"You'll be swell, you'll be great, gonna have the whole world on a plate . . . "
By 1995 the mirror will be dead. You can kiss it good-bye. In the twenty-first century children will say, "Tell us about the mirrors, mommy," and ask, "Daddy, daddy, what's a mirror?" The miror image will have been replaced by a new image; the iconography of the self will have been electronically restructured; and a software explosion will have ushered in a golden-glitter age of pampered human vanity.
In other words, YOU'RE GOING TO BE ON TELEVISION, DUMMY.
We are all going to get to see what we look like on television - and what we look like on television will be the new standard for what we look like, period. Andy Warhol said everybody would be a star for fifteen minutes but oh, Andy, you stopped short! Everybody is going to be a star, and everybody is also going to be a guest host, and everybody is also going to be an auteur.
Audience shall become show, show shall become audience; viewer will be viewee; performer and observer shall be like unto the other. And, oh yeah, the world will never be the same. Actually, it will be exactly the same, except that instead of staying home and looking at Fronzie's kisser sprayed across a phosphor screen by an electron gun, we will all be able to stay home and look at our own.
This Christmas, a few thousand families will form the vanguard of an invading army in the next great media war. For the first time, home video recorder systems are being aggressively hawked through mass advertising by several different manufacturers, and RCA, which in August introduced its SelectaVision outfit, predicts home video recorders will be a "billion-dollar industry" within three years.
Of course, the home video recorders now being sold by RCA, Sony, Zenith, and many others are being pitched as luxury conveniences, components that permit a limited alternative to regular TV viewing. There's been little mention yet of photographing and watching yourself, partly because the costs of a video camera remain prohibitively high (the recorder cost itself hovers around the $1000 mark). Instead, the viewer-consumer nation is being instructed on the benefits of recording TV programs to play them back later.
"Now you can make the TV schedule fit your schedule," says an ad for the Zenith Video Cassette Recorder.
And Sony's Betamax "lets you program your own television, so you can call your television your own."
All very nice but that's not what we're waiting for. We don't just want to call our television our own. We want to call our television ourSELF. Can't you just see it now - The I-Me-Mine Network . . . Channelo Uno . . . Station WIII . . .
"Ladies and gentlemen . . . I present . . . MYSELF . . . starring . . . ME . . . Produced and directed by . . . YOURS TRULY . . . With special guest stars . . . MY wife and MY Kiddies and MY aspidistra, who appear with the gracious permission of . . . moi! . . . Filling in for ME tonight will be none other than . . . MYSELF . . . And now, heeeeeere's I !"
Yes, a new horizon is in view.We are about to cross another great threshold and fall flat on our faces.
There are some obstacles in the way of this revolution. Don't go-to-the-mirror-boy yet. First, the industry has to iron out some problems. One is that, as with quadraphonic sound, that other great nirvana machine that was going to alter the course of the universe but didn't, different companies have different home video systems, so that the cassette you can play on your RCA Selecta Vision will not play on somebody eles's Sony, Zenith, Sanyo, Toshiba or Pioneer machine and neither cassette will play on Quasar's "Great American Time Machine" recorder. The manufacturer of each system claims its to be the best - no surprise, that. A standard will have to wait while they slug it out in the market-place.
There is another little problem - a teeny-tiny lawsuit pending in a Los Angeles Federal court that could make it legal for people to own recorders but illegal to record on them, or at least record anything off the TV set, like, say, the 444th rerun of "Destination Tokyo" complete with sixteen commercials for Venus Fly Traps and twelve for a sponge on a stick that enables you to paint a ceiling in your tuxedo. (What a ceiling is doing in upir tuxedo . . .) Obviously, this is the most preposterous lawsuit since Jack the Ripper tried to get the London Times on defamation of character (this didn't really happen - but who knows?). But if history has taught us anything, it is that what Lewis Carroll was really writing was investigative journalism.
Nothing is too ridiculous to happen.
The partners in the suit, filed against Sony and its Betamax but presumably affecting all companies making recorders, are Walt Disney Productions and Universal Studios, a division of MCA Inc. which happens, just happens, to be in a veil-lifting mood again for its own Video Disc system, competition for the cassette machines in that it enables you to program video from prerecorded discs you buy in stores. You can't record so much as a sneeze on a Video Disc, however; hence its competitive disadvantage and hence too the lawsuit. As for the veil, it's been going up on this baby for years.
What the suit says is that home video recorders permit abuse of copyright of giving everybody the capacity to duplicate and preserve what is telecast.
