A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.  Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, I present one of McLuhan’s observations and talk about its relevance today.  300 ideas. 300 days.  300 posts.

Will the real Marshall McLuhan please stand up!

Marshall McLuhan (October, 1934, age 23).  A lesson from I.A. Richards.

I have had the most remarkable experience.  I. A. Richards whose lectures I am attending here at Cambridge invited us to participate in an experiment.  He handed out poems but did not tell us who wrote them and asked us to comment on them.  It really was quite embarrassing.  Thankfully not for me as I managed to escape for the most part with my dignity intact.  But many of my fellow students said the most laudatory things about pure doggerel and heaped undeserved criticism on poets of canonical standing.

Me (June 2010, age 57).   A lesson from McLuhan?

Here are four short passages.  It’s only fair to tell you that only one of these was actually written by Marshall McLuhan.  Which one is the real McLuhan?

(1)    A modern movie actress who tries to play a role will seem old fashioned.  To cope with this, actresses have cooled themselves way down, become numb blanks.  Thus today’s stars are totally tranquilized.  The smart thing for a girl nowadays is to play numb.  Dumb actresses used to be in demand, now numb actresses are in demand.  Rigor mortis is de rigueur.

(2)    There is a current issue of the TV Guide which contains a survey of convicts’ attitudes towards TV.  That is people really up for a long time, many of them for life, and how they regard television.  All convicts are apparently supplied with good TV sets.  Such is the hardship of our prisons.  They pass the word along:  all the new gimmicks, all the new twists they find in crimes; and these are passed along quickly to the boys who are on the way out, and are tried out quickly in the community.  There really is an astonishing story of how much television has helped to improve the level of crime.

(3)    The owner of a Hollywood hotel in an area where many movie and TV actors reside reported that tourists had switched their allegiance to TV stars.  Moreover, most TV stars are men, that is, “cool characters,’ while most movie stars are women, since they can be presented as “hot” characters.

(4)    By filling the space of the TV with a mosaic of close-ups, The Hollywood Squares hypnotizes its audience by paralyzing their senses and numbing their eyes to other distractions.  The movie-world is literally chopped up into nine squares, each of which contains a close up.  The theme music is the ticktock of a hypnotists watch.

See you tomorrow with the answer to this puzzle.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Philip Marchand, Marshall McLuhan: The Medium and the Messenger, 1989, pp. 35-37.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, June 10th, 2010
Permalink 1930s and 40s, Communication, Education, Vol. 1 2 Comments

2 Comments to Will the real Marshall McLuhan please stand up!

  • mr.mcluhan says:

    It’s been awhile but I don’t remember writing…
    “(3) The owner of a Hollywood hotel in an area where many movie and TV actors reside reported that tourists had switched their allegiance to TV stars. Moreover, most TV stars are men, that is, “cool characters,’ while most movie stars are women, since they can be presented as “hot” characters.”
    If I did by chance, then I’m changing my mind.

  • I’m torn between 1 and 4 but leaning towards 1 so will cast my vote that way.

    p.s. The title of this blog post had me imagining Marshall in an Eminem haircut and hoodie.

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