"Finally, I have my mother back": Politicians and their families in popular culture

Liesbet Van Zoonen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


In this article, the meaning of popular culture for political communication is analyzed - in theoretical and empirical terms - by examining coverage of Dutch female and male politicians in gossip magazines over a period of twenty years. It is argued that the unlikely articulation of politics with popular culture is achieved through a personalization of politics in which the moral behavior and attitudes of politicians are central. Virtue, however, is constructed differently for women and men, which is especially evident in the coverage of family lives. For male politicians, family lives present an opportunity to show their reliability and integrity.The coverage of the families of female politicians, however, indicates women's split responsibilities between public and private duties. In general, the schematic and dichotomous moral schemes of popular culture tend to construct politicians as moral icons, which prevents an informed evaluation of how their private lives affect their public performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-64
Number of pages17
JournalHarvard International Journal of Press/Politics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1998


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