But one critical tendency gives me pause: the narrowed ascription of what middle-class life means in postwar America. There is a particular critical readings (such as McNiven's argument about architecture in Ray and Sirk, or for that matter Fassbinder's reworking of All that Heaven Allows) that reads Douglas Sirk as a critical commentary on television in middle-class life.
Fine as it goes, only Sirk was not alone in critiquing television. It seems that the middle class – or certain fractions of it and the mainstream culture addressed to it – loved to see TV as a problem. This is true in a social problem film like Face in the Crowd, which centers thematically on the corrupting role of mass media on the public sphere. But it is elsewhere, too, as in The Last Hurrah (John Ford, 1958), the cinema looks at television and sees it as lacking.
The bemusement at televisual political marketing comes from the novel, but I think the film version does something different than the literary source. In the book, the prime axis of difference is between the mass mediated and the unmediated, between marketed politics and retail politics. In the movie, the prime axis is between TV artifice and (implied) cinematic reality. TV becomes a problem not because it replaces an unmediated sociality but because it is crasser and inferior to movies.