As Seen On Tv By Karal Ann
Marling Essay, Research Paper
The book As Seen on TV by Karal Ann Marling, is a fascinating study into television and its influence it had on America in the 1950’s. There are many concepts, which are studied in detail proving the pull and push the TV “images” had on the entire U.S. culture.
At the time, anyone of importance on TV was a sudden person of influence and impression. Mamie Eisenhower, wife of president Ike, with her public notoriety and respect started trends that would last for years.
In 1953 at Ike’s inauguration, one of the first big TV events of the decade, Mamie showed her classic look. The mink coat, air-wave hat, curled under bangs, dress with snipped in waist and flared hips, pinching high heels, pearl choker, and her charm bracelet would soon be the rave among all women, young and old. This appearance, among others, changed the fashion market and the way people viewed style.
The entire fashion persona Mamie develops is genuine. Everything from her comment “Of course it’s mink…” to her inspiring friends to feel better by buying them a new hat, as if buying or getting a new hat is the cathartic folk remedy.
The next chapter titled: “Hyphenated Culture: Painting by Numbers in the New Age of Leisure”, discusses at length America and its eternal battle with leisure. At the time man had an inherent ancient capitalist folkloric belief that the common worker with time on his hands was a threat to public order. If fact many housewives didn’t like or even want automatic dishwashers because the easy work made them feel lazy.
Many famous and influential people encouraged and condoned “hobby” or leisure activities. Times would still be hard to change if it wasn’t for the integration of television in all American eyes. Ike, major public icon, is seen loving to paint while watching TV, exhibiting to all viewers that leisure time is not only acceptable but mandatory.
By the end of the ‘50’s there were hobby kits for everything, Jon Gnagy, a Saturday morning TV artist, sold “How To” kits for drawing and painting and developed “Color by Numbers” painting kits. This gave everyone, especially those with no artistic aptitude, to do something they could feel proud of, a hobby’s end result which looked nice even for them. Now TV was not only a direct vehicle, but also the cause and effect as well.
Now to speak of the place which was also known as a TV show. Even though Disneyland got off to a really rough start with fake tickets, gas leaks, asphalt melting, and running out of food, its popularity soon picked up speed.
Disney knowing that the car of the 1950’s is a family car he ingeniously designed Disneyland around entertaining the entire family. The automobile and the freeway would soon prove to be an essential part of the major success of Disneyland.
Walt Disney had already won a very large audience in “TV Land”, and having his family automobile knowledge, he had a sure-fire plan. He actually took his own TV (and movie) ideas and made them “real”. The magical place where TV came alive. Automobiles would prove to play yet another huge role in America’s culture and how we view ourselves.
The next chapter: “Autoeroticism: America’s Love Affair with the Car in the Television Age” deals with, well, just that. In the early 1950’s, the two things being produced more then ever, at astronomical proportions, were automobiles and TV’s.
TV ads for cars became the absolute bread and butter of the auto industry. The neat image of the typical housewife hopping into the big roomy sedan, hitting the push button starter, and whirling off to the local store stimulated the buying public into a frenzy. Buying a car meant buying an image, especially an American car and image.
If buying a car meant buying an image then giving away a car meant to actually give someone a good ol’ American image. Elvis Presley, when appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show for the third time in 1957, joked about buying all of his fans brand new Lincolns.
In the next chapter: “When Elvis Cut His Hair: The Meaning of Mobility”, we see just how much one man can influence an entire nation. TV was the vehicle for Elvis found his fame. After all, 82.6% of the total viewing audience saw Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show. Elvis’ naughty hip mobility and his long hair brought Ed to his camera man to instruct him to keep the camera above the waist, thus keeping at least the mobility image censored.
TV also brought us the famous “GI Buzz” of Elvis and the all over change he and his image underwent. Although, it seems that the rebel on TV in front of ones disapproving parents (who were trying to enjoy their TV Dinners atop their new TV Trays) and their utter disgust was enough for teens to readily jump on the proverbial “Elvis Bandwagon.” Once again teens prevail through TV.
“Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook-Book: The Aesthetics of Food in the 1950’s” discusses how one thorough, full color, step by step, cook book brought about an inspiration to view food and its preparation in a whole new way. Although, TV almost finished Betty Cocker, the company turned TV to its advantage.
The use of “disembodied” hands whipping up easy and tasty recipes straight from the book showed the entire viewing audience how easy it is to cook when using the Betty Cocker Cook-Book.
Soon the cooking at home snowball took to the sports arena. Pillsbury started nationwide “Bake Offs”, fully televised, 100’s of woman, with their individual oven would bake to win. This is an incredible advertising jump for all producers and suppliers of home care and cooking needs.
“Nixon in Moscow: Appliances affluence and Americanism” is about our great president, what he thought, and how our trends and styles actually effected an entirely different culture on the other side of the planet.
To Nixon the appliance store meant the American freedom of choice. The newest kitchen appliances stood for the basic way of American life. In fact, his passions ended up locking horns with the Soviet Premier over American gadgetry such as spin cycles of all things.
Although the Premier had trouble adopting the American way of life, the rest of the Soviet Union seemed to be a bit more eager. They actually took an entire U.S. made “Open Kitchen” back to the Soviet Union to study it. Further so, in their appliance shows they featured a number of U.S. made equipment and even our silly little gadgets.
In conclusion, it is really amazing to find out what an impact one household item can have on an entire nation such as the TV. My parents saw all of these changes and then some, so for me it is difficult to imagine. I feel that there is at least one more major nationwide change in store for my parents, the home computer. It will be interesting to seen what writers such as Karal Ann Marling have to say about what this little appliance will have done to us as well.