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The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man

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This is the devastating book which first established Marshall McLuhan's reputation as the foremost (and the wittiest) critic of modern mass communications.The Mechanical Bride is vintage McLuhan -- so aptly illustrated by dozens of examples from ads, comic strips, columnists, etc., that those who were stung by McLuhan were hard put for rebuttals. It shows how sex was first This is the devastating book which first established Marshall McLuhan's reputation as the foremost (and the wittiest) critic of modern mass communications.The Mechanical Bride is vintage McLuhan -- so aptly illustrated by dozens of examples from ads, comic strips, columnists, etc., that those who were stung by McLuhan were hard put for rebuttals. It shows how sex was first used to sell industrial hardware, how Orphan Annie still keeps the world on track, and how an Arabian Nights wonderland of mass entertainment and suggestion makes information irrelevant, and sends us to bed at night too dazed to question whether we're happy or not. We live in an age in which legions of highly educated professionals dedicate themselves to the task of getting inside the collective public mind with the object of manipulating, exploiting and controlling.


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This is the devastating book which first established Marshall McLuhan's reputation as the foremost (and the wittiest) critic of modern mass communications.The Mechanical Bride is vintage McLuhan -- so aptly illustrated by dozens of examples from ads, comic strips, columnists, etc., that those who were stung by McLuhan were hard put for rebuttals. It shows how sex was first This is the devastating book which first established Marshall McLuhan's reputation as the foremost (and the wittiest) critic of modern mass communications.The Mechanical Bride is vintage McLuhan -- so aptly illustrated by dozens of examples from ads, comic strips, columnists, etc., that those who were stung by McLuhan were hard put for rebuttals. It shows how sex was first used to sell industrial hardware, how Orphan Annie still keeps the world on track, and how an Arabian Nights wonderland of mass entertainment and suggestion makes information irrelevant, and sends us to bed at night too dazed to question whether we're happy or not. We live in an age in which legions of highly educated professionals dedicate themselves to the task of getting inside the collective public mind with the object of manipulating, exploiting and controlling.

