The Age of 'The Red Dress Press': An Ode to Blogging
Simpsons has always had some of the best social commentaries that are there. Started in the year in which I was born, I began to see it only when I was in my late teens especially because it was by then that I could understand spoken English enough that even without knowing American culture I could still get past the American accent and references.
There are many episodes, moments, scenes, conversations and antics from the show that have made me chuckle, laugh and smirk. All its characters are special in their own way. The existentially challenged character of Marge, the socially, professionally and emotionally challenged character of Homer, the academically challenged character of Bart, the yet to be challenged Maggie and the stimulatively challenged (neologism alert- stimulatively (adv): some one who does not have enough stimulation to match up with her potential) Lisa, are all characters that represent challenges people go through, and while people’s personalities are not uni-dimensional, I suppose carving television characters in this fashion help them retain an identification value much on the lines of how entire concept of television serial works.
Lisa was always the, wiser for her years, intellectually smart, girl who always sought more and unlike most (American) TV shows where the geeks or nerds finish last, she would often overcome social, intellectual and cultural obstacles, no matter who the opponent was. One such episode that I recall is where Lisa starts her own two page newsletter- “The Red Dress Press”. A brief plot outline is in order. Mr. Burns, the ego-maniacal, sinister, exploitative, epitomisation of the mean, lonely, rich capitalist after being offended over the euphoria over his rumoured death, decides to buy all the broadcast news companies in Springfield to completely control and attempt to change the narrative about himself in the public. (I am dying to say a lot about this story line but saving it for later in this piece).
With this complete whitewash of the media by Burns, all headlines begin to extol him and shower him with praises. This might or might not have upset anyone else but Lisa was surely not going to let this pass. So in her pesky, never say die and never sit back spirit Lisa decides to say something about it in her own small newsletter titled “The Red Dress Press”. (I am not too clear on the little things that happened in between but I refuse to google them because that just betrays a memory-piece like this one).
Lisa’s Red Dress Press becomes the only independent and fearless publication that dares to speak against Mr. Burns’s sinister agenda. It also becomes quite popular when entire Springfield in absence of any other honest commentary takes up to this newsletter in a big way. Burns tries to destroy this little newsletter in all ways possible and eventually even triumphs when Lisa can’t cope against the pressure. But just the next morning she wakes up to every next person in the town distributing their own little news and views letters. And Burns’s sinister agenda of monopolising news fails in face of the many little news letters, all of whom he possibly can’t control.
There are two big takeaways from this episode. The first, to which I alluded to before. We live in an age of controlling news. In recent times we have seen how big powerful people like capitalists, politicians etc. seize media by its throat and force it to speak on their behalf. The era of independent news was perhaps the shortest or perhaps never even realised. I won’t refer to anyone in particular but we all know the nexus between media, politics and capitalism.
The second takeaway flows directly from the first one. As and when some people try to control opinion, an innate impulse in the rest ignites them to speak against it. The Red Dress Press was not political from the start. (Although what is political anyway. After all even personal is political) It was a small personalised opinion paper, so much so that even its name came from Lisa’s own attire but it soon acquired greater dimensions. Avenues of expression have a way of doing that; growing larger than they are. Personal expressions too become political because everything is about something. In fact escaping from everything is also a political idea of ‘escapism’.
This episode came out in 2004. Internet revolution had already hit the world but its democratisation was still in the offing. We had emails but social media was still in its nascent stage and besides a few places here and there, blogs were unheard of. So in a way this episode foresaw the future. Soon there were to be many Red Dress Presses to spark inspiration for even more newsletters.
A decade later blogs have become people’s archive of everything- their lives, society, politics, travel, literature, cinema, art, poetry, everything. It is only ironical that in the past few years we too have seen rising levels of intolerance, suppression of freedom of expression, dissent and what not. We cannot be sure that the vast proliferation of online world with blogs is a direct outcome of it but surely there is some correlation to be explored here.
On completing 3 years of Opinion तंदूर I believe I needed to pay homage to the medium of blogging which allowed me to express myself and million others like me. Blogs have allowed us to speak, write, promote, exhibit and most importantly connect with the world in our own special little ways. The unprecedented monopolisation of news has been challenged. For the first time in history people are managing at least on the obvious level to present news without advertisements. As a student of journalism I feel we must appreciate blogging as an important chapter in the history of journalism, but also in history of literature, art, industry, advertising and even history itself. After all never before was history archived so expansively, extensively and routinely as with blogging.
The power in everyone’s hands to host a blog, be it an aspiring writer, artist, journalist, author, poet or anyone, makes it a powerful medium which lets no genuine effort wasted.
Lisa who could not recite her poem, an ode to the geezer rock while it was still intact had used her Red Dress Press to share her creation with the world and eventually it grew to be something more. Today we all have our Red Dress Presses waiting to grow out into something more.
We truly are living in the Age of the ‘Red Dress Press’.