Media and the ‘Culture Wars’
Barack Obama hoped to foster a new spirit of unity in a notoriously divided country. But conservative news networks like Fox lost no time in attacking him, and have enjoyed record ratings. Fox’s Glenn Beck adorned the cover of Time Magazine this year – "the biggest thing in the political rant racket right now", they called him. And their newest recruit is Sarah Palin, whose autobiography was the publishing sensation of 2009. So – have the so-called "culture wars" got bloodier than ever?
Millions celebrated the day Barack Obama was elected President of the United States, but for the US comedy and satire industry it was a moment when the rules seemed to be re-drawn. But a year on, are the comedians back on target? We asked the British comedian Jon Oliver – who appears on the popular, liberal-leaning comedy programme 'The Daily Show with John Stewart' , for his take.
Barack Obama’s election was hailed as the event that would change racial politics in America forever. But after the Henry Louis Gates race row, the Tiger Woods affair, and an economic crisis which is crippling poor African Americans as much as anyone – have things changed for the better? New York Times columnist Charles Blow give us his take.
There’s a black nuclear family in the White House, but our panel will be discussing a very different representation of African American family life as seen in Lee Daniels’ new film, “Precious”. Released in the UK next week, the film is about an overweight and abused black teenager. it’s provoked mixed reactions in the States. Oprah Winfrey gave it financial backing, others have branded it racist. We’ve been speaking to director Lee Daniels about these criticisms, and we’ll be asking our guests how the film fits into a post-Obama, post-racial world.
Obama as Che Guevara, as Kennedy, Lincoln, and as the Joker in Batman; Michelle as the new Jackie O. Images of the president and first lady have been used and abused on billboards, t-shirts, mugs and the internet. We’ll discuss the iconography of the president.
This week's guests
This week Kirsty is joined by Sarah Churchwell, Ross Douthat, Bonnie Greer and Hari Kunzru. Find out more about the guests below:
Sarah Churchwell is a writer and academic, lecturing in the School of American Studies at the University of East Anglia since 1999.
She was raised outside of Chicago, before earning her BA with honours in English literature at Vassar College and her MA and PhD in English and American literature from Princeton University.
Her first book, The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe, which looks at the many biographical inventions of Marilyn, was published by Granta Books (UK) in 2004, and Metropolitan Books (US) in 2005.
In addition to publishing scholarly articles on American politics, literature, film, culture, and short fiction, she also reviews regularly for the TLS, and occasionally for the Observer, and The New York Times. She lives in London.
Ross Douthat joined The New York Times as an Op-Ed columnist in April 2009. Previously, he was a senior editor at the Atlantic and a blogger for theatlantic.com. He is the author of "Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class" (Hyperion, 2005) and the co-author, with Reihan Salam, of "Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream" (Doubleday, 2008). He is the film critic for National Review. A native of New Haven, Connecticut, he now lives in Washington, D.C
Bonnie Greer has written radio plays for Radio 3 and 4 including a translation of The Little Prince. Her plays include Munda Negra (1993) concerning the mental health problems of black women, Dancing On Blackwater (1994) and Jitterbug (2001), and the musicals Solid and Marilyn and Ella. She is the author of two novels: Hanging by Her Teeth (1994) and Entropy (2009).
On the 1st April 2005 she was appointed to the British Museum's Board of Trustees with effect from 4 April 2005 for a period of four years. On the 10th December 2008 the Prime Minister announced that he had re-appointed Bonnie Greer as a Trustee of the British Museum and on 26 March 2009 she was promoted to Deputy Chairman.
Bonnie was born in Chicago and her latest book is ‘Obama Music’, about the cultural background of Barack Obama.
Hari Kunzru is a novelist living in New York. He was born in 1969, and grew up in Essex. He studied English at Oxford University, then gained an MA in Philosophy and Literature from Warwick University.
In 1999 he was named The Observer Young Travel Writer of the Year, and in 2004 he became a member of the Executive Council of English PEN
He has had short stories published in various magazines, and his first novel, The Impressionist (2002), won the 2002 Betty Trask Prize and the 2003 Somerset Maugham award and was also shortlisted for several awards, including the 2002 Whitbread First Novel Award. His second novel, Transmission (2004), centres on Arjun Mehta, a computer programmer, who lands a new job in America's Silicon Valley, only to find things do not turn out as he imagines. This won him the inagural 'decibel' award at the British Book Awards and was named a New York Times notable book of the year. In 2005 he published Noise, a short story collection.
In 2003, Hari Kunzru was named by Granta magazine as one of twenty 'Best of Young British Novelists'.
- Kirsty Wark