Popular Culture Review Vol. 28, No. 2, Summer 2017 - Page 19

less deterministic model, first posited by the theorist Antonio Gramsci and later elaborated by Stuart Hall and other scholars associated with the Birmingham School of Cultural Studies. These theorists reject Adorno and Horkheimer’s “mass (media) culture” argument, particularly its assumption that consumers comprise a hopelessly passive audience in the face of media and entertainment culture and that this multifaceted culture can be reduced to an ideological formula. While recognizing the ideological power of mass (media) culture and entertainment culture, Cultural Studies scholars dismiss the Frankfurt School’s premise that this multifaceted culture is ideologically monolithic. Embracing Gramsci’s concept of hegemony, these scholars view the process by which ideology operates in mass (media) culture as complex and often contradictory. Though a critical site of power, mass (media) culture is a space in which power relations are both established and potentially resisted. Consumers are not passive “readers” of mass (media) and entertainment culture, uncritically embracing a market ideology that it supposedly uncritically promulgates. Consumers also interpret, or “decode,” media and entertainment culture in ways that potentially interrupt and resist the dominant ideology. Most dystopian novels, such as George Orwell’s 1984 (1949), Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1931), and Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange (1962) or in the U.S. The Iron Heel, The Man in the Hightower and Kurt Vonnegut’s Piano Player (1952), depict a future fascist society that strikingly recalls the Frankfurt School’s bleak vision of modern Western society. And though dystopian fears structure many postmodernist novels, such as Don DeLillo’s White Noise (1985), postmodernist absurdism rarely allows for the kind of overtly political project, shaped by a Neo-Hoodoo perspective rooted in the syncretic cultures of the African Caribbean, that Reed carries out in The Terrible Twos. A farcical postmodernist vision of a near-future fascist America in which resistance takes many forms and real change is possible, Reed’s novel also wholly contradicts, or rather, signifies on, the deterministic Frankfurt School model. Though written more than three decades ago, it’s farcical depiction of the incestuous relationship between the electronic media, popular and celebrity culture and presidential politics adumbrated the Trump era far more cogently than other fascist dystopian novels. Only Reed’s campy brand of satire plot delineates a twenty-first century popular media and entertainment culture in which celebrities like Donald Trump and Kim Kardashian, grotesque caricatures of the American dream, reign triumphant. After watching Stanley Kubrick’s cold war farce Dr. Strangelove, the activist Daniel Ellsberg, at the time a nuclear strategy analyst at the RAND Corporation, told a 14