Listening to the radio
I absolutely loved this weeks readings – I felt they were written in a way that was easily understood, and that really related to individuals society, rather than just focussing on the developments of the technology. I didn’t realise how much radio influenced other media.
In the reading titled “A ‘Star of the airwaves: Peter Lorre – ‘master of the macabre’ and American radio programming”, I found it really interesting how the construction of Peter Lorres persona is discussed. Statistically, he features in more radio programmes as a horror subject, and yet it is believed that he is an on-screen horror actor. To me, this shows the influence of the human voice over an individuals perception of an actor, and thus their appearance on radio has more influence on an actors public persona than their appearance on screen. I was always quite opposed to the inclusion of any form of commentary in my own video works, but this article is making me reconsider that.
In the Michael Danesi reading “Pop Culture: Introductory Perspectives”, I was really interested in the comparisons drawn between religious figures and celebrities. It seems that contemporary religious figures are celebrities, as so many elements in society are influenced by them (media; economics; politics; cultural developments). A piece of art that demonstrates this worshipping of celebrities is Andy Warhols ‘Gold Marilyn Monroe’ (you can see it here: http://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/andy-warhol-gold-marilyn-monroe-1962 ). The use of the gold background, completely surrounding Marilyn Monroe is very like the religious icon paintings seen through out various periods in art history, and so by placing her portrait simply surrounded by gold, he is drawing links between the worshipping of celebrities, and the worshipping of religious icons. It’s such a simple idea, but I really think it speaks volumes about todays society; where celebrities latest mishaps are the focus of a large part of the media, often moving attention away from critical events within the world (I am currently thinking of the incident a month or so ago, where Miley Cyrus was the focus of the media spot light). Of course, we cannot produce magazines with Jesus/ Saints latest ‘mishap’ or slip up photographed, as they are deceased. If these saints existed in modern day culture, would we criticise them so much? They, just like celebrities, are only human… and so, it seems that we should allow celebrities to be human, too. Despite society’s worshipping of many celebrities, evidently many people are unable to present this appreciation in an appropriate way.
I found Sarah Thomas’s article very interesting just in the way that it shows how the media, in this case the radio, influenced and shaped the career of an artist and our memory of him. In the article Thomas tells the story of Peter Lorre, a film and radio actor from the 1930’s to the 1950’s. Thomas presents how during his film career Lorre portrayed a variety of characters but engraved in people’s memories as a macabre character because of his consistent radio performances and the macabre characters that he portrayed during his radio career.
I find it all very interesting because for me it raises questions about the powers that control hollywood and what happens if youd don’t want to play along with them.
I guess that we can find similar cases to Peter Lorre in some of today young starts such as Miley Cyrus and Rihanna that the media keeps talking about how outrageous they are. I guess that alot of this behavior really comes from the stars themselves, because thats who they are, but still the question that arises is how much of the persona that was created is the media portraying the person and how the star “contributes” to that persona that was created for him just so he could remain a star? Another question that comes to mind is what happens decide to rebel against that “persona” that was created for him? does he has a chance to succeed? For example we can take an actor like Sylvester Stallone that the media created for him the “persona” of Rambo, what happens if he decides to do shakespeare? Does his film as a chance to make it in the box office?
I really enjoyed the article on Peter Lorre’s radio personal “A ‘Star of the airwaves: Peter Lorre – ‘master of the macabre’ and American radio programming” and how culturally it molded and reinforced the perception of who and what Peter Lorre was as a person and an actor during his career. It really was a masterful endeavor of early PR work in my honest opinion.
Though perhaps the media has evolved and diversified to a point where it is not just radio but late night and morning shows as well as Social media such as Facebook and twitter that sever this same role today and how many celebrities of the film, television, music, and even the sports industry use these to create a “persona to promote their latest project. I feel celebrities like Lady Gaga, Nikki Minaj, and Marilyn Manson have become masters of this form of “persona” promotion and their approach has not been all that different from that of Lorre’s’.
I really enjoyed this week’s readings. My initial foray into broadcasting was through radio and I love reading about it’s history. These three articles were an interesting mix. The Danesai article gave a great overview of how radio permeated American Culture, the Sarah Thomas article gave us insight into one of the many radio celebrities (Peter Lorre) and the David Hendy article introduced us to the concept of using psychoanalysis within the realm of broadcasting.
It’s hard to picture these days a family gathered around one single radio to receive their entertainment. These days, it feels like our entertainment is mostly a singular experience because of the different ways that we can access programs. I remember speaking to my dad about this at one point and his eyes lit up when he would talk about the evenings when he and his brothers would sit around the radio and listen to the Lone Ranger or other cowboy and western shows. Today, we watch the show and then usually convene online, dissecting every part of the show.
