The retail trade has undergone tremendous changes over the course of the twentieth century in the United States, and media narratives have reflected these changes. Media Representations of Retail Work in America explores representations of retail workers in popular media. Offering close readings of various texts including films, television shows, advertisements, and internet memes, Brittany R. Clark traces the development of the trade as a career opportunity that required a distinct set of skills in the early twentieth century until today, when the job has been deskilled and retail workers struggle with low pay and lack of benefits.
Brittany R. Clark is lecturer in the English department at Clemson University.
Chapter 1: Advertising the Empire: Selfridge Advertisements at the Turn of the Century
Chapter 2: Cinderella at the Palace of Consumption: Depictions of Retail on Film in the Early 20th Century
Chapter 3: The White Stuff: Passing Narratives and the Department Store in Lovecraft Country’s “A Strange Case”
Chapter 4: The Oleson’s Know Best: Little House on the Prairie’s Reflection of Cultural Distrust in the 1970s
Chapter 5: The Manchild Behind the Counter: Depictions of Retail on Film in the Late 20th and Early 21st Centuries
Chapter 6: I Was a Retail Salesperson: An Examination of Two Memoirs About Working in Retail
Chapter 7: Superstore: A Modern Working-Class Sitcom?
Chapter 8: I Hate My Job (But I Love Tweeting About It): Deconstructing Short-Form Narratives About Retail Work in Internet Spaces
Media Representations of Retail Work in America provides a vital and sympathetic analysis of one of the largest classes of workers whose identity and image in popular culture has not yet received its due. Brittany R. Clark deftly applies the concept of ‘othering’ to ‘class tourists’—writers who became workers but remain apart from their peers on the job—and also provides a sharp analysis of the corporate ‘deskilling’ of these workers to enhance profits. Readers who have worked in retail will recognize the writer as an astute fellow traveler while the rest of us with her help will penetrate perhaps for the first time the thin working-class line between us and retail workers.