As I completed my readings for class today I first read from Gill and then continued with the reading from Radway. In retrospect, I perhaps should have reversed the order of my readings because I went into reading Radway’s article with a critical lens because Gill discusses the critiques of Women Read the Romance, especially Ang who felt that “Radway fails to take pleasure seriously in its own right because it is always read in terms of its ideological function” (Gill 2007: 20). Regardless of the order in which I read these pieces I felt that they both spoke to me on a very personal level.
I found Gill’s section about audience studies to be a refreshing change of perspective when looking at media and their effects. I enjoyed the reference to the hypodermic needle model of mass communication scholars and that I was able to actually understand what she was talking about because of Media Structures. Additionally, I was particularly drawn to the part about ethnographic studies of audiences. I am a Sociology/Anthropology major so ethnography is something that I am familiar with and have actually done before. As I was reading about the use of ethnography in studying audiences and their responses to media I was reminded of my own ethnographic experiences and I could easily see the value in conducting a study in this way. Ethnography allows you to evaluate something on a qualitative level, moving beyond numbers to give meaning to certain phenomena. I truly enjoyed making the link between this reading and my own major (and personal experiences).
One of the most distinct childhood memories I have is of my mother watching soap operas while she ironed in the summers. My brother and I, because we were on summer break, would always annoy her to watch something else but she was insistent that this way her time and she would watch what she wanted. Reading Radway’s article allowed me to look back on these moments with a new perspective. Not only did the idea that women often mix pleasurable activities and domestic chores resonate with me, but the importance of these soap operas to my mother took on an entirely new shape. In the end I have to agree with Ang that Radway was perhaps too harsh of the women of Smithton, to these women romance novels held the power of a magical escape, not an ideological message.