25 November 2011

The Mechanical Bride

Hello, folks! I have finally come up with a plan for making this a weekly blog with a variety of literary topics. Since I read all the time, I will write every week about what I have been reading, most of it fiction, but some that is not. This way I can blog regularly without boring you by covering the same ground over and over.

Recently I read the first of Marshall McLuhan's three major books. The title is The Mechanical Bride and it dates from the late forties. It is a study of advertising and its effect on people. All the examples come from ads printed in newspapers and magazines. Keep in mind that this was before TV became available to everyone and before TV advertising really became significant.

McLuhan examines the interplay between text and image and brings out the real message behind the copy. That is, for him the combination of text and image has an effect that goes beyond just the words and just the image, even when taken together. Ads become an appeal to our emotions and purposefully negate thinking as much as possible. Advertisers are well aware of what they are doing and the public plays along.

The writer implies that there is something unethical or unhealthy about the effect of advertising on us. His most telling evalution comes, however, when he maintains that advertising is destructive of all traditional cultures. Let's think about that a little.

I grew up in Argentina in the 50's and 60's. During most of that time, TV did not play a large role in the life of people and the culture retained a strong collective memory of Europe. There were ads in newspaper and radio, so the process was underway, but in neighborhoods people still knew and looked out for each other. You always had a dry goods grocery store, a greengrocer, a milk shop, a baker, a bookstore, and a pharmacy (selling health care products only) within walking distance. The taxi drivers were well read and would talk knowledgeably about literature and philosophy as well as politics and sports. On the subways in Buenos Aires everyone was reading something. Argentina had a distinct culture heavily flavored by western and Mediterranean Europe and with a lore and literature of its own. By the late 60's with television, and the ads it relentlessly brought into the home, that culture began to dissolve.

Now, go to any of the large cities of Argentina or of any country and there is a sameness in the way peoply (poorly) dress, the fast-food joints, consumer electronics, car-choked streets, and the loneliness of the people. At the very same time that the modern world view has become obsolete, advertising impedes the thoughtful creation of a world view to take its place.

This is an unprecedented situation in human history. Technology is so advanced and alluring that we accept it all too uncritically while being bombarded with advertising. Angela Fournier, the main character in my novel series, is bored by TV, so she is not subject to the numbing effect of ads. That's why she can think for herself and has a blazing reality to her. It's this kind of person who will help shape a better future, if it is to be done at all. You can get Angela 1 at www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/Angela1.html or as an ebook at your favorite provider.