Television Language of White Noise
Television, in our culture, is by far the most dominant medium of communication and stimulation. The fears, the joys, and the horrors of the world are all channeled through television. As seen in the Rodney King police beating videotape, television can incite in a population sheer and utter rage and dark hostility. That same footage; however, can also detract from the very anger it incites. After countless times of viewing the footage, in a never-ending Simulacrum of the same grainy image, the masses became desensitized to its graphic violence. In fact, the repetitive viewing of the footage during the trial led to the desensitization of the jury and the acquittals of the "guilty" officers. In White Noise DeLillo recognizes television as a vital component in American culture and makes it a major focus of the novel. DeLillo uses media and more specifically television, as a symbol of the American Simulacra and links the Simulacra into his character's escapism from the violent realities in White Noise.
John Frow, in his criticism of White Noise, rightfully focuses on television as the defining medium of the Simulacra in DeLillo's America. Television, of course, by definition is a copy; it is a broadcast of something that has been filmed; it is viewed in millions of homes worldwide, each television flickering the same image into the sub-conscious eye. Frow presents a close reading of a speech Murray gives to his students:
they're already too old to figure importantly in the making of society. Minute by minute they're beginning to diverge from each other. "Even as we sit here," I tell them, "you are spinning out from the core, becoming less recognizable as a group, less targetable by advertisers and mass-producers of culture. Kids are a true universal. But you're well beyond that, already beginning to drift, to feel estranged from the products you consume. Who are they designed for? What is your place in the marketing scheme? Once you're out of school, it is only a matter of time before you experience the vast loneliness and dissatisfaction of consumers who have lost their group identity" (qtd. Frow 50).
Frow seems a little distressed by this passage, for how bleak is a society if an individual is only important as judged by their perceived value/commodity relationship with television. Frow says, "The propositions are monstrous, but only because we find it so hard to believe" (426). By falling into the trap of this distrust of television Frow falls into the same trap that Wilder's students stumble into: "Television is the death throes of human consciousness…They're ashamed of their television past" (DeLillo 51). Frow does not see what Wilder sees: the beauty of the television medium as a means of escape. In fact, like the students, Frow is embarrassed that a relationship of value between humanity and television could even be established. Frow is astute; however, in noting that DeLillo is not...