The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruptions
– Gil Scott-Heron, “The Revolution will not be Televised”
I heard it’s said the revolution won’t be televised
But in the land of milk and honey there’s a date you gotta sell it by
Otherwise it just expires and spoils
– Talib Kweli, “The Beautiful Struggle”
Gil Scott-Heron’s piece tells us that counterculture movements can’t begin as corporate products. While his message about the value of grassroots change continues to be powerful forty years laster, the framing of his message is not without some irony. CBS News did, in fact, televise much of the 1960s civil rights movement that inspired Scott-Heron’s work. As a spoken word poem and as a song, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” was recorded by RCA studios in the very beginning of the 1970s. Even before Scott-Heron penned these words, writers used photocopiers to circumvent mainstream publishing, producing a wealth of fanzines and alternative publications that have been canonized in archives across the country.
The reality is, corporate products help to disseminate counterculture messages. Even more interestingly, counterculture messages are often delivered to us as corporate products (a Ramones tee shirt at Hot Topic, a Tupac Shakur track downloaded from iTunes). In these latter cases, corporate packaging of counterculture messages offer us an opportunity to evaluate our culture more critically. If everyone who purchased a product that communicates a message of cultural resistance worked to affect real change, our social and economic systems would change much more quickly than they do. Why do we consume messages that we don’t necessarily heed?
For this presentation I’d like your group to choose a corporate product that conveys a message of cultural resistance. Present that product to the class, examining the following:
- What is the message, and who is its author?
- For whom is the message intended?
- What company has sponsored the message? How is the message packaged?
- Who is the intended consumer (note: this answer may be different than the answer to your second bullet)?
- Finally, do you believe this presentation of the message has the potential to bring about meaningful change?
We’ll discuss presentational skills in class. You’re welcome (expected!) to share media excerpts, photos, text, etc. during your presentation. To address the bullets above you’ll need to engage in close reading of the products you’ve chosen.
Dates: Oct. 12-19
Groups: Auto-generated on Blackboard! You can contact your group members via email through Blackboard’s messaging system.
Time: Between 12 and 15 mins.
Media: Choose your presentational mode according to the needs of your product. If you chose to use slides I request you create a publicly viewable slide show using Google Drive and share that file with me before your presentation. We’ll link to your slides from our daily schedule for ease of access on the day of your presentation.