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folklore is 'old fashioned, gray- or white-headed .. . it is the born opponent of the serial number, the stamped product, and the patented standard.' And so when folklore studies themselves suggest a stamped product made in USA it may be time to defend a border that is not imaginary. (LINDA MUNK) Morris Wolfe. 'olts: The TV Wasteland and the Canadian Oasis Lorimer. '39. $16·95; ~·95 paper The art of cinema (the phrase would then have been an oxymoron) was seen from the flISt as both a democratic art and an art of indoctrination; in either role it had little to do with the intellect. Thus a reviewer in April 1896 hailed Edison's Vitagraph as contributing to 'the people's pleasure'; and twenty years later no less an observer than Woodrow Wilson, viewing The Birth of a Nation in the White House, gave vent to the much-abused remark that 'it is like writing history in lightning.' Yet throughout those years, the nickelodeons were educating the people, broadening their horizons ever further. If film is an immensely popular art, able to stir up the masses, television is ofcourse still more so. Norhas television yet come to be widely seenas a fit subject for academic study, as film has done these past fifteen years: there is, I believe, no complete run of TV Guide, an essential research tool for a study of television broadcasting, in any library in the world. Morris Wolfe notes that there is not even very much serious critical writing about television, and that, whereas one speaks of reading particular books and seeing particular mms, television is one vast undifferentiated mass: one watches simply 'television.' Now thatfilm-going has become respectable, television has inherited the dual nature of the slightlyolder medium. With North Americans watching an average offour hours daily;its manipulative power is enormous; but it remains the people's art, scorned by the intelligentsia as 'the boob tube: 'the idiot box.' One should not, however, assume that television is attracting no scholarly attention at all. True, as Wolfe laments, there is no Bernard Shaw or even Pauline Kael writing about the medium. Butwe have on our very doorstep Marshall McLuhan's Centre for Culture and Technology, and not far from the Museum of Modem Art in New York is the Museum of Broadcasting, as dedicated as the American Film Institute to seekingout and preserving as much of the heritage as is left. As long ago as '974, the Journal of Popular Culture devoted a full-length supplement to television, as Film Comment did in '979. There are also more rigorous examples, these past few years, in the Journal ofCommunication, and a Significant straw in the wind is Fiske and Hartley's The Reading of Television, its gerund the subscription to a whole school of mm criticism. And the Thames thirteen-part series, aired in Toronto last winter, and called Simply HUMANITIES 245 'Television: was a brilliant anatomy that dissected all the cliche dangers of the medium while treating it with the respect due to an independentart form. Jolts takes its title from the units of measurement which inform this essentially exciting medium: it is electrifying, it jolts its audience, it bypasses the intellect. 'Thou shaltgive them enough jolts per minute (jpm's! or thou shalt lose them.' Wolfe, however, is generally less concerned with television as a medium - at least from a theorizing point of view - than with drawing the distinction announced in the subtitle of his book. As a friend recently noted, Toronto is the most narcissistic of cities, and the polarities of Miami Vice and Toronto Virtue are built into Wolfe's odious comparisons between TV north and south of the border: The National and the fifth estate are superior to 60 Minutes; Empire Inc. to Dallas; The King of Kensington to All in the Family; and so on. (That Canadians watch American television four-fifths of the time would seem only to confirm the role of television as the people's pleasure.) Yet meshed with the woof of self-gratulation is the warp of self-depreciation: Louis Del Grande in Seeing Things 'looks Canadian: he's fortyish, bald, overweight and a klutz...


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pp. 244-245
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