This week’s readings focus a lot on how cinema and radio affected society when they were new. Cinema and radio’s initial impact—or lack thereof—on class warfare and culture especially intrigues me.
Czitrom explains how movies were initially something for the working class that the old cultural elite found threatening. Some elitists complained about poor conditions and rowdy crowds. Others pointed to the darkness in the theaters claiming that it caused, “Intense ocular and cerebral weariness” (Czitrom 44). [I had to use that quote, it’s so funny].
The readings do not suggest radio had as much impact on class warfare. Boddy cites that people in the early days of broadcast radio mostly saw it as a hobby that got young people actively engaged in something as opposed to cinema. Czitrom quotes Reverend Richard H. Edwards talking about movie-going, “Why has the love of spontaneous play given way so largely to the love of merely being amused?” (Czitrom 43). Radio, on the other hand, brought people together in a good way because it was a hobby as well as an entertainment medium: “Just as it was seen as an agent of inter-generational harmony, radio as both medium and hobby was also looked upon to ameliorate the disparities of class in early twentieth-century America” (Boddy 29).
I find it interesting that people discussing new media when it is new often cite how the media bring people together as a bad thing (e.g. young people talking on phone to each other while in their underwear, young people cavorting at movie theater and picking up vices) and as a good thing (e.g. talking to relatives on phone, movies bring people together outside of the home/”peer socialization”). According to the readings, however, radio was one of the anomalies.
Why do so many new media tap into class and culture-gap warfare and paranoia?
Why was radio different in that public reaction of its ability to bring people together was mostly positive?
Is there any other new media that had a mostly positive public reaction to its global village effect, and why is that the case?