Book Review: Media Madness
The mission of the book is to inform: to inform the reader of how he or she is manipulated (usually unwittingly) by mass media, to inform the reader of how to respond to this manipulation, and to inform the reader of how funny and sad life can be sometimes, as seen through the eyes of mass media. Along the way, the author and illustrator throw in some "easter eggs" for the reader who really pays attention.
One of the funniest things about the book is the main character, Max McLoon. He is the star of every TV show, the hero of every book and magazine and comic book, the singer on every hit CD, etc. When you read what he has to say, you want to pay attention. Max often illustrates the things he warns against, but this is OK, too, because you the reader are conditioned by that point to notice whatever Max is doing or saying.
Another comical element is the names of the people in the illustrations. On a two-page spread illustrating how a television show is produced, the following names pop up:
Some of these names might go right by younger readers, but young adults and adults will definitely get the jokes. For those who really pay attention, there are wardrobe designer C. Quinn ("sequin, from which clothing accessories are made") and lighting director Hall O'Jenn ("halogen," from which lights are made).
The easter eggs don't stop there. For the particularly discriminating (and definitely not child reader, there are Frank Zappatista, MaxMcLoon's friend who plays the guitar, and even Max's sister, Marsha McLoon. (Marshall McLuhan, a pioneering media critic).
The easter eggs continue in the section on magazines. The art director is Hal Vetica ("helvetica," a kind of typeface), and the copy editor is Emmanuelle O'Style ("manual of style," something all copy editors consult).
Perhaps the most obscure yet amusing and rewarding easter egg can be found in the newspaper section. One of the section editors has the name Pierre A. Midlead. This is a variant of "Pyramid Lead," which is a style of writing that newspaper reporters are taught to use in order to give as much information to the reader as quickly as possible, with the most important information (or the most heavily weighted in the inverted pyramid) going at the top of the story.
At its heart, though, this is a book for young readers. The adults who review for or read along with or read to these young readers will be entertained on another level, but Max McLoon is talking to kids, really, about how they should look at how they are being blasted by advertising and information in many areas of their lives. In each section, Max goes out of his way to make sure that readers understand how they are being taken advantage of and why.
The book is very up-to-date on modern technology as well, discussing Web surfing and downloadable music.
The book has lots of information. In a way, reading it can cause sensory overload. Perhaps this is the point. Readers are advised to take it slow, going section-by-section and really evaluating all of the details and warnings contained therein, before moving on. Knowledge is a powerful thing. This book imparts a large amount of valuable knowledge on a timely topic. Pick it up!