Jane Rosenzweig

Jane Rosenzweig teaches writing at Harvard University.

Recent Articles

The Talking Cure

Y ou probably haven't heard of him, but Rob Nelson is working hard to change that. Nelson, the thirty-something host of the FOX News Channel's fledgling Saturday night talk show The Full Nelson , wants to run for political office (he doesn't say which office, but the show's audience coordinator cheerfully told me that she believes Nelson will be president some day), and becoming a widely recognized TV personality is a key part of his plan. If people get to know him by seeing him on television, Nelson reasons, they will be more likely to read his book Last Call: 10 Commonsense Solutions to America's Biggest Problems and grapple with his ideas, more likely to take an interest in political issues, more likely to exchange the disillusionment of the current era for a new, proactive idealism, and, somewhere along the line, more likely to register to vote and elect him to an office from which he can work effectively to reform the political system. What Nelson has called his "independent...

I am Woman, Hear Me Bore

W hen last I wrote in these pages about the portrayal of women on television, I argued that the creators of shows such as FOX's Ally McBeal and NBC's Providence seem unable to conceive of thirty-something women as concerned about anything other than marriage and childbearing. After perusing the offerings of Oxygen, the new cable television network created "by women, for women," I must amend my earlier assertion: Apparently, women of all ages are primarily interested in shopping. And thanks to Oxygen television and its companion Web sites, women can now not only shop from home, but can buy products recommended by the trusty hosts of shows like Pure Oxygen , the new TV station's daily two-hour talk show, or Trackers (talk for teens) or the Saturday morning show SheCommerce ("hot tips on best/new/coolest Web sites for style, home, kids and toys, software/electronics, sporting goods, books, videos, music and beauty--you name it"). To prepare us for all that shopping, Oxygen also provides...

Reality Lite

S o, like, okay. It's the first day of boarding school, and you're the new kid. Not only that, but you're not like these other boys. You're on scholarship. Your name is Will Krudski, and you feel guilty because you bought the school's entrance exam on the Internet. You know this was wrong, but you didn't know if you could pass the test on your own, and you had to. Your father hates you and he scares you, and you need, more than anything, to get out of his house. At your new school, Rawley Academy, all the kids are rich, including your roommate Scout. He's a decent guy, but he has his own issues: He's falling in love with a townie named Bella, and some heavy stuff is about to land on them. In the meantime, there's new-kid hazing to contend with, and you end up standing in the center of town in your underwear. Luckily, you're good looking--you and Scout look better in your boxers than most people look dressed--so when the girls in town laugh at...

All the President's Men

W hen the second season of NBC's West Wing premiered in October, with nine Emmys on the mantel and the lives of many key presidential staffers dangling in the balance thanks to last season's cliff-hanger assassination attempt, a stunning 25.1 million viewers tuned in to survey the damage. True, a bigger audience--about 50 million--watched the real presidential debate the night before, but that show tied up most of the major networks, and others carried it on tape delay. You practically had to turn the TV off to avoid it. Meanwhile, back in fantasyland a few weeks later, the Miss America 2000 pageant drew only 12.6 million viewers, just about half of The West Wing 's total. And there we were, suddenly, at the dawn of a new century--a nation that seemed to find less comfort in comparing women's breasts than in watching staffers in a fictional White House debate international tariffs and campaign finance reform. How is this possible? Lots of reasons, really. The dialogue...

The Capital of Loneliness

T he advent of television has long been associated with the beginning of the end of the "good old days." Historians, sociologists, filmmakers, and yes, even TV shows (think Brooklyn Bridge and The Wonder Years ) have explored this relationship. In his 1990 film Avalon, Barry Levinson heartbreakingly rendered the effects of TV on three generations of an immigrant family in Baltimore, Maryland, as frequent family gatherings were replaced by solitary TV dinners and aching loneliness. I was 20 years old when Avalon came out. The irony of watching it on video, alone in my parents' basement, didn't escape me. The experience left me feeling more palpably than ever before that I had missed out by not being part of the pre-TV, sing-around-the-piano generation. I thought of Avalon again while I was reading Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, Robert Putnam's recent book analyzing the role of television in society. Putnam argues that there is a strong correlation...

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