30 review for The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man

  1. 4 out of 5

    sologdin

    Written to address the "condition of public helplessness" (v) brought about by the modern capitalist world (similar to Neumann's position in Behemoth), McLuhan recommends Poe's method from 'A Descent into the Maelstrom,' "studying the action of the whirlpool and by co-operating with it" (id.). What is meant is "rational detachment as a spectator" regarding the "world of social myths" (similar to Barthes in Mythologies) (id.). This perspective should remind us of Benjamin's thesis that fascism ae Written to address the "condition of public helplessness" (v) brought about by the modern capitalist world (similar to Neumann's position in Behemoth), McLuhan recommends Poe's method from 'A Descent into the Maelstrom,' "studying the action of the whirlpool and by co-operating with it" (id.). What is meant is "rational detachment as a spectator" regarding the "world of social myths" (similar to Barthes in Mythologies) (id.). This perspective should remind us of Benjamin's thesis that fascism aestheticizes politics: "Ever since Burckhardt saw that the meaning of Machiavelli's method was to turn the state into a work of art by the rational manipulation of power, it has been an open possibility to apply the method of art analysis to the critical evaluation of society" (viii). From there, it is vignettes, reading advertisements and other mass culture artifacts current when written in 1951--prescient, much of it. It's all very interesting and clever. There's a prefiguration of his later 'global village' concept in remarks such as "henceforth this planet is a single city" (3). Plenty of other nifty insights: "When people have been accustomed for decades to perpetual emotions, a dispassionate view of anything at all is difficult to achieve" (7). The nihilist "is born now, of the violent meeting and woundings which occur when different cultures converge. In short, he is born of the social conditions of rapid turnover, planned obsolescence, and systematic change for its own sake" (13)--that is, all that is solid melts into air causes lumpenized antisocial nihilism. "The process by which dress fashions produce uniformity while pretending to cater to wild passion of the public for diversity and change is equally true in the book industry" (23). Spectre of Brecht in the notion that the intended lack of mental appraisal in mass fiction impair the "critical evaluation which strengthens the powers of reasonable living. They are things to be felt in the viscera. They deliver a direct wallop to the nervous system, unmediated by reflection or judgment. The net result of the cult of literary violence, supported as it is by other media and excitements, has been to reduce the reading public to a common level of undiscriminating helplessness" (26). "The public is not only invited inside but encouraged to believe that there is nothing inside that differs from its own thoughts and feelings" regarding government and power (27). In this, "'Democratic' vanity has reached such proportions that it cannot accept as human anything above the level of cretinous confusion of mind" (27); the "technique for taking the teeth out of the 'democratic' envy of the great or rich also gets a good deal of support from the rapid leveling down that has taken place with respect to the mental habits of public figures" (id.), which sounds ugly and familiar in the age of Trump. "As market-research tyranny has developed, the object and ends of human consumption have been blurred" (31). At times seemingly somewhat rightwing, such as citing Swift's third Gulliver travelogue approvingly on the alleged dangers of progress (34) or in the lament that "Professor's Kinsey's book is a carte blanche for maximal genital activity" (47). However, the candid discussion of the use of sex in advertising is not exactly prudish, nor is this an anti-science text: "insofar as science is under consideration in this book, it is not science considered as the passion for truth but applied science, the science geared to the laws of the market" (92). Education as supplemented "for the first time in history" by "an unofficial program of public instruction carried on by commerce through press, radio, movies" (43). "A commercial society whose members are essentially ascetic and indifferent to social ritual has to be provided with blueprints and specifications for evoking the right tone for every occasion" (51)--hence etiquette guides. The notion of cultural 'distinction' as being "distinct from the herd" (58), a nietzschean superlative. But: "by putting the 'high-brow' at the top of the consumer list in pace of the rich, the reader was discouraged from noting that all the other ratings were terms of economic status" (59), a weberian shifting of the marxian ground. "Implied in the cult of hygiene is a disgust with the human organism" (61), Bakhtin's grotesque realism as market imperative. Sometimes brilliant: "In the same way we can learn from the art of such moderns as Mallarme and Joyce analogical techniques not only of survival but of advance. Mallarme and Joyce refused to be distracted by the fashion-conscious sirens of content and subject matter and proceeded straight to the utilization of the universal forms of the artistic process itself. The political analogue of that strategy is to ignore all the national and local time-trappings of comfort, fashion, prosperity, and utility in order to seize upon the master forms of human responsibility and community" (75). Comments at times on the "interfusion of sex and technology" (84) pulls into JG Ballard--one of the main themes of the book here, recurring throughout (and in the title, obviously) Regarding Marinetti's futurism as the work of an "Italian millionaire" (88): "Nurtured in Schopenhauer's 'pessimism' and Nietzsche's 'energy,' he seized the machine as the true agent of the superman" (90)--which is a slick way to read the ubermensch idea. "The misleading effect of books like George Orwell's 1984 is to project into the future a state of affairs that already exists" (93). A genius sequence that reads Superman comics, Tarzan narratives, detective fiction, up to Sherlock Holmes (102-9)--lots of great insights, such as Holmes is part of a tradition that goes back through Richardson's Lovelace, Hamlet, Faust, Poe, Baudelaire, de Sade. Good stuff. By contrast, later, "the gangster hero stands in relation only to the laws of the land which he has defied. The Greek tragic hero stands in relation to a wider and more terrible law" (147). Recommended for the gauleiters of big business.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Imogen

    Marchall McLuhan hates everything, too, so why do I like him more than Slavoj Zizek? I will tell you why. Because I am petty, so when Zizek says, 'everything is stupid,' I say, 'whatever, duh.' But when McLuhan says 'the media is evil,' I say, 'yeah! I am the choir, preach to me!' Marchall McLuhan hates everything, too, so why do I like him more than Slavoj Zizek? I will tell you why. Because I am petty, so when Zizek says, 'everything is stupid,' I say, 'whatever, duh.' But when McLuhan says 'the media is evil,' I say, 'yeah! I am the choir, preach to me!'

