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 advert...
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...vior. In that same realm, Mink finds salvation as a repentant and punished sinner. On television and in the novel, harmlessness always prevails.
By coding his novel, White Noise, as if it were a television show, DeLillo comments on the state of affairs in our modern culture. DeLillo demonstrates our society's codependency on what was originally only intended to be a medium of communication. By showing the benevolence of the medium as it translates into the lives of his characters, DeLillo is saying that maybe our dependence on television, even as blood bath entertainment is not as bad as generally perceived.
DeLillo, Don. White Noise. Ed. Mark Osteen.
New York: Penguin, 1998.
Frow, John. "The Last Things Before the Last: Notes on White Noise."
DeLillo, Don. White Noise. Ed. Mark Osteen.
New York: Penguin, 1998. 417-431
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