The Last Laugh
Folk Humor, Celebrity Culture, and Mass-Mediated Disasters in the Digital Age
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of Wisconsin Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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List of Illustrations
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This book aims to demonstrate that the global reach of new media, par-ticularly the Internet, has now irrevocably extended itself into the ways thatmodern society expresses itself. To illustrate this, I examine the evolution ofthe humorous visual and especially narrative folk responses to death, disaster,and scandal as they have emerged in technologically mediated expressive com-...
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Writer and humorist Robert Benchley once quipped that “defining and ana-lyzing humor is a pastime of humorless people.” While the study of disastermay not be the most cheery subject on the surface, this project has been a reallabor of love. Between the many hours of solitude that I spent in the dark cor-ners of libraries or sifting through endless scholarly articles at the oﬃce, there...
Introduction: Cyberspace, Technology, and Mass Media in the Twenty-First Century
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June , , began as a normal day. I was in Bloomington, Indiana, teach-ing an introductory folklore class (cleverly disguised as a sociology course) forthe local community college. About an hour into our discussion, one of mystudents’ phones began to vibrate loudly. I leveled him with a stern “teacher’sglare” as he silenced his phone, but not even a minute later his phone vibratedagain—and this time he checked it right in front of me. Before I had the chance...
Chapter 1. Searching for Connections: How And Why We Use New Media For Vernacular Expression
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For the first few years of my life I struggled to contort my lips into theshapes that would allow me to pronounce the oﬃcial name for one ofthe first “toys” that I came to know and understand as a human being. Despitemy developmental limitations, I would point to the bulky machine in myfather’s oﬃce while repeatedly uttering one of the first words that came frommy mouth, “ahkaboo.” While I have no actual memory of doing such things,...
Chapter 2. Changing Technologies, Changing Tastes: The Evolution Of Humor And Mass-Mediated Disasters In The Late Twentieth Century
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The Three Mile Island accident and NASA’s Challenger space shuttle dis-aster are among the two most notable catastrophes to occur in the UnitedStates between the end of the media-saturated Vietnam era and the emergenceand popular adoption of Internet technology. By comparison, the highly visu-alized and narrative responses found online in the ensuing days and monthsafter the terrorist attacks of September , , reveal correlative traditions...
Chapter 3. From 9/11 To The Death Of Bin Laden: Vernacular Expression And The Emergence Of Web 2.0
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Unquestionably, the early s were a crucial time in the Internet’s develop-ment as a communications powerhouse. This was the Web . era, where con-nections to the Internet were typically made through a dial-up service with kbandwidth (versus today’s broadband Internet accessibility and the currentglobal average Internet speed of . megabytes per second).1 Websites were...
Chapter 4. "Intimate Strangers" The Folk Response To Celebrity Death And Falls From Grace
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Until this point, I have discussed at great length the mass-mediated disas-ters, the human need for connectivity, and the historical contexts throughwhich vernacular expression has been facilitated by mass media in the responseto tragedy. So how, then, does celebrity and folk culture meaningfully inter-sect within society, and why does it matter? Surprisingly, celebrity cultureprovides compelling evidence for how new media technologies influence folk-...
Chapter 5. From Sports Hero to Supervillain Or, How Tiger Woods Wrecked His Car(eer)
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There was a time when professional golfer Eldrick “Tiger” Woods could dono wrong. In the minds of many adoring fans and respected sports com-mentators he was an exemplary professional with sound moral credentials.From his early career through , the charming and handsome athletewas recruited to endorse such high-profile products as Nike shoes and Gator -ade sports drinks as well as golf equipment and apparel. He eventually created...
Chapter 6. Dethroning the King of Pop: Michael Jackson And The Humor Of Death
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By any measure, Michael Jackson—“the King of Pop,” “the Gloved One,”“Wacko Jacko,” whatever you want to call him—was a cultural icon. Asthe best-selling artist of all time, the complex musical and pop culture phe-nomenon left a tremendous legacy and a wealth of cultural reverberationsfrom his career and sensationalized personal life after his passing in June .An estimated one billion people witnessed the broadcast of Michael Jack-...
Chapter 7. Laughing to Death: Tradition, Vernacular Expression and American Culture In The Digital Age
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In the United States, the notion of the “good old days” has prevailed in thepopular imagination for some time. Many Americans look to the past andenvision close-knit communities and neighborhood barbeques; others remarkupon the moral superiority of the long-abandoned “traditional values” fromdays of yore, or extol past generations’ physical connectivity with friends,family, and neighbors as evidence of a better time in American culture (see...
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Throughout the twentieth century, scholars have observed that social net-works are supposedly weakest after age forty (see Brandes ). At thistime in one’s life, meaningful friendships are often diminished or dwindling,and interpersonal discord is often reported. In fact, this is such a common talethat our society has created and identified a rite of passage to facilitate thetransition into “older adulthood”: the midlife crisis. The ritual of the midlife...
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Page Count: 176
Illustrations: 12 b/w illus.
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Folklore Studies in a Multicultural World