  3. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie McGarrah

    The Mechanical Bride may have been an important book at one point, but now it feels very old.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Carol Sill

    Move over Mad Men, this is the basis of so much of your script - especially the early episodes. Actually seeing McLuhan's early work in pop culture and communications makes this book a fantastic trip through memory lane. Mechanical Bride indeed! We are in the soup of it now, and have moved far along in the now old marriage-a-trois of mechanization, myth making and communications designed to sway the masses into a single buying machine: "They became what they beheld." Now, so many years after pub Move over Mad Men, this is the basis of so much of your script - especially the early episodes. Actually seeing McLuhan's early work in pop culture and communications makes this book a fantastic trip through memory lane. Mechanical Bride indeed! We are in the soup of it now, and have moved far along in the now old marriage-a-trois of mechanization, myth making and communications designed to sway the masses into a single buying machine: "They became what they beheld." Now, so many years after publication we can see this with fresh eyes - was McLuhan the first to see what was hidden in plain sight? We are so used to decoding these signals it seems like child's play to us now, but it was McLuhan the consummate scholar who showed us the way to do it. Once you can see the facade you wonder why it was invisible for so long! Maybe we need to look again at the Mechanical Bride and see her for who she really is: False Maria! (as in Metropolis or....) These folk references go very deep into our Western psyche. Essential reading.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Thadd

    A frightening book about tv, radio, print and other ads, ones that change our goals, alter the neighborhood, and elect our presidents. It's impossible to measure precisely how ads affect our lives, but this book tries. Let's face it, from now until the day we die, morning, noon and night, seven days a week, we're going to be bombarded by mind numbing ads. Escaping the effects of ads is tough if not impossible. This book might make you think more about it. That's a good start. A frightening book about tv, radio, print and other ads, ones that change our goals, alter the neighborhood, and elect our presidents. It's impossible to measure precisely how ads affect our lives, but this book tries. Let's face it, from now until the day we die, morning, noon and night, seven days a week, we're going to be bombarded by mind numbing ads. Escaping the effects of ads is tough if not impossible. This book might make you think more about it. That's a good start.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Timothy

    Witty and entertaining but not one of McLuhan's seminal works. My original thought upon picking this up was that it was like an American companion to Mythologies by Roland Barthes. Not so much. The latter still fascinates, while this one is just cute. It reads at about the same level as Thomas Frank. Witty and entertaining but not one of McLuhan's seminal works. My original thought upon picking this up was that it was like an American companion to Mythologies by Roland Barthes. Not so much. The latter still fascinates, while this one is just cute. It reads at about the same level as Thomas Frank.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Elh ✨

    I don’t understand how this book managed to be interesting and boring at the same time. Either way, i really had to push myself to finish it. I think nowadays its value is reaaally lower than when it was written. I mean, in the 50s? WOKE. Today? Everyone with a little bit of common sense knows the stuff he points out already. But props to McLuhan for understanding that 70 years ago.

  8. 4 out of 5

    TS Allen

    "No longer is it possible for modern man, individually or collectively, to live in any exclusive segment of human experience or achieved social pattern. The modern mind, whether in its subconscious collective dream or in its intellectual citadel of vivid awareness, is a stage on which is contained and re-enacted the entire experience of the human race. There are no more remote and easy perspective, either artistic or national. Everything is present and in the foreground. That fact is stressed eq "No longer is it possible for modern man, individually or collectively, to live in any exclusive segment of human experience or achieved social pattern. The modern mind, whether in its subconscious collective dream or in its intellectual citadel of vivid awareness, is a stage on which is contained and re-enacted the entire experience of the human race. There are no more remote and easy perspective, either artistic or national. Everything is present and in the foreground. That fact is stressed equally in current physics, jazz, newspapers and psychoanalysis. And it is not a question of preference or taste. This flood has already immersed us. And whether it is to be a benign flood, cleansing the Augean stables of speech and experience, as envisaged in Joyce's Finnegan's Wake, or a merely destructive element, may to some extent depend on the degree of exertion and direction which we elicit in ourselves."

