Neil Postman, “The Medium is the Metaphor”
“The shape of a man’s body is largely irrelevant to the shape of his ideas when he is addressing a public in writing or on radio, or for that matter, in smoke signals. But it is quite relevant on television.” – Page 7
Literally: In this specific quote, Postman is trying to explain to the reader that a person’s physical appearance does not matter if the person is giving a speech in such a form where no one else is seeing that person, mostly because people are only seeing the person for the things that they are proposing, the way they are presenting themselves through how well they are communicating their ideas, and not for the things that they are wearing, how much they weigh, or even how big their nose is. However, this perspective of seeing someone for how well they communicate their ideas changes significantly when this person is broadcasting their speech on television because the entire country, even world is actually seeing what they look like. In this case, people tend to become so distracted by the person’s physical appearance that they begin to judge them for it due to the standards that television has set for society. Television has convinced people that the only thing that matters about an individual is the way they look which is why if a person is addressing someone over the radio or through a letter, the rules of television does not apply.
Intellectually: I specifically chose this quote because of the things that I thought about after I first read it. After reading this quote many things came to my mind especially things concerning our current society. In our society, it seems that most people are only concerned with the physical appearance of others. The things that we see on television are mostly commercials full of people who are wearing pounds of make up and expensive clothing. Commercials are full of models who are just as thin as a stick and in return people in our society see that as the only acceptable image. If a person who were the complete opposite of these models starred in a commercial, people would take it as a joke or even make jokes about that person’s physical appearance. This specific quote also made me think about just how deeply rooted television is in our brains because the things on television affect the way we not only view other people but also view ourselves. It makes me think about just how manipulative and corrupt television can be.
Emotionally: This quote also made me feel many different emotions about the society in which I live in and also about the way television works. I am torn between feeling angry and fearful. I’m mostly angry with how much society values a person’s physical appearance, I’m almost angry at how this idea of physical appearance and television go hand in hand, which has become apart of our epistemology and so many people are too stubborn to realize it. My fear stems from the idea of television being deeply rooted in our subconscious. I’m afraid that we will never be able to reverse the effects that television has had on our collective unconscious as a society and social paradigms as individuals.
Relationally: This quote fits into the overall chapter because Postman’s main point of the entire chapter is to argue that media is the medium of the message and this medium is specifically affecting our epistemology in more ways than one. Television is one of the biggest effects on our epistemology because it has been around for so long, it is our only way of being informed excluding newspapers and the internet. Society relies on television, on the media to keep us informed and entertained. It is the only way that the message can get to the people and if television is sending us the wrong message we wouldn’t even know because what really is the right message? Therefore, this quote fits into the chapter and demonstrates a part of it’s key concept well.