Hillary Clinton in the News: Gender and Authenticity in American Politics. By Shawn J. Parry-Giles. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2014. 258 pp.
Hillary Clinton in the News analyzes the verbal and visual texts of over 1,200 television news broadcasts to build an assiduous account of its titular subject's remarkable career in the political spotlight. The book examines how American television networks constructed news frames based on gendered expectations for Hillary Clinton's performance as a presidential candidate's spouse, a First Lady, a legislative activist, a legal defendant, a scorned wife, and a U.S. Senate candidate. Shawn J. Parry-Giles borrows from a diverse group of scholarly literatures--including political science, postmodernism, mass communication theory, and critical-cultural studies--to conduct an inquiry that fits most comfortably in the fields of communication and media studies. The project makes worthwhile contributions to scholarly discussions regarding news framing, women in politics, and political figures' perceived authenticity.
The book relies on the concept of news frames for its interpretive footing. Three types of baseline news frames are relevant to the study: stock frames, residual frames, and linguistic frames. In the case at hand, they explain how early characterizations of Hillary Clinton as a "lightning rod" and recurring references to the "Hillary Factor" (p. 26) persisted and evolved throughout her career. The use of news frames as an interpretive lens brings the trials and triumphs of Clinton's career under the media's scrutiny into sharp focus. Furthermore, the book's vocabulary here is so clear and useful that it could serve as the foundation for analyses of news coverage of any number of other high-profile political figures.
Of course, framing is a visual concept as much as it is a verbal one. American news media reacted to the presence of a powerful woman in a traditionally male-dominated space by adopting a policy of intense surveillance. With that circumstance in mind, Parry-Giles condemns the pseudoscience of physiognomy, or the idea that one's mood and character can be accurately assessed simply by observing facial expressions. Television news media routinely encouraged audiences to search Clinton's face for evidence of her motives and sense of morality. When crafting visuals to accompany their news pieces, broadcast networks selected stock photographs of Clinton that best fit their narrative, without...