September 1st, 2010

Gaslight: September in Media History

Sept 4, 2002: Kelly Clarkson was voted as the first “American Idol,” and the reality show stepped forward as a force to be reckoned with in the music and television industry. The fan following she gained from “Idol” led Clarkson to a double-platinum debut album and six Top 10 hits on Billboard. Eight years later, the reality television show is preparing Season 10, which will premiere on Fox on January 12, 2011. However, the show is currently in a stage of transition, with Simon Cowell having left the judging panel and a revised age limit rule, stating that contestants can be as young as 15. “American Idol” may also be waning in popularity, as Season 9 closed with the lowest-rated finale in the history of the show. Overall viewership has dropped 8.25% since 2006, and sales of debut albums by show winners have also plummeted.

Sept 19, 1982: In an email thread about physics and jokes, Carnegie Mellon University professor Scott E. Fahlman invented the emoticon. He suggested that jokes and sarcastic remarks made over email be indicated with a :-) and that non-jokes be designated with its opposite, :-( . Since then, emoticons have evolved so that many sentiments can be suggested, using a wide variety of letters and punctuation marks, nearly all of which can be found in any number of emails from my mother.

Sept 26, 1990: Just twenty years ago, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), announced the NC-17 rating for movies. Previously, an X rating was applied to films to keep moviegoers under the age of 17 from watching a certain film, but some filmmakers were interested in creating “edgy” and “sophisticated” films that went beyond an R-rating. They didn’t like the stigma that an X-rated film is pornography, and since X had already been trademarked by the pornography industry, the MPAA needed a different nomenclature. However, many theater chains that won’t screen X-rated movies will also not screen NC-17 movies, so in practice the two ratings are functionally similar.

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