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White Noise: Consumerism And Mass Media

Jack Gladney, as a consumer may feel free, independent and powerful to create his own future, but the feeling of satisfaction soon fades away and the feeling of emptiness returns, because the only thing he really is able to control is the number of goods he can buy and the amount of money he spends. Mass consumerism creates a false sense of helping an individual find a unique identity. It actually kills the identity which assigns the individual to one of the many standardized groups of consumers. Jack Gladney, the founder and the college chairman of the ‘Hitler studies’, believes that just like the great German dictator unified the Nazis, Americans now long to be members of consumer groups in order to ward off death. Death is another interesting topic in this book. The main characters use consumerism to deny death. Anyway, death still faces individually, so it doesn’t matter what group you belong to. All the characters including Babette, Jack’s wife, are fixated on death. Babette has problems imagining death. At this high income level, even with all of the assets acquired, she is concerned with her health and is trying to find ways to get out of this fear. Instead of searching for the escape inside of herself she is finding external painkillers. She starts using some kind of Prozac-like medication called ‘Dylar’, which really does her no good and it only harms her health. John sticks by Hitler because Hitler is ‘larger than death’, basically just like any other celebrity used by people who are afraid to deal with their fear of death on their own.

But this doesn’t help him much anyway. Even Jack’s initials J.A.K., which were specially invented in order to have a better image, remind of the deceased American president. Sometimes Jack thinks about his gun, hidden in the bathroom, sometimes he wakes up and thinks of death (especially before his 51st birthday), often he thinks about who’s going to die first :he or his wife? The airborne toxic event was quite an experience for a death-fearing family. With every new media report they are finding out new symptoms and new things which could start happening to their bodies. That’s where the real power of mass media becomes apparent! Characters of the “White Noise” create false images/realities for themselves. Jack, an American whop is experiencing problems learning German, hides his weaknesses behind shaded glasses and under the black robe, a sign of authority. He tries to create a more comfortable reality for himself looking for proof that the Nazi fuehrer also had problems with the language. Murray uses Elvis as his idol. Babette uses her image of a strong, always busy woman, although in reality she’s rather weak. She uses illegal drugs that have not been approved for usage, and the way she gets those drugs is through a long series of secret sexual intercourses with Mr. Gray in a motel. The real reason for this is lack of love in the relationship with her husband. They don’t even have sex, and every time they try to do it they end up looking at old photographs for hours. They try to create an image of a healthy American family, and if they do it successfully, that means that all the families in the country are rather unhealthy, because spending time with the family, watching TV silently, waiting until this routine is over to go do whatever else, is not normal. Mass media has a great influence on people in the book. They believe everything said on TV/Radio even if they don’t quite understand what’s being discussed. The airborne toxic event can be one example. Kids believe in all they hear from the life radio coverage of the event, and find all the symptoms of the disease on their bodies. Another example is when Jack and his son Heinrich drive in a car and rain falls right on it. Heinrich tells his father about the weather prognosis for the night that says it shall be raining. Jack advises his son to rely more on his own senses as it is already raining. Mass media consumes these people. After Babette is shown on TV, everyone starts treating her differently. People are possessed by the idea of becoming famous for at least a minute. The only thing Jack’s daughter is disappointed about after the power-off on the plane is that they could have been shown on TV if the camera were there! Some try to get some fame by spending time in the company of a bunch of snakes, or killing 6 unknown people.

People no longer have faith in God as well as in themselves. When Jack, after shooting Mr. Gray, asks a nun on how the Church views heaven, we find out that nuns are just an image for women who like to live in a monastery and give hope to non-believers. People also have no faith in themselves. They are completely unable to choose their image based on insight, so they have to go to malls to get dome help from the most famous/’unique’ brands (you are what you buy). Americans in the book are pictured as a lost nation that has lost its soul and any kind of religion apart from consumerism. Fame is the only way to escape the randomness of death, and the means of achieving fame can be almost any. Life is important only when it is featured on the TV, the rest simply is not worth paying attention.

Submitted by:

Sharon White

The article was produced by the writer of http://masterpapers.com. Sharon White is a senior writer and writers consultant at term papers. Get some useful tips for thesis writing and term paper writing .




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