Scholarly histories of Betty Crocker in the United States present the fictional General Mills character as a model home economist of the domestic science movement and the foremost illustration of midcentury “live trademark” consumer marketing. Yet it was the medium specificity of radio, and the sonic and nonsonic qualities of disembodiment required to sustain a live trademark, that solidified Betty's place in women's home service programming. Betty Crocker's on-air persona is underexplored and formative in the history of golden-age radio. How did radio make Betty, and how did Betty make radio? This article uses archival documents, listener mail, and surviving broadcasts to build a historiography of a distinctly sonic brand. While the on-air Betty Crocker was a cheerful purveyor of homemaking advice, backstage was a concentrated labor force of real women sustaining a radio-dependent brand identity through the aural, written, and physical personification of a beloved national figure.
The Radio Made Betty: Live Trademarks, Disembodiment, and the Real
Sarah Murray, a doctoral candidate in media and cultural studies at University of Wisconsin—Madison, studies knowledge economies, entertainment learning (e.g., MOOCs), public knowledge circulation (e.g., TED Talks), how the discourse of intelligence is mediated, and technology's role in self-actualization (e.g., quantified self-movement). Her dissertation is on the new knowledge economy of “smart” bodies.
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Sarah Murray; The Radio Made Betty: Live Trademarks, Disembodiment, and the Real. Feminist Media Histories 1 October 2015; 1 (4): 46–70. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2015.1.4.46
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