In Hendy’s article, it was interesting to see how radio helped heal wounds for Lance Sieveking, but it also seemed that the producer might have had a case of ADD. He reminded me of myself, interested in a variety of things, and the only thing that was calming to him was this act of multitasking. While reading the portion about Kaleidoscope, I saw myself in that role, using the control board to mix this amazing program from seven different studios.
Finally, Peter Lorre in Sarah Thomas’s article reminded me greatly of Son of Svengolie. He was a character on Friday nights on WFLD 32 in Chicago when I was growing up. His character stuck with him and despite trying to do other acting jobs, he was also stuck in this role of the macabre.
This week’s reading was definitely short on the theory side and seemed more accessible/easier to understand. I’d be interested in reading further about the theory of the interactions between popular culture and technology. I think it’s fascinating.
The Danesi article made me realize how American-centric my historical viewpoint and education has been. Growing up in the United States, that’s to be expected, but it hasn’t been pointed out to me how American-centric some things have been in quite some time. A specific point that comes to mind is when Danesi is discussing how different politicians have used the radio; Hitler utilized the radio to spread propaganda to the masses, the Emperor of Japan used it to call for unconditional surrender in WWII, and Roosevelt used it in WWII for ‘fireside chats.’ I’ve understood Roosevelt’s fireside chat’s as propaganda, but I’ve never put them in the same level of propaganda as Hitler. I feel that says a great deal about the way information has been presented to me. Had Hitler been victorious in the war, my viewpoint would be very very different. Roosevelt knew exactly what he was doing with the radio and if we were to look at his motivations they would be very similar to the German ruler’s. History idealizes our heroes, and we allow it to happen. Another aspect of this that Dansei points out that I loved, was how the radio allowed Roosevelt to get around the press. Being able to circumvent the press’s opinion is HUGE. It allows politicians to manipulate things more. I think it’s kind of ironic that now, in the age of the internet, it seems like it is a subculture of the press that is using technology (the internet, blogging, etc.) to get around the press. In an age where information doesn’t spread as ‘freely’ as we once believed, technology is tool to both perpetuate these ‘freedom’ ideals and to reign them in.
Dansei’s illustration of how marketers went about making the radio a household commodity is a classic example of the advertising industry and the early 20th century. AT&T did it with the telephone, eventually they will do it with the television, it has been done to the car, appliances, power tools, clothing, household machinery, and every single other object you can possibly think of. We’re a nation of consumers. To consume and buy is to be American.
After reading Hendy’s article analyzing Sieveking’s life and subsequently his work, I can well commiserate with Sieveking’s dilemma before 1926. His lack of direction as a result of the war seems to have parallels with the lives of millennials. This generation raised in the hopeful era of the 90’s is now plagued with a poor economy which lasted the entirety of the last decade and still persists today. Sieveking’s experience (and those of his war fighting contemporaries) were undoubtedly much more horrific than those of the majority of this generation, but the same ennui and discontent persists. Also akin to the modernists and post modernists who lived after WWI we find ourselves in an existential crisis wherein the world can seem a very random place without divine intervention or governance.
The connection is prevalent to a discussion in this class in that like Sieveking, we as creative artists can find catharsis as he did through his artistic endeavors. Simultaneously such art, borne out of the struggle this age presents, should resonate with the world and thus provide catharsis for the audience as well. At any rate the art generated by a consideration for the malaise which pervades the shared millenial paradigm, should bring about a greater understanding of where we as a culture are, and maybe it will present a means by which we can survive it.
“Lorre utilized an intense acting style within these radio dramas, with the express purpose of frightening his audience… where this central ‘fright’ was undercut by narrative twists or the reassuring voice of the host. However, Lorre often went beyond the boundaries of the programmes’ remit, and this is most apparent in ‘The Horla’, in which his self reflexive performance at the broadcast’s conclusion served to continue the tense atmosphere of the central story, rather than offer relief from it.”
I am intrigued by the human condition related to creative outsources. Depending on when you were born and where you are born, one is brought into the world with preexisting creations, explorations, technologies, arts, and crafts. I think often we forget that radio, television, cinema, theater, in its many forms, styles, and traditions were and are parts of man’s creativity, position, adaptation, and invention.
Lorre in this article represents a person with a realization of what these preexisting media have to offer him and others for his goals and their thought processes. I don’t want to credit Lorre too much, because I don’t feel like I know enough, however the way he performed and addressed the public seemed to identify a mission of some sort, even if that mission was to simply do something he loved.
In the MFA program we are encouraged to think outside the box, or to utilize our histories. The idea of radio was eyeopening to me in the sense that it’s not difficult to make, and although there remain constraints politically, capitalistically, and more, it stated in a sense the idea that as a human being I have an obligation to realize what constraints have been put on these creations and how I might use my knowledge of them to further my voice/ goals.
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