  9. 4 out of 5

    Matt Sautman

    McLuhan's The Mechanical Bride is dated yet fascinating due to the media McLuhan preserves in this book's pages. Readers approaching this to understand modern media or industrialization that manifests in folklore will likely be disappointed, but readers who approach this book from a historical perspective may find McLuhan's scattered thoughts an insightful glimpse into mid-century American suburban/cosmopolitan culture. McLuhan's The Mechanical Bride is dated yet fascinating due to the media McLuhan preserves in this book's pages. Readers approaching this to understand modern media or industrialization that manifests in folklore will likely be disappointed, but readers who approach this book from a historical perspective may find McLuhan's scattered thoughts an insightful glimpse into mid-century American suburban/cosmopolitan culture.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Katie Wennechuk

    First book of the new year! Marshall McLuhan uses commentary on ads to show how the best trained minds of our age have made it their full time business to get inside the collective public mind in order to manipulate, exploit and control. This generates a lot of heat but no light and keeps us in a constant state of mental rutting. AMAZING BOOK.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jenan

    As I was reading this book one thought accompanied me throughout reading almost all of it: was this really published 1951? The author's ability to unravel the mysteries of the human psyche in our modern time was truly amazing! Highly recommended! As I was reading this book one thought accompanied me throughout reading almost all of it: was this really published 1951? The author's ability to unravel the mysteries of the human psyche in our modern time was truly amazing! Highly recommended!

  12. 5 out of 5

    J L

    Decades later, the observations made in this title, written largely as a collection of essays, are still incredibly relevant. For any artist in New Media, any Publisher, and any child of the digital age, it's definitely worth the read. Decades later, the observations made in this title, written largely as a collection of essays, are still incredibly relevant. For any artist in New Media, any Publisher, and any child of the digital age, it's definitely worth the read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    An absolutely fascinating view of our culture from a completely unique perspective. This is where McLuhan started his journey of exploration into how our tools, and means of storing and moving experience shape how we view the world; as well as how they extend our various faculties and appendages.

  14. 4 out of 5

    John Brooke

    When I read this book I was working in the advertising industry as a young art director. McLuhan's clear perspective on the nature of the greed industry opened my eyes to see beyond mere seductive images and the mind machinations in the viewer. A breath taking work. When I read this book I was working in the advertising industry as a young art director. McLuhan's clear perspective on the nature of the greed industry opened my eyes to see beyond mere seductive images and the mind machinations in the viewer. A breath taking work.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    Amazing book. Written in 1951 when only 1 in 10 homes had TVs. This book really sets the ground work for a lot of the intellectual paths that came after it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Todd Harris

    Very interesting read on the culture of commerce and the disconnect that can happen between members of our modern society.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Patrdr

    This was written in 1951 and in many ways, I think, it has held up well 70 years later. I approached it partly expecting a historical artifact (and it didn’t disappoint in that regard) provoked by references in the letters of Flannery O’Connor. She and some of her contemporaries took McLuhan seriously as a critic of contemporary culture. And I had read some McLuhan in the psychedelicized ‘70s, without absorbing very much. The book consists of short essays commenting on particular advertisements o This was written in 1951 and in many ways, I think, it has held up well 70 years later. I approached it partly expecting a historical artifact (and it didn’t disappoint in that regard) provoked by references in the letters of Flannery O’Connor. She and some of her contemporaries took McLuhan seriously as a critic of contemporary culture. And I had read some McLuhan in the psychedelicized ‘70s, without absorbing very much. The book consists of short essays commenting on particular advertisements or aspects of popular culture (movies, comic strips, hit music, soap operas). He was decoding the advertisements, exposing the underlying messages. He was not a fan of commercial society and saw it as decadent, dehumanizing, aimed at building a world of brainless consumers, fortifying the power of money and building resistance to government intervention at least in business affairs. It was impossible for me to read this without thinking of Mad Men. He was, in Mechanical Bride, quite conservative. In the background, in opposition to the creatures being fostered by mass culture, was the ideal of a man or woman with a rounded education,, integrated in his society, but able to appreciate higher culture. Not that he spelled that out, but it seems to me necessary if his analysis is to be taken seriously. He comes across, to me at least, as a bit snobby. Writers who don’t make the cut include Hemingway, Walt Whitman and Carl Sandburg. (Joyce and Proust make the grade.) His views on sexuality would probably have him drummed out of social media platforms today. He seems to come down against educating boys and girls together, coeducation being a fad or trend that is guaranteed leave young male brains in a fog of desire making it impossible for them to learn. But his optionated 1950s shots are often interesting and funny. McLuhan didn’t invent this kind of cultural commentary and there were many writers who criticized the world that was emerging along with industrial capitalism and commercialism. I have no way to judge how original he was. The essays weave in references to writers who clearly influenced him and he was not making a claim to novelty. My impression, without looking into it, is that it was probably an important and influential work helped by the fact that it was entertaining and amusing.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bard

