Added: October 6, 2018 – Last updated: April 6, 2019


Author: Sujata Moorti

Title: Cathartic Confessions or Emancipatory Texts?

Subtitle: Rape Narratives on The Oprah Winfrey Show

Journal: Social Text


Issue: 57

Year: Winter 1998

Pages: 83-102

ISSN: 0164-2472 – Find a Library: WordCat | eISSN: 1527-1951 – Find a Library: WordCat

Language: English

Keywords: Modern History: 20th Century | American History: U.S. History | Representations: Television / 20thCentury Television; Victims: Narratives / Narrative Studies


Link: JSTOR (Restricted Access)


Author: Sujata Moorti, Program in Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies, Middlebury College


  Ritualized Narratives (p. 86)
  Performing Pain (p. 88)
  Loquacious Narration of Sex (p. 90)
  Fragmented Oppositional Discourses (p. 96)
  Notes (p. 99)

Excerpt: »Over the last twenty years, daytime talk shows have become an integral part of the television programming lineup in the United States. In 1995, more than 15 million people tuned in daily to watch Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show; it attracted a greater number of female viewers than news programs, nighttime talk shows, morning network programs, and any sin- gle daytime soap opera. Although cultural critics, politicians, and journal- ists have been harsh in condemning the form and content of talk shows, their popularity among daytime audiences combined with the economics of production have ensured this genre a stable place in the television schedule. Criticisms of talk shows invariably point out the sensational nature of the topics discussed; critics argue that the programs appeal to the prurient interests of the largely female audience and do not serve the "public good." Contradicting these criticisms, in this essay I argue that daytime talk shows, where guests and audience members bare intimate details of their lives for public debate, should be integrated in discussions about the role of television in democratic society. Examining Oprah episodes on rape and acquaintance rape that aired between 1989 and 1991, I argue that these programs help us reconceptualize the public spheres constituted by the media. Partially endorsing Winfrey's state- ment in the epigraph, I suggest that in the area of sexual violence these daytime programs are useful as sites of information because they make available a plurality of positions reflecting different social understandings of the issue. This analysis reveals that these Oprah episodes on rape often move beyond a discussion of individual cases to create a protofeminist dis- cursive space: they foreground the pain and violence that result from sex- ual violence, not the legal and police procedures involved in naming an act as rape.« (Source: Article)

Wikipedia: History of the Americas: History of the United States / History of the United States (1980–1991) | Sex and the law: Rape / Rape in the United States | Television: Talk show / The Oprah Winfrey Show