Joshua Gamson

Joshua Gamson is a professor of sociology at University of San Fransisco and author of Freaks Talk Back and Claims to Fame.

Recent Articles

Performance Art: The Gods of Shopping

It is no secret that shopping and religion are close relatives in America -- money is God, God is heavily marketed, and then there's "Christian rock" -- but it sure does help to be reminded sometimes. Not surprisingly, neither advertiser-driven media nor religious leaders like to make the connection. But every once in a while, out along the edges, someone else does to great effect, usually by satirizing self-appointed spiritual leaders whose God keeps telling them to solicit our cash and buy themselves a really fancy house.

Tabloids: Elvis is Dead

One depends upon a tabloid like The National Enquirer, whether surreptitiously in the supermarket checkout line, or luxuriantly and unapologetically over a nice bowl of soup, to be sleazy in its journalistic style, juicy in its revelations, skewering in its attitudes toward celebrities' privileges, and worshipful toward their diets, addictions, recoveries, charitable activities, and alien visitations. It is therefore disappointing to find that The National Enquirer: Thirty Years of Unforgettable Images, the photograph collection recently published by Disney-owned Talk Miramax books, has been considerably sanitized for its appearance on coffee tables.

The Web of Celebrity

In August, Cindy Margolis kicked off The Cindy Margolis Show, a variety show taped in Miami's South Beach for Eyemark Entertainment, CBS's syndication wing. Margolis is a thirty-something former Cal State Northridge business student- turned-model who distinguished herself from other former business students-turned-models in the mid-1990s not so much through her appearances on greeting cards or as a "Barker's Beauty" on The Price is Right or a nipple-gunning "fembot" in Austin Powers as by launching an Internet site,, featuring photos of her friendly, curvy self. She became, according to Guinness World Records 2000, the Most Downloaded Woman in the world.


"It's amazing how you always manage to work anal intercourse into the conversation," Debbie, the colorful waitress-with-a-heart-of-gold and suffocatingly supportive mother of one of the central characters on Showtime's Queer as Folk (premiering December 3), says to her son and his friends. Indeed, the first few of the 22 episodes of the show--an American adaptation of last year's controversial hit British series--feature references not just to anal intercourse, but also to rimming, nipple play, "dykes going down on each other," the protein content of semen, a porn movie called Schindler's Fist, Internet strippers, "a guy with Brazilian beach parasites in his ass," tops and bottoms, erections, and butt plugs.

Double Agents

In 1996 the Central Intelligence Agency, having taken many well-deserved
public-relations hits over the years, hired a full-time "entertainment liaison
officer"--a veteran paramilitary operative with the movie-hero name of Chase
Brandon. Until September 11, the strategy seemed to be paying off. The CIA was
set to star in three new network series: ABC's Alias would center on a
gorgeous, kickboxing grad student/secret agent who would give the agency's image
girl-power oomph. The Agency, on CBS, would offer a big, earnest salute to
American spies, inviting viewers to "step inside the secret world of the CIA."
And Fox's 24 would take an entire TV season to depict a single day in the