Foro TV, a product of the Mexican broadcasting conglomerate Televisa, promises to feature some of this country’s leading journalists and commentators, like Hector Aguilar Camin (co-author of "In the Shadow of the Mexican Revolution"), Denise Dresser and Leo Zuckerman.
But it opens the morning news with Brozo the clown. What does it say about the viewing audience -- or Televisa’s perception of us -- that we might want our news from a green-haired, red-nosed jokester?
Actually, Brozo has quite a history in Mexican current events, and it hasn’t always been a laughing matter. The costumed persona of journalist Victor Trujillo is known for an irreverence that often skewered the mighty and powerful. Embattled politicians all the way up to a president’s wife have chosen him to be the recipient of exclusive interviews or campaign promos.
A few years back, Brozo stunned a high-ranking city official who was appearing as a guest on a morning show the clown hosted at the time. Brozo aired a secret videotape showing the man stuffing a briefcase and then his pockets with thousands of dollars in alleged bribe money. The man’s career was toast, and the scandal may have cost his boss, then-Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the presidency in 2006.
Brozo left morning television following the death of his wife in 2004 but is returning now to what he says will be a no-holds-barred format.
I’ve been trying to teach him the nuances of the NFL. He likes watching the games on television, he loves the New England Patriots–particularly Tom Brady–but he gets confused a great deal because the television announcers do a lousy job of explaining on what the play is, who’s in the game, and how the defense is set.
We tried computers. I bought an old Madden game as a learning tool but that also assumes a great deal of knowledge about the game.
Then this Sunday, we had to take an hour-long drive to meet my mother and do some shopping. We were driving back during the fourth quarter of the game between the Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens. I was dying to know the score, so I tuned into the our local radio broadcast.
And my son became enthralled ... what he loved was that the announcers actually told him what was going on in the game. “Brady’s in the shotgun, three receiver set to his right, Kevin Faulk in the backfield, defense is stacking eight men on the line…Faulk goes in motion leaving an empty backfield…”
Television announcers seem to assume you can see everything in the game. Or they’re flat out not as good. Take you pick.
No longer do substantial majorities of the public say a microwave oven, a television set or even home air conditioning is a necessity. Instead, nearly half or more now see each of these items as a luxury. Similarly, the proportion that considers a dishwasher or a clothes dryer to be essential has dropped sharply since 2006.
These recession-era reevaluations are all the more striking because the public's luxury-versus-necessity perceptual boundaries had been moving in the other direction for the previous decade. For example, the share of adults who consider a microwave a necessity was just 32% in 1996. By 2006, it had shot up to 68%. Now it has retreated to 47%. Similarly, just 52% of the public in the latest poll say a television set is a necessity -- down 12 percentage points from 2006 and the smallest share to call a TV a necessity since this question was first asked more than 35 years ago.
The consequences of technological change are always vast, often unpredictable and largely irreversible. That is also why we must be suspicious of capitalists. Capitalists are by definition not only personal risk takers but, more to the point, cultural risk takers. The most creative and daring of them hope to exploit new technologies to the fullest, and do not much care what traditions are overthrown in the process or whether or not a culture is prepared to function without such traditions. Capitalists are, in a word, radicals. In America, our most significant radicals have always been capitalists—men like Bell, Edison, Ford, Carnegie, Sarnoff, Goldwyn. These men obliterated the 19th century, and created the 20th, which is why it is a mystery to me that capitalists are thought to be conservative. Perhaps it is because they are inclined to wear dark suits and grey ties.
I trust you understand that in saying all this, I am making no argument for socialism. I say only that capitalists need to be carefully watched and disciplined. To be sure, they talk of family, marriage, piety, and honor but if allowed to exploit new technology to its fullest economic potential, they may undo the institutions that make such ideas possible. And here I might just give two examples of this point, taken from the American encounter with technology. The first concerns education. Who, we may ask, has had the greatest impact on American education in this century? If you are thinking of John Dewey or any other education philosopher, I must say you are quite wrong. The greatest impact has been made by quiet men in grey suits in a suburb of New York City called Princeton, New Jersey. There, they developed and promoted the technology known as the standardized test, such as IQ tests, the SATs and the GREs. Their tests redefined what we mean by learning, and have resulted in our reorganizing the curriculum to accommodate the tests.
A second example concerns our politics. It is clear by now that the people who have had the most radical effect on American politics in our time are not political ideologues or student protesters with long hair and copies of Karl Marx under their arms. The radicals who have changed the nature of politics in America are entrepreneurs in dark suits and grey ties who manage the large television industry in America. They did not mean to turn political discourse into a form of entertainment. They did not mean to make it impossible for an overweight person to run for high political office. They did not mean to reduce political campaigning to a 30-second TV commercial. All they were trying to do is to make television into a vast and unsleeping money machine. That they destroyed substantive political discourse in the process does not concern them.
Every preacher who has been around a while finds consolation in the promise of Isaiah that “the word shall not return void.” To preach well is success. I recall rallies when, in the course of his preaching, King would hold forth on the theological and moral foundations of the movement. The klieg lights and cameras shut down, only to be turned on again when he returned to specifically political or programmatic themes. “Watch the lights,” he commented. “They’re not interested in the most important parts.”
Bonnie Erickson designed and built the inimitable Miss Piggy in 1974 for an early “Muppets” television special, produced by Jim Henson. Puppets, props and storyboards from Henson’s prolific career are featured in the traveling exhibit ”Jim Henson’s Fantastic World.” Anika Gupta spoke with Erickson.
You’ve been designing muppets and mascots for years. What attracts you to them?
The creation of worlds—the whole process of designing characters, putting together a back story, giving the characters an environment in which they can thrive and casting performers who can bring them to life.
Why do puppets appeal to adults as well as children?
They’ve been a tradition across the world for thousands of years as a form of storytelling. But, until recently, they have’t been appreciated in the United States. Now, however, puppetry is finding a niche in the arts—dance, theater and even opera. I think people appreciate the performers’ skill as well as the artistry of the puppets themselves. We owe a lot of that to [Muppets creator] Jim Henson’s vision.
Who inspired the character of Miss Piggy?
My mother used to live in North Dakota where Peggy Lee sang on the local radio station before she became a famous jazz singer. When I first created Miss Piggy I called her Miss Piggy Lee—as both a joke and an homage. Peggy Lee was a very independent woman, and Piggy certainly is the same. But as Piggy’s fame began to grow, nobody wanted to upset Peggy Lee, especially because we admired her work. So, the Muppet’s name was shortened to Miss Piggy.