Faith Middleton Show: Invasion Of The Mind Snatchers

A media critic on television's conquest of America in the 1950s

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Faith Middleton Show: Invasion of the Mind Snatchers
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Faith Middleton Show: Invasion of the Mind Snatchers

"Eric Burns, a bona fide TV historian, has pulled off a difficult task—he has brought our early, grainy television history to life in living color. His book is a tour of our times, from cowboys and Indians, and scoundrels and healers, to televised hearings and game show hosts. Invasion of the Mind Snatchers is a television-lover's portrait of how we got here, for better or worse, and Burns reminds us that what we were watching all those years was our own history unfolding." — Brian Williams, Anchor and Managing Editor, NBC Nightly News

"Eric Burns's book is delightfully entertaining and richly informative. As a lifelong consumer and perpetrator of television programming, I consider it essential reading." — Richard Thomas, Actor

When the first television was demonstrated in 1927, a headline in The New York Times read, "Like a Photo Come to Life." It was a momentous occasion. But the power of television wasn't fully harnessed until the 1950s, when the medium was, as Eric Burns writes, at "its most preoccupying, its most life-altering."

In Invasion of the Mind Snatchers, Emmy-award-winning broadcaster Eric Burns chronicles the influence of television on the baby boomer generation. Spellbound by Howdy Doody and The Ed Sullivan Show, those children often acted out their favorite programs, purchased the merchandise promoted by performers, and were fascinated by the personalities they saw on screen, often emulating their behavior. It was the first generation raised by TV, and Burns looks at both the promise of broadcasting as espoused by the "inventors and how that promise was both redefined and lost by the corporations who helped spread this revolutionary technology."

Invasion of the Mind Snatchers offers the most comprehensive overview of television programming during the fifties. Burns covers the most important programs and figures, ranging from Milton Berle and Bishop Fulton J. Sheen to Senator Joseph McCarthy and Edward R. Murrow. His lively writing style and choice of programs and genres provides an impressive synthesis of early television programming.

"There are many bold, intelligent, and thought-provoking observations, opinions, and connections throughout this superb book." — David Weinstein, author of The Forgotten Network: DuMont and the Birth of American Television

courtesy Temple University Press

Originally aired November 23, 2010.


  

Comments

Vampires (and zombies)

I only caught the end of this episode, which made me sad, since the topic was one close to my heart. I recently got my M.A. in cultural production, with a special emphasis on television. I love watching TV, and I love reading TV criticism, analysis of the history and content of TV.

I also read a lot of vampire stories as a teen, about fifteen years before the current (Twilight) craze hit, so in my studies of television and current criticism, I've paid special attention to the recent popularity of vampires and vampire mythology. One answer to Faith's question of why vampires are so popular now, one that I've encountered repeatedly, is that vampires reflect anxiety about luxury, an upper class lifestyle, and aristocracy (or aristocratic values, at least). Most vampires in contemporary movies (i.e., Interview with a Vampire) live lives of wanton excess, pillaging and taking what they want without regard for human life...as zombies represent(ed) the fear of the lower classes succumbing to communism and rising up as one force to "eat the brains" (and wealth) of the middle class, vampires tracked with the issues of prosperity brought on by an increase in wealth.

I've heard (but can't cite sources) that generally zombie fads pop up in bad economies, and vampires rule over bull markets. It makes sense, then, that kids growing up in the prosperous 1990s would turn to vampires as metaphor to help deal with questions of how to become an adult. ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer" does this explicitly, and very well, though that's a bit earlier than the current fad.) It would also make sense, considering the recession, if we suddenly saw more zombies on TV (see "Walking Dead," for instance).

But vampires also offer something zombies don't, which is seduction, and I think that's a main part of the answer to why so many teenage girls, specifically, are so "into" vampires...but that may be a more complex discussion for another time. The point is, I guess, that you can't learn anything about romance from a zombie. Vampires (even completely chaste ones) have that market cornered.