Cover image for Consuming environments : television and commercial culture
Consuming environments : television and commercial culture
Budd, Mike, 1944-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Brunswick, N.J. : Rutgers University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xix, 225 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library PN1992.6 .B79 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Whether we love it, hate it, or use it just to pass the time, most adults in the United States are watching more television than ever, up to four hours a day by some estimates. Our devotion to commercial television gives it unprecedented power in our lives.

Advertisers and television executives want us to spend as much time as we can in front of our sets, for it is access to our brains that they buy and sell. Yet the most important effect of television may be one that no one intends-accelerated destruction of the natural environment.

Consuming Environments explores how, with its portrayals of a world of simulated abundance, television has nurtured a culture of consumerism and overconsumption. The average person in the U.S. consumes more than twice the grain and ten times the oil of a citizen of Brazil or Indonesia. And people in less industrialized countries suffer while their resources are commandeered to support comfortable lifestyles in richer nations.

Using detailed examples illustrated with images from actual commercials, news broadcasts, and television shows, the authors demonstrate how ads and programs are put together in complex ways to manipulate viewers, and they offer specific ways to counteract the effects of TV and overconsumption's assault on the environment.

Author Notes

Mike Budd is a professor of communication and the director of the film and video program at Florida Atlantic University. He is editor of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Steve Craig is a professor and the chair of the department of radio, television, and film at the University of North Texas. He is editor of Men, Masculinity, and the Media. Clay Steinman is a professor and the chair of communication studies at Macalester College.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Where interest in critical analyses of pop culture is strong, these studies should attract readers. Budd and his coauthors are media scholars. They examine TV's political economy; use textual analysis to probe its effects, visible and invisible; draw on audience studies to discern differences in response "along lines of wealth, ethnicity, and gender"; consider the limited ways commercial TV tries to address the needs of an increasingly fragmented audience; and assess the impact of TV's individualized virtual reality on participation in personal relationships and involvement with the environment. By encouraging unreasoning consumption, they maintain, TV accelerates the destruction of the natural environment. But the authors are not Luddites; their final chapter, "From Consumers to Activists," offers viewers suggestions on dealing with the tube. Mass Politics is a collection of essays on topics at the intersection of politics and pop culture. Part 1, on gender politics, covers both Murphy Brown and the Spice Girls and includes Mariah Burton Nelson's notable "The Stronger Women Get, the More Men Love Football." In part 2, on race and sports, topics include college sports, team mascots, violent songs, and racially weighted corporate symbols. In part 3, "Entertainment and the Politics of Class," Michael Parenti discusses affluence in its many guises and the media; other authors take on Howard Stern and country music. Part 4, "Decline of Civil Society," contains the work of an odd foursome: Robert Bork, Oliver Stone, Michael Medved, and Mary Pipher. --Mary Carroll

Choice Review

Budd, Craig, and Steinman (Florida Atlantic Univ., Univ. of North Texas, and Macalester College, respectively) explore "how much TV people watch, why they watch so much, and what they see," emphasizing a critical examination of the commercial culture and how its "priorities affect the content and form of television shows." The volume reviews the roles of television and the environment in which it operates; provides an overview of television economics, advertisers, and their audiences (with some useful commercial storyboard examples); explores what the authors call "signification," discourse, and ideology; reviews some television realisms (with some cinema thinking evident); assesses television's role in the flow of commodities; and, finally, suggests ways to move television viewers from passive consumers to activists. The authors make their point of view clear in the conclusion--"we need to find the exit signs [from the existing system of television]--and help to build the exits." The authors do a good job of describing television's current structure and operation, but they also make clear that they disagree with much of what the system produces--advocating such activist options as consumer groups, community television, and modes of promoting a more diverse system. The volume makes good use of case studies and is readily accessible to undergraduates and above. C. Sterling George Washington University

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