Electricity and Entertainment

Posted on 10 November 2012


The massive power outages caused by Hurricane Sandy, or “Frankenstorm” as it has been dubbed due to its proximity to Halloween, has many in New Jersey considering – perhaps, for the first time – what life would be like without electric power.  Electricity provides mobility, connectivity, and creature comforts unimagined by most just two or three centuries ago.  And, its imprint is not just upon daily living but also the field of entertainment.


Without electricity, entertainment as we know it today would be impossible.  Theatrical productions of today, many with special effects one might expect of a Hollywood blockbuster, bear little resemblance to those in centuries past.  And, of course, cinema and television depend upon electric power for both transmission and viewing.  The symbiotic effect of modern life and electric power, however, has pervaded the thoughts of creatives in the film, television, and print industries for decades and beyond.


At one point in history, electricity was theorized to be the life force.  It was the reanimation of the dead by electric power that was at the core of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the many film adaptations of her novel.


For sheer terror, however, consider the impact of darkness on the human psyche.  Biblically speaking, darkness has been viewed as being in opposition to light and symbolizes the eternal conflict between evil and good.  In darkness, evil men perpetrate nefarious schemes.  As children, we fear the dark – a fear that appears to have been ingrained in mankind from his earliest days on earth.


Hollywood has based some of its most frightening films on fear of darkness.  In the 1965 film I Saw What You Did and its subsequent remake, a prank turns potentially deadly for teen girls who find themselves home alone in an isolated, dark setting.   And, who can forget a masked Michael Myers in Halloween or hockey-masked Jason in Friday the 13th – each seemingly always lying in wait for his prey in the dark.


Yet, if darkness inspires terror, the loss of power at any time of day or night is a cause of significant concern and anxiety to most people.  In one of my favorite and most influential sci-fi films of the 1950s, The Day the Earth Stood Still, a complete worldwide loss of power is employed by an alien emissary to gain the attention of a hostile world on the verge of interplanetary travel.



More recently, NBC has broadcast Revolution, a series chronicling the exploits of a small band of survivors fifteen years after a complete and seemingly permanent loss of electrical power globally.  If art is an imitation of life, then this program graphically demonstrates how quickly social order can collapse in the aftermath of a complete loss of power.  Electricity and its transmission, it appears, are the glue that hold together our modern world.  And, it seems that those in the arts realized the potential implications of its loss sooner than our supposed leaders in government and society.







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3 Responses to “Electricity and Entertainment”

  1. barbara m. says:

    Without electricity, life would almost be not worth living. I love the show Revolution and look forward to season 2.

  2. Alex Anderson says:

    Its like you read my thoughts! An excellent read. I will certainly be back.

  3. JohnTed says:

    Very well thought out piece. Electricity and entertainment go together like peanut butter and jelly.

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