    McLuhan prints a really old advertisement then gives his opinions on it on the same or opposite page. The ads are hideous, the opinions trite, and the book worthless. McLuhan admits in the preface that he is not doing art criticism but rather politics dressed up as art criticism. So not only is he misusing art but he is doing what he accuses mass media of doing - trying to force his opinions on others under the disguise of them being what the others want. No. No thank you, we are fine thanks and McLuhan prints a really old advertisement then gives his opinions on it on the same or opposite page. The ads are hideous, the opinions trite, and the book worthless. McLuhan admits in the preface that he is not doing art criticism but rather politics dressed up as art criticism. So not only is he misusing art but he is doing what he accuses mass media of doing - trying to force his opinions on others under the disguise of them being what the others want. No. No thank you, we are fine thanks and do not need your wares.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    I'm going to just assume this aged very poorly. I'm going to just assume this aged very poorly.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lawrence

    http://gnomeship.blogspot.com/2016/10... http://gnomeship.blogspot.com/2016/10...

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mahmoud Awad

    "The Vanguard Press (1926–1988) was a United States publishing house established with a $100,000 grant from the left wing American Fund for Public Service, better known as the Garland Fund." Self-explanatory. Don't pick up this book expecting anything less than the most painful 157 pages of wretched, petulant leftist claptrap you'd find outside of a community college. Honestly delivered more of a headache than Sorrel's Reflections on Violence, which I'd consider a major accomplishment. "The Vanguard Press (1926–1988) was a United States publishing house established with a $100,000 grant from the left wing American Fund for Public Service, better known as the Garland Fund." Self-explanatory. Don't pick up this book expecting anything less than the most painful 157 pages of wretched, petulant leftist claptrap you'd find outside of a community college. Honestly delivered more of a headache than Sorrel's Reflections on Violence, which I'd consider a major accomplishment.

  22. 5 out of 5

    maha

    كيف تجسد الاعلانات في المجلات والجرائد احلام شعب وثقافته؟ من مستحضرات التجميل التي تحوي وعودا بالجمال والانوثة، الى اعلانات السجائر التي تعد وعودا بأن تصبح أكثر رجولة، الى مستحشرات التنظيف المنزلي التي تعدكم بأنك ستكوني ربة بيت ماهرة لتسعدي عائلتك. احببت فكرة الكتاب وتعليقات ماكلوهن الساخرة ولا أملك الا ان "أرى صوته" عندما شاهدت بعض الاعلانات الساذجة كلما عدت للوطن :) كيف تجسد الاعلانات في المجلات والجرائد احلام شعب وثقافته؟ من مستحضرات التجميل التي تحوي وعودا بالجمال والانوثة، الى اعلانات السجائر التي تعد وعودا بأن تصبح أكثر رجولة، الى مستحشرات التنظيف المنزلي التي تعدكم بأنك ستكوني ربة بيت ماهرة لتسعدي عائلتك. احببت فكرة الكتاب وتعليقات ماكلوهن الساخرة ولا أملك الا ان "أرى صوته" عندما شاهدت بعض الاعلانات الساذجة كلما عدت للوطن :)

  23. 4 out of 5

    Maria Gambale

    Definitely does not stand the test of time. Couldn't spend more than 5 minutes with it. Definitely does not stand the test of time. Couldn't spend more than 5 minutes with it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Stuart David

  25. 5 out of 5

    Philip Cherny

  26. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Arnone

  27. 5 out of 5

    Chaosdroid

  28. 5 out of 5

    Charlie Stephen

  29. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

  30. 5 out of 5

    Apostolos

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