Faculty Focus: Glen Armstrong, Writing and Rhetoric

Faculty Focus: Glen Armstrong, Writing and Rhetoric


In 1957 Universal sold the rights to their horror films to syndicated television, freeing Dracula, Frankenstein, the Invisible Man and much of their less sophisticated brethren to wreak havoc on the small screen. The late-twentieth-century villagers invited these creatures into their homes rather than chase them into the hills with pitchforks and torches.

Local television stations around the country responded to this windfall with the concept of the monster show, a horror movie hosted by a costumed presenter who did comedy bits at the commercial breaks.

In Cleveland Ohio, in 1963, the late Ernie Anderson took on the persona of Ghoulardi. More beatnik than zombie, Ghoulardi, decked out in a fake goatee and fright-wig, rallied his audience both to and against these monster films. When stuck with something b-grade, he would acknowledge the absurdity of his endeavor: “Hey group . . . Can you BELIVE that there’s anyone out there who enjoys these movies?!”

He would splice the movies with belches and other sound effects. He smoked cigarettes, played jazz behind his monologues, blew up model cars and model monsters with firecrackers, and the Cleveland youth loved him for it because they were in on the joke. They were included in the social structure, the imaginary space. Anderson instructed them in aesthetics as he distinguished Schlock Theater from Shock Theater.

I wonder who we have left to make such distinctions for us. Every two-bit wag with an opinion and a YouTube channel can be found assessing popular culture in a nonstop feedback loop of schlock and commentary, but who is uniting the youth of today? Who is worth staying up until midnight to watch, lights out, the room lit by that eerie blue glow of the family television. Where’s our windfall of truly monstrous texts? And whose discourse is truly subversive enough to guide us through the flickering underbelly of those texts, while our parents snore, while the straight world tunes in to Family Guy?

Glen Armstrong

Glen Armstrong is a special lecturer for the Department of Writing and Rhetoric. 

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