The Dating Game was a television show that first aired in 1965, but had a variety of runs until 1999. The Dating Game is an ancestor of today’s The Bachelor. In this older (and only slightly more moral) version of television match making, the contestant must select one person to date after listening to the responses of three potential suitors. In the following three minute clip, Michael Jackson, Farrah Faucet, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Suzanne Summers each ask questions in order to determine which person they would like to spend more time with.
Similarly, with this week’s three article reading assignment, I was able to catch a glimpse of all three authors, and now I am prepared to declare who I would most like to converse with on a date.
In last place à Raymond Williams and his Culture and Masses. In public speaking courses, we are instructed to never begin a speech by reading a definition from a dictionary because it will never hook audience attention.
The same concept can be applied to sharing the history of words’ origins. While it is necessary to understand that the words ‘culture’ and ‘masses’ are complex and have layers of meaning, more clever storytelling is necessary to keep interest.
If Raymond and I went on a date, I think I would spend a lot of time nodding and saying, “Uh, huh.” I would tell my friends that he was really sweet and eager, but he was just too boring because I didn’t have anything to add to the conversation. Diagramming words does not get one selected as top pick.
Runner-Up à Stuart Hall and his Notes on Deconstructing the Popular. While it is important to pique interest, you’ve got to back it up with supporting materials that bring a little variety to the communication. The concept of ‘containment vs. resistance’ was intriguing. I began to think of the 1960s because that decade showed a quintessential struggle between keeping society orderly and consistent, and breaking free to explore and discover. When invited to a 60s costume party, do I go as a sophisticated Jackie Kennedy or sleek Audrey Hepburn?
Do I go as a feminine flower child or a sloppy hippie?
These factions of society seemingly fought against one another, and that is an appealing concept to discuss. However, it became apparent that Hall enjoys illustrating his own genius. While I appreciate that he does not believe that all working people are debased and manipulated cultural dopes, I did pick up on a condescending tone (pp. 66-67).
If Stuart and I went on a date, we could engage in a lively banter. Perhaps I would mention that I recently watched the entire series, Downtown Abbey, for a third time.
He would probably indicate that he had seen a few episodes of the British television show when it aired on PBS. I would get excited and talk about how much I hate snobby Mary and her treatment of her sister, eager Edith. I would express my disbelief that Carson, the butler, could be so judgmental of his own hard-working crew that lived downstairs. Then Stuart would lead the conversation and explain to me how the aristocracy of the British Empire after World War I was desperately clinging to the social structure that enabled them to live in castles and enjoy servants.
I would say something like, “Yeah. Lord Grantham had to change his perspective, but he evolved and even grew to love his revolutionary son-in-law, Branson.” Stuart would be quick to stop my discussion of the character relationships and return to the display of his immense knowledge of the class system and the unstable equilibrium it creates (pg. 65). That’s when the date would take a negative turn; my thoughts would be superficial while his academic analysis would be superior. Making your date feel inadequate does not get one selected as top pick.
My Top Pick à John Fiske and Popular Discrimination. Balance is a very attractive quality. While it is necessary to be intellectually stimulated, it is also important to be able to relax and enjoy casual conversation. While a great deal of Fiske’s article compares cultured discrimination and aesthetics to uncultured discrimination and social functionality, he does reveal a weakness for authors that are not seen as superior to their desired audience. “My professional status and its rewards, to take a personal example, come at least as much from my enjoyment of television and popular culture, from my wholehearted participation in its pleasures…” (pg. 221). Fiske is able to provide examples within his writings that illustrate he knows the mind and heart of the common man. References to Miami Vice, Dallas, and daytime soap operas show that the author and reader are on the same playing field, even if there is a difference in taste.
If John and I went on a date, it would be full of conversations that covered many topics and demonstrated many interests. He might ask about my day and I would tell him about some of my interactions. He would say something like, “That reminds me of Tom Hanks’ movie!” I would respond with, “Right?!? Seriously!” He would then slide into a more serious comment about the situation to demonstrate empathy and a sincere desire to learn about me. Later in the evening he might talk about the strict home he was raised in where Latin was studied and museums were visited,
but how now he chooses to attend events like Comic Con and premieres of Star Wars movies. John would be able to read the situation to know when humor would add to the discussion and when intellect would lead to more understanding. I would actually get to see different angles of his personality. When I went to lunch with my girl friends the next day, I would keep interjecting, “John said…” into the conversation. Being adaptable and perceptive is a great social skill and it will ensure one is selected as top pick.
The contestant’s final decision in the Dating Game was made after only a few short answers to quirky questions. The selection was based on assumptions and imagination. This week I imagined personal interactions with each of the three authors from the Birmingham School of Thought, based on the little information I gathered from their writings. I may be completely off the mark in my pretend-date scenarios, but the words they wrote painted images in my mind.
Question: What attracts you to pieces of writing or other cultural artifacts? Do you look for productivity and relevance or quality and aesthetics?