of Jackson’s undergarments in the course of a televised performance during the Super Bowl halftime’ (Guardian, 7 February 2004).
Jane Arthurs’s Television and Sexuality is a welcome exploration of this hotly contested terrain. It succeeds in drawing together disparate strands of critique into an innovative interpretive framework, always with an eye to engendering fresh insights into the cultural politics of sexuality. In the course of showing how – and why – the boundaries demarcating what it is appropriate for television to depict are fraught with tension, Arthurs devotes particular attention to the ways audiences are addressed as both sexual citizens and sexual consumers. Accordingly, she examines how different television genres – including comedy, drama, news, current affairs, science documentaries and ‘soft-core’ pornography, among others – legitimize, to varying degrees, certain uses and pleasures for imagined communities of taste within the constraints of wider regulatory codes. Television in a digital age, she argues, has a crucial role to play both within the personal sphere in the formation of our sexual selves and as a public sphere that contributes to political debate about sexual practices and their
SERIES EDITOR’S FOREWORD I О
representation. Indeed, it is in unravelling the connections between the personal and the public, she believes, that television’s impact can be most effectively discerned for analysis. In charting ways forward, Television and Sexuality seeks to challenge familiar assumptions about sexual citizenship in ways that resist the dangers of state paternalism without, at the same time, capitulating to the narcissistic individualism of consumer culture.
The Issues in Cultural and Media Studies series aims to facilitate a diverse range of critical investigations into pressing questions considered to be central to current thinking and research. In the light of the remarkable speed at which the conceptual agendas of cultural and media studies are changing, the series is committed to contributing to what is an ongoing process of re-evaluation and critique. Each of the books is intended to provide a lively, innovative and comprehensive introduction to a specific topical issue from a fresh perspective. The reader is offered a thorough grounding in the most salient debates indicative of the book’s subject, as well as important insights into how new modes of enquiry may be established for future explorations. Taken as a whole, then, the series is designed to cover the core components of cultural and media studies courses in an imaginatively distinctive and engaging manner.