If Quotes from True Detective Were Motivational Posters

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Rust Cohle, the dyspeptic protagonist of HBO's True Detective, made both nihilism and logorrhea cool again in 2014, as a great episode of Radiolab recently made clear.  If you need a little splash of pessimism to get through your morning coffee, these motivational posters might just be your cup of tea.  Is that a mixed metaphor?  It's all one ghetto, man. … [Read more...]

Ten of the Greatest Books on Media History

Mixtape salesman from owen's VV article

Historians have always had a tough time writing about media. The danger of technological determinism tends to loom over any discussion of technologies such as television or the Internet—the risk of arguing that a particular medium or device causes people to behave or think a certain way. That fear has been present since the earliest days of media studies, when the War of the Worlds and the pioneering audience research of Paul Lazarsfeld and the Bureau of Applied Social Research in the 1930s raised questions about the “effects” that mass media had on people, both as individuals and groups. Meanwhile, the power of Hitler’s megaphone implied that people as a mass were pliant, susceptible to a … [Read more...]

From Better Luck Tomorrow to K-Town: Asian Americans and Los Angeles in 21st Century Media

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[Editor's Note: This piece closes out our  Asian Pacific American Heritage Month coverage.  Be sure to check out our previous posts on Asian American athletics, notably masculinity, femininity, and Asian American basketball in 20th century California here and basketball's role in Filipino and Filipino-American identity here, and the intersection of the Cold War and Asian American citizenship, particularly in how the New Right, anti-communism and the Vietnam War created the diverse demographics of today's Orange county here or how film noir, Cold War ethos, and Asian American sexuality figure prominently in the 1959 L.A. noir classic the "Crimson Kimono" here.] "The problem of this era is … [Read more...]

The Sad Decline of The Daily Show

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With Stephen Colbert departing for CBS to replace David Letterman in 2015, I’d like to preemptively ring the death knell for the great hour of Swiftian satire that Comedy Central gave us Monday through Thursday for nearly the past decade. The Daily Show (TDS) with Jon Stewart, of course, will be sticking around, but it’s becoming increasingly timeworn, even uninteresting. Conservative critics of the show predicted it would lose its poignancy with the election of President Obama and Stewart’s chief bête noire, the Bush administration, out of power. And while they seemed to have a point initially--Jon Stewart seemed to have a hard time finding his footing after the first Obama … [Read more...]

“Looking” for Identity: Gender, Sexuality, and a Brief History of LGBT America

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When HBO premiered the first episode of its new series Looking in mid-January, the show, as noted by NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour “launched a 1,000 think pieces across the internet.” While Looking remains a compelling, if admittedly “low key” viewing experience, noted one critic, the show’s existence points to a more complicated and nuanced reality regarding 21st century gay identity.  How did we get here and how have ideas about homosexuality and identity been formed? The answer, one might argue, hinges on a complex mix of personal and group agency, popular culture and public discourse, and government, local and federal, regulation. As established by Josh Sides in his excellent 2010 work … [Read more...]

Transnational Protest, Media Bias, and Monopolized Airwaves: Best of AHA 2014, Part 2

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In part II of ToM’s AHA 2014 coverage our correspondents begin with papers on the efforts of Latin American students, workers, and rebels of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970 to use non-violent activism as a means to gain greater rights and autonomy in the face of increasingly repressive regimes.  We end with talks on media bias, conservatism, Rupert Murdoch/Fox News and the NAACP. What does it mean if we have more voices and greater diversity with those appearing in the media, but more and more of the airwaves under the control of fewer and fewer individuals? Remember, we went to the AHA so you didn’t have too.  For Part I of AHA 2014 - Bed-Stuy, The Illuminati, and the Importance of Fungus … [Read more...]

Frank Costanza and the War on Christmas

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Bill O’Reilly recently thought he had liberals pinned in their remorseless war on Christmas: the namby-pamby secular humanists who insist on saying “Happy holidays” so as not to offend people of other faiths had no ground to stand on this year. Hanukkah coincided with Thanksgiving in 2013, meaning “There are no other holidays between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year,” O’Reilly snorted.  Thus, there are no grounds to say “Happy Holidays” in December.  There is only one holiday, the mac-daddy of all holidays, the reigning champ—Christmas—and every right-thinking American has to say “Merry Christmas,” or else. Elsewhere on Fox News, Sarah Palin was squawking about how much she loves the … [Read more...]

Nothing Is Impossible, Except for Dinosaurs (and Smart Television)

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30 Rock is kind of like a microbrew. Ten or fifteen years ago, most Americans didn’t know there was an option beyond Budweiser or, if you were feeling really adventurous, Heineken.  Due to restrictive local regulations and the apathy of the American beer industry, we didn’t know that you could pack a lot more flavor (and alcohol) into a 12 oz bottle. But once you had a Ranger IPA or a Bell’s Two Hearted, why would you want to go back to Yuengling? The same goes for TV. The sitcom has rarely been celebrated as an artistic medium, with the exception of the occasional M*A*S*H* or Seinfeld, but a number of new, smarter shows hit the airwaves in the last decade. Series like Community and 30 … [Read more...]

A Mediating Mess: How American Post-WWII Media Undermined Democracy

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Editors notes: This review originally appeared in The Sixties: A Journal of History, Politics, and Culture (5.2, pages 254 - 257).  Unfortunately, in its original publication, the review  misidentified Professor Morgan as Edmund rather than Edward. These errors  have been corrected here. Apologies to Prof. Edward P. Morgan for the mishap. When the Swift Boat controversy engulfed the 2004 election campaign, America’s obsession with the Vietnam War once again reared its ugly head.  Democratic candidate and decorated Vietnam Veteran John Kerry’s staunch opposition to the war upon his return from deployment drew harsh critiques from conservatives in the early 1970s and in 2004.  The “swift … [Read more...]

The History Channel: Selling the Past in the Age of Reality TV

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For a website dedicated to the concept of “historiography for the masses,” perhaps it was only a matter of time before the contemporary History Channel would be addressed. Once maligned for its excessive focus on World War II and military history, the History Channel of the past nonetheless remained fairly dedicated to its core concept. Historical documentaries, such as the Engineering an Empire series, The Crusades: Crescent and the Cross, The American Revolution, and Ancient Rome: Story of an Empire, tackled serious historical topics with sophistication and insight. However, following the tried and true model of channels like MTV and VH1, with their respective series the Jersey Shore and … [Read more...]

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