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TV in Horror Film

Posted on December 2, 2016

TV in Horror Film

Dawn Keetley

It’s hard to overestimate the profound effect of the TV on American culture; it may be rivaled only by the Internet or the smart phone. Television was introduced into US homes in the late 1940s and, according to James Baughman, “No other household technology, not the telephone or indoor plumbing, had ever spread so rapidly into so many homes.” The “number of homes with TVs increased from 0.4 percent in 1948,” Baughman writes, “to 55.7 percent in 1954 and to 83.2 percent four years later.” By the mid-1950s, “‘Television had established its place as the most important single form of entertainment and of passing the time.’”[i]

Given the rate at which TVs spread through US homes, it’s actually rather surprising that they don’t make an appearance in a horror film until George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead in 1968—a decade after they had insinuated themselves into over 83% of our homes. (Having said that, I’m eager to hear from people who know of horror films before 1968 that weave TV into their plot.) Since 1968, the TV has been a regular in the horror film, and so here I just want to sketch out some of the highlights of TV’s role in US horror, tracking how it has manifest our culture’s changing anxieties about that box that has transfixed us for almost 60 years. And if that last sentence sounds elegiac, it is—because TV’s power is on the wane. Read more

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