Invasion of the Mind Snatchers: Television's Conquest of America in the Fifties

Invasion of the Mind Snatchers: Television's Conquest of America in the Fifties

by Eric Burns
     
 

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When the first television was demonstrated in 1927, a headline in The New York Times read, “Like a Photo Come to Life.” It was a momentous occasion. But the power of television wasn’t fully harnessed until the 1950s, when the medium was, as Eric Burns says, “At its most preoccupying, its most life-altering.” And Burns, a former

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Overview

When the first television was demonstrated in 1927, a headline in The New York Times read, “Like a Photo Come to Life.” It was a momentous occasion. But the power of television wasn’t fully harnessed until the 1950s, when the medium was, as Eric Burns says, “At its most preoccupying, its most life-altering.” And Burns, a former NBC News correspondent who is an Emmy-winner for his broadcast writing, knows about the impact of television.

Invasion of the Mind Snatchers chronicles the influence of television that was watched daily by the baby boomer generation. As kids became spellbound by Howdy Doody and The Ed Sullivan Show, Burns reveals, they often acted out their favorite programs. Likewise, they purchased the merchandise being promoted by performers, and became fascinated by the personalities they saw on screen, often emulating their behavior. It was the first generation raised by TV and Burns looks at both the promise of broadcasting as espoused by the inventors, and how that promise was both redefined and lost by the corporations who helped to spread the technology.

Yet Burns also contextualizes the social, cultural, and political events that helped shape the Fifties—from Sputnik and the Rosenberg trial to Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Red Scare.  In doing so, he charts the effect of television on politics, religion, race, and sex, and how the medium provided a persuasive message to the young, impressionable viewers.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[A]n entertaining as well as informative book.... Burns provides sharp analysis, explaining just how the industry exercised unprecedented power over the average American’s thoughts about news events such as the McCarthy hearings, social changes such as civil rights protests, and the roles of women and African Americans. This well-researched book contains a nice combination of serious topics and humorous anecdotes, plus an insightful bibliography. VERDICT: Reading a work by Burns is like having a delightful, intelligent conversation with a cultural expert. Highly recommended for TV history enthusiasts as well as general readers."
—Library Journal

Library Journal
Burns (The Spirits of America: A Social History of Alcohol), a cultural historian, former TV journalist, and baby boomer, draws on his credentials to produce an entertaining as well as informative book. He begins with how television was first invented, then presents a chronological history of social events that affected its development in the 1950s. As TV invaded living rooms of millions of anxious American families, actors became unlikely heroes to awestruck viewers, dominating their leisure hours, taking advantage of their innocence, and influencing how consumers spent their extra money. Burns provides sharp analysis, explaining just how the industry exercised unprecedented power over the average American's thoughts about news events such as the McCarthy hearings, social changes such as civil rights protests, and the roles of women and African Americans. This well-researched book contains a nice combination of serious topics and humorous anecdotes, plus an insightful bibliography. VERDICT Reading a work by Burns is like having a delightful, intelligent conversation with a cultural expert. Highly recommended for TV history enthusiasts as well as general readers.—Richard A. Dickey, Washington, DC

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781439902905
Publisher:
Temple University Press
Publication date:
06/17/2010
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
252
File size:
3 MB

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