By Dominic Strinati, Stephen Wagg

This advent to well known media tradition in Britain discusses the ways that pop culture should be studied, understood and liked, and covers its key analytical concerns and a few of its most vital tactics.

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Extra resources for Come on down?: popular media culture in post-war Britain

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Woman had reached a readership of 1 million immediately after the war, and by 1965 it could boast sales of 3 million and could claim that it was read by 40 per cent of the female population. But if the popular women’s magazines were exhorting women to turn to the creation of homes fit for heroes and to return to the domestic front, women themselves and the heroines of popular novels were less acquiescent. Although the popular version of history (echoed by Cecil) is that those women who had worked during the war quietly went back to the home with the return of their men, and a look at the women’s magazines of the period would suggest that this indeed was the case, the drift away from work was nothing like as sharp as it was in the image promoted by Woman and Woman’s Own.

They constantly rework and re-present the double demands on woman of an ideology of femininity and one of domesticity. The woman is required to enter the floating work population when required (as during the war), but is presented primarily as homemaker and the linchpin of domestic labour. One of the unwavering rules of the contemporary Mills & Boon romance is that the hero should be in a more powerful position than the heroine; the 1985 Mills & Boon advice sheet to potential authors suggests that the ‘gentleman must be rich and/or powerful’, and goes on to recommend that ‘the hero is meant to be a man of authority, used to being obeyed, he should be shown as such and the other characters react to him accordingly’.

It was for the Doctor and Nurse titles that Harlequin, the Canadian romance company who were to take over Mills & Boon in 1972, initially approached the company, thus setting up the structure for a hugely commercial enterprise in popular fiction. Paperback publishing transformed the shape of book sales in the post-war period, in that paper-covered novels were the first books to have substantial sales outside bookshops. As the head of Harrap noted: ‘It has become abundantly clear that more than threequarters of the picture covered paperbacks are being sold outside the bookshops’ (quoted in Greenfield 1989:232).

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