5.05.2007

The ripple effect of big news:
70 years after Hindenburg

Sunday is the 70th anniversary of the LZ129 Hindenburg disaster. Zeppelins, or rigid air dirigibles, were the largest aircraft ever built. During its second year of service, The Hindenburg was destroyed by a fire while landing at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in Manchester Township, New Jersey, on May 6, 1937 at approximately 7:25 p.m. Thirty-six people died in the accident, which was widely reported by film, photographic, and radio media.



This newsreel captures the headlines and delivery of one of the biggest disasters covered by the nascent