Future Media Short Story Review: Ann Warren Griffith’s “Captive Audience” (1953)

Today I’ve reviewed the eleventh story in my series on the science fictional media landscape of the future! Ann Warren Griffith spins a nightmarish dystopia where advertisements are illegal to block out.

Previously: Tomorrow’s TV, ed. Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg, and Charles Waugh (1982). Includes media-themed stories by Isaac Asimov, Jack C. Haldeman II, Ray Bradbury, and Ray Nelson.

Up Next: Pat Cadigan’s “Rock On” in Light Years and Dark: Science Fiction and Fantasy of and for Our Time, ed. Michael Bishop (1984). You can read it online here.

3.75/5 (Good)

Ann Warren Griffith’s “Captive Audience” (1953) first appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas (August 1953). You can read it online here.

In the 1950s, Americans depicted Communism as denying inherent human freedoms of choice and enslaving the mind. Over the course of the decade, the terror of Communist brainwashing collided with fears of the detrimental effects of consumer culture and advertising. Perhaps the evil Communist was so successful due to a new softness within the American family (Dunne, 123). Anne Warren Griffith’s “Captive Audience” imagines a dystopic future in which the American mind is turned into malleable putty by an entropic (and sonic) inundation of advertisements. According to the story’s relentless logic, the last bastions of independent thought will cease to exist in a capitalist world where the right of every product to receive “its share of the consumer dollar” is the only right that matters (57).

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