MCA and Disney fear we'll all be busy recording shows off the air and then - hey, wait a minute! Just WHO do these guys think they're kidding?? Do they really think we want to tape that crap? Here we are, poor little viewers, who have been suffering through TV shows night after night after night since Harry Truman was still in the kitchen - so now we're going to want to record all that drek? Whoa boy, pardon us while we split a side. We don't want to SAVE that junk; we want to avoid it.
Ah, but the recorder companies themselves tell us that the new wonder-toy will enrich our lives by enabling us to record one program while we watch another. That way, we won't have to miss our "favorite" shows.
WHAT favorite shows? What do you mean, WHAT favorite shows? You know - your fayyyyyyyyvorite shows. Like, uh, well, like, uh, well, like - oh, you know. Like on a Monday night, when you can't decide whether you want to tackle the subtle cerebral nuances of "Little House on the Prairie" or savor the witty pas de cinqs of "The San Pedro Beach Bums." Or when you can't choose which you'd rather avoid: a smarmy piece of slop about rich people having intercourse, or another protracted eruption by that legendary national geyser commonly known as Howard Cosell's big fat yap.
Oh, how have we ever made such choices? Won't we wonder how we ever got along without a Beta Vision or a SelectaMax?
No, we won't. Not at first. But obviously, this is a transitional phase, just the first dainty step toward total video armament in every middlesex, village and farm. A nice beginning, but the camera's what we're waiting for. It's not access to "Harry and Walter Go to New York" that we want. It's access to us. Obviously, too, this is a transitional paragraph; because we are going now from the pleasant, amusing, wispy-thin but tasty-yummy area of light entertainment on a Sunday morning and into the heavily holistic, helical-conical, horizontal linearity of far-out Media Theory. The Death of Mirrors: Part Two
You can Go-To-The-Mirror-Now, Boy.
When the video image replaces the mirror image, it will allow each of us to see ourselves not as others see us, which hardly matters to a narcissistic species with a long history of onanistic excess anyway, but rather to see ourselves as the camera sees us. In the early days of TV, performers looked into cameras and tried to imagine people inside them, to give them someone to relate to. Now, in the Video Era, people look at other people and try to imagine a camera there. "Remember," says a Maryland video group, "Sooner or later, everyone will be on television." When WE are on television - on camera, as it's called - we will at last be the equals of Grizzly Adams, Johnny Carson, Madge the Manicurist and all our other culture heroes and role models and identity figures.
WE will be our own culture heroes. WE will be our own role models. WE will be our own identity figures.
The Camera will validate us.
The Camera will certify us.
The Camera will tell us we exist and pull us outside our own bodies to look at ourselves. And find ourselves rather delightful if we do say so ourselves.
The Camera will help replace the mirror, yes, but it will also take the observer roles now filled by our peers, our psychoanalysts, our wives, our husbands, our lovers, our children, our peeping Toms, our polaroids that are out of focus anyway and our watchful aspidistras.
And, oh yes, God, too. The camera will have a God's eye view of us. And when we see the tape played back, we will have a God's eye view of ourselves.
Recorded history has taught us one thing: the only purpose for history is to be recorded. The TV camera will become our guarantor of posterity. Nothing that happens will really happen until the camera sees it, the machine records it, and we play it back. Therefore we will move into an exalted state of higher consciousness never known to the human race; we will come to realize that the RECORD button is less important than the PLAYBACK button and that the replica is more important than the original.
The replica will become the original.
Reality will take on a new meaning: No meaning whatsoever.
So for now, we can ride out the corporate lawsuits, the industrial imbroglios, the excessive costs of software, and all of that other trivia, because we know that one of these days we are going to get a really good look at the one and only US. And when that happens, brother, the networks won't be able to lure us away from the Us Show even if they televise the uncut "Star Wars" with the Farrah Fawcett-Majors nude scenes restored (there are no such scenes, but what, after all, is truth?).
We are about to take a trip into ourselves that'll make Keir Dullea's journey to Jupiter and The Beyond look like a visit to the 7-Eleven Store to pick up a box of Hostess chocolate-covered doughnuts. A close encounter of the fourth kind.
A new day of Self through Video awaits. Every I shall be dotted. Thou shalt know loneliness no more. Neither shalt thou care who Mike Wallace is beating up this week.
Technology is about to put the ME back in MEDIA. Comes the revolution, we will all be all.
And to all, a good night.