Scandal, social conditions, and the creation of public attention: Fatty Arbuckle and the "problem of hollywood"

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48 Scopus citations

Abstract

Although social constructionism is the dominant perspective for examining the growth of social problems, this orientation systematically neglects the conditions that produce the recognition of social problems. The approach examines the effects of claims without attending to conditions that lead to these claims - conditions grounded in the interaction between culture and agency: looking forward from the claim, not back. In contrast, I argue from a position of "cautious naturalism" that sociologists should analyze conditions that generate public attention, seeing structure as providing constraints on interpretations. If these conditions are not "objective," neither are they "mere" rhetorical constructions. To this end I draw upon Smelser's "value-added" model, incorporating it within a constructionist model and applying it to the depiction of scandals. Specifically, I examine conditions that led to the public attention given to the 1921 trial of comedian Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle for manslaughter, and how this event played out through claimsmakers' activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)297-323
Number of pages27
JournalSocial Problems
Volume44
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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