Subject to Change: Guerrilla Television Revisited

By Deirdre Boyle | Go to book overview
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I.
Underground Video

For children growing up in the '50s, television was a family member. The tiny screen buried in the big wooden box offered kinship with familiar figures who seemed as much a part of kids' everyday lives as parents, siblings, and neighborhood playmates. Nightly viewing of Disney "The Mickey Mouse Club" was a ritual in American television households where children sang along with the club anthem and joined vicariously in the adventures of Karen and Cubby and Sharon and Dave. Other shows also reinforced this feeling of membership in an enduring group, such as "Andy's Gang," which weekly drew kids eager to hear Andy Devine's raspy and slightly raunchy command, "Pluck your magic twanger, Froggy!"

The Baby Boomers grew up with television, developing a love- hate relationship with it and a sense of possessiveness about it that, some might argue, was Oedipal in its complexity. As they came of age in the late '60s, television achieved its own independence in the form of the first portable video recorders. It made sense that a generation linked together by their television memories and nurtured by the communal spirit of television clubs should form their own video gangs to make their own television, once the tools were available.

Corporate control of television had been secured in the post- World War I years as government nationalization of the telecommunications industries was opposed in the government controlled versus free enterprise debate. Television was developed as an extension of radio, effectively consolidating the power of the broadcasting industry by limiting television's role in American society to what the radio networks felt they could produce and control. As broadcast historian Garth Jowett has observed:

Despite the official rhetoric about the enormous educational and informational potential of the medium, the institutions which were capable of developing this role for television (universities, schools, churches, gov

-3-

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