Recapturing the era of radio:
Woody Allen's film Radio Days
The dawn of the 21st century heralded the next stage of 'mediatised
society' which was the internet based entertainment and news culture
which has gained intensity in its expansion through the bridging of
mobile phone technology and computer software.
Mediatisation of society, where mass media plays the function of
decision maker over people's lives and give them direction can be traced
back to the invention of the printing press and the gradual spread of a
newspaper culture where people craved for news as a the written word.
And then came radio and thereafter television preceding the digitalised
society of today where its principally internet media dominated
In this regard I'd like to cite how Hollywood filmmaker Woody Allen
delivers in his film Radio Days a picture into how the visionless,
wireless world of radio occupied a central role in the lives of people
before TV entertainment swept them away.
The film has Woody Allen's voice as the narrator named Joe. Joe
explains how the radio influenced his childhood in the days before
The story shows how the young Joe lives in New York City in the late
1930s. The storyline blends Joe's experiences with his memories and
anecdotes, which include his childhood recollections about the urban
legends of radio stars, and is built in the form of shifting plot points
Each member of Joe's family at one point during the film finds in
radio shows an escape from reality.
Their choice of 'entertainment' could vary from the gossip of
celebrities, sports legends of the day, game shows, music, and with the
majority of the stories taking place in the glamour of Manhattan.
A scene from the film
For Joe, the action adventure shows on the radio inspire him as he
daydreams about buying a secret decoder ring, an attractive substitute
teacher, movie stars who are larger than life and may in fact be
disappointments in real life and the most significant event that
occurred in history at the time- World War II.
Several other parallel stories are told, from an aspiring radio star
named Sally White, Joe's Aunt Bea and her relentless search for love,
and during the middle of the film on the radio the tragic story is told
about a little girl named Polly Phelps, who falls into a well near
Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. It becomes a big national story and as the
family listens to it.
These intertwining stories which have the 'voice' as the principal
narrative element show a defining facet of 'radio'. And thereby has a
symbolism in that functional element to connect with the title and theme
of the film.
When one thinks of radio media one cannot leave out the importance of
songs and music and Allen has touched in this aspect by featuring songs
from the 1930s and 40s to blend with parts of the storyline.
What will be the next stage of mediatised scoeity in this fastly
growing ear of internet media? Like Allen looked back to the days of
visionless media driven by the power of sound to create Radio Days, will
someone some day in the future do a film that looks back at how TV
influenced and commanded our lives?