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Lecture 26 + Reading Notes.docx

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Communication Studies
COMS 200
Alexandra Gibb

READING NOTES (Lecture notes to follow) COMS 200 – Chapter 24 Mass Media and the Star System – Jib Fowles  1870 – 1920: Americans fascinated with entertainers  Major social change: cities o Urbanization  People moving to large cities were mainly either small-town, farm-raised Americans or migrants from Europe and elsewhere  Immigration peaked in 1914 (1,218,000 new citizens)  Big cities = more employment o Increasing mechanization of farming + Great Plains = less labour required to feed the nation efficiently o Best employment opportunities were in the new urban factories, foundries, plants, and mills o America transformed from self-sufficient small farmers to urbanized wage earners o More wealth  Wages rose, average hours of weekly work in manufacturing industries dropped  Development of leisure activities (libraries, city parks)  entrepreneurs  Baseball brought to urban centres  salaried players, formation of interurban leagues  Rural areas = strong social emphasis on conventionality, fellow feeling, cohesion  Cities = greater extent of impersonality and normalness  Urbanites stripped of supporting prescriptions (religion and community pressure)  Standards gone. People were on their own  Individualism  Manifestation of anxiety and mental distress  People left behind rural life and its highly prescriptive Protestant ideology, but also left behind its sturdy framework of purpose  Due to growing anxiety and depression, self-help manuals and behavioural guides emerged  strengthening of character  Later, other books focusing on development of personality emerged  People wanted to take a more accommodating path, one that emphasized charm  The goal was to attract  To endure and find purpose, the individual needed to develop his or her personality and get others to like him or her  Urbanization forced people to develop their identities from inside not outside. Rural areas had cultural heritage, family tradition, community, church, political persuasion, and profession to define their identities. In urban areas, to establish the self required establishing one’s personality  Stars  confidence coveted by urban-dwellers  Performers offered various models of the well-integrated self  Celebrated actors were called “personalities”  Delivery of stars to American public was a technological achievement  Circulation of performers’ images to an ever-widening audience  Telegraph and railroad  Set up a schedule, make travel arrangements, keep in touch with touring teams relay messages  telegraph was indispensable  Sports became so popular, newspapers expanded their coverage  People were interested in the achievements of the starring players o Certain players stood out more than others  Railroad and telegraph created a following for baseball players and built a national audience for actors  However, the audience’s need for stars was deeper than the ability of these technologies to satisfy  Photography disseminated celebrities’ pictures (faces)  Public wanted to get closer to celebrities  Advent of the motion picture that ushered in the age of the star  Photography’s wide and rapid distribution of stars’ images combined with the theater’s presentation of the stars in performance  Providing people across the nation with virtually simultaneous exposure to stars o Public could now see static performer and performer in motion o Americans were most curious about the person within  Camera shot tightly around the face had majestic properties, captured attention most  Closeness to others diminishing in urbanized life, movies provided first-rate intimacy  Sound production  viewers could now hear and recognize celebrities’ voices  Unemployment reached 1/3 of labour force  Radio delivered comedy and sports stars for free  Stars had to be regulated and cultivated. Less successful weeded out, more successful put to work  Regularizing star selection and use, studios stabilized themselves in difficult times  Pressures for regularity = put stars into stereotyped molds o No leeway for experimentation in roles  Standardizing of the image = steady work, longer careers  Employ a person as long as possible  Popular but expensive performers were released to reduce financial difficulties  Cutting movie costs by letting high-priced stars go  profit cuts o Their movies kept bringing in money to companies even though they were no longer working for them 
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