chapter two

a gift arrives

the problem of A to B

We live in fear of science and technology. And with good reason: they come at a price. Sometimes, that price seems unbearably high. Two events in the twentieth century alone remind us of the consequences of trying to defy or control nature. The Holocaust and Hiroshima are hubris to scientific pride. And these are examples of science and technology working efficiently. When they go wrong, we witness Bhopal and Chernobyl. The Promethean fable of being tortured, bound to a rock for the sin of stealing fire from the gods, has been encompassed by a number of fictional works, perhaps the most celebrated being Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, in which man re-invents himself only to see his construct wreak havoc. Jurassic Park portrays human self-destructiveness as a concomitant of creation. On television, Star Trek and its progeny have occasionally tempered their celebrations of the human conquest of the “final frontier” with cautionary messages.

Television, like any other technological innovation, has its costs. As we will see in the next chapter, some writers reckon we have paid with our brains. What began as a genuine boon to our ability to communicate quickly and efficiently has, according to some, become a bane on our intellects. No longer just a means of communication, television is a plaything, a toy, a means of amusement. Assessing this transformation and its consequences on us is the object of this book, of course; so we should properly begin with an overview of the development of television as a piece of technology.

A case could be made for seeing television as a return to primitive forms of communication. It communicates its messages through oral and visual means, sight and sound. It presupposes no literary skills or ability, apart from being able to see and understand a language. It shows

-10-

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--And There Was Telev!S!On
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Chapter One - Bombardments and Bee Stings 1
  • Chapter Two - A Gift Arrives 10
  • Chapter Three - Under the Influence 26
  • Chapter Four - The Meanings of Cultural Studies 43
  • Chapter Five - Lethal Link 58
  • Chapter Six - Answering Advertisers’ Prayers 75
  • Chapter Seven - Ethnic Images 98
  • Chapter Eight - In Pursuit of Women 115
  • Chapter Nine - Dream Match 128
  • Chapter Ten - Arresting Viewing 154
  • Chapter Eleven - Political Hype and Hyperreality 173
  • Chapter Twelve - Tomorrow, the World 194
  • References 206
  • Index 212
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