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

Other People's Money

It is not without significance that the title of the hit TV show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire contains no question mark. It's not so much a challenge as a chipper invitation, as in, "Who wants candy." Not only does the show correctly assume that everybody wants to be a millionaire--what's not to want?--but, more importantly, it suggests that anybody can be. This well-lit re-enactment of the American dream is especially dramatic in a time of such enormous disparity between the obscenely rich and everybody else. The people on the bottom end no doubt know exactly how entertaining that fact is, but a large number of reasonably comfortable people are ready to dream without question marks.

The Culture Wars

By far the most sensational moment of the Brooklyn Museum of Art's "Sensation" exhibit--more exciting than the shark in a tank, the mutant mannequin girls with penises coming out of their foreheads, or the stinky, bloody, maggot-infested cow's head; more thrilling than Mayor Giuliani's scripted obscenity attack or the museum's scripted First Amendment defense--was provided by Dennis Heiner, a 72-year-old retired teacher and devout Catholic. Heiner smuggled white latex paint into the museum in an empty hand-lotion container, slipped behind the plexiglass protecting Chris Ofili's elephant-dung-adorned The Holy Virgin Mary, squirted the painting, and smeared the paint around with his hands.

Psychic Friends Network

Aliens are still poking around on television, though by now you'd think they'd have found what they were looking for, and God has certainly been holding His own on TV lately, what with angels and miracles and the like. But now, finally, dead people are making something of a play--or, rather, the people that dead people talk to and appear in front of and otherwise generally pester. On Saturday nights, they have their own network show, and with excellent patrons: X-Files producers, the directors of Gods and Monsters, The Shining, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and even Steven Spielberg, whose DreamWorks Television is their home.