Telethons: Spectacle, Disability, and the Business of Charity by Paul K. LongmoreTelethons: Spectacle, Disability, and the Business of Charity by Paul K. Longmore

Telethons: Spectacle, Disability, and the Business of Charity

byPaul K. Longmore

Hardcover | February 4, 2016

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Movie stars, entertainers, game-show hosts, jugglers, plate-spinners, gospel choirs, corporate executives posing with over-sized checks, household name-brand products, smiling children in leg braces - all were fixtures of the phenomenon that defined American culture in the second half of thetwentieth century: the telethon. Hundreds of millions watched these weekend-long variety shows that raised billions of dollars for disability-related charities. Drawing on over two decades of in-depth research, Telethons trenchantly explores the complexity underneath the campy spectacles. At itscenter are the disabled children, who, thanks to a particular kind of historical-cultural marginalization, turned out to be ideal tools for promoting corporate interests, privatized healthcare, and class status. Offering a public message about helping these unfortunate victims, telethons perpetuateda misleading image of people with disabilities as helpless, passive, apolitical members of American society. Paul K. Longmore's revelatory chronicle shows how these images in fact helped major corporations increase their bottom lines, while filling gaps in the strange public-private hybrid insurance system. Only once disabled people pushed back in public protests did the broader implications for all Americans become clear. Mining insights from great thinkers such as Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, and Alexis de Tocqueville, along with contemporary cultural figures like Jerry Lewis, Ralph Nader, and several disability rights activists, Telethons offers a provocative meditation on big business, American government, popularculture, Cold War values, and "activism" both narrowly and broadly defined. As highly popular entertainment, telethons schooled Americans about how to feel about their bodies, fitness, health, and appropriate ways to interact with people whose bodies did not fit norms determined by advertisers. Theprograms also taught them about when to weep and how to cure guilt through "conspicuous contribution." Longmore's astute observations about psychology, economics, and society reveal how writing off telethons as kitsch and irrelevant has enabled many individual attitudes, corporate practices, andgovernment policies to go unquestioned. Ultimately, Telethons reveals the passion, humanity, resistance, and triumph that were not center-stage on these popular telecasts by offering insights into the U.S. disability movement past and present.
Paul K. Longmore was a respected disability rights activist and Professor of History at San Francisco State University until his unexpected death in 2010. His previous books include The Invention of George Washington and Why I Burned My Book and Other Essays on Disability. Longmore lived with significant mobility impairments as a resul...
Title:Telethons: Spectacle, Disability, and the Business of CharityFormat:HardcoverDimensions:360 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.98 inPublished:February 4, 2016Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0190262079

ISBN - 13:9780190262075

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Table of Contents

AbbreviationsEditors' NoteIntroduction1. Charity Professionals: Ambivalent Generosity and the New Business of Philanthropy2. Neither Public Nor Private: Telethons in the U.S. Health and Welfare System3. The Hidden Politics of Telethons: Where Volunteerism, Government, and Business Meet4. "They've Got a Good Thing with Us and We've Got a Good Thing with Them": Telethons and Cause-Related Marketing5. Givers and Takers: Conspicuous Contribution and a Distinctly American Moral Community6. Dignity Thieves: Greed, Generosity, and Objects of Charity7. Suffering as Spectacle: Pity, Pathos, and Ideology8. "Look at Us We're Walking": Cure-Seekers, Invalids and Overcomers9. American and Un-American Bodies: Searching for Fitness through Technology and Sport10. Smashing Icons: Gender, Sexuality, and Disability11. "Heaven's Special Child": The Making of Poster Children12. Family Burdens: Parents, Children, and Disability13. Jerry's Kids Grow Up: Disability Rights Activists and TelethonsConclusion: The End of Telethons and Challenges for Disability RightsAfterwordNotes

Editorial Reviews

"Telethons is Paul Longmore's posthumous tour de force. His history of the telethon gives readers a wide and expansive lens that reveals how this particularly American spectacle advances a skewed national mythology and ideology. This book is a must-read not just for students of culture andsociety about disability, disease, and medicine, but for anyone interested in twentieth- and twenty-first-century cultural and social American history." --Ruth O'Brien, author of Crippled Justice: The History of Modern Disability Policy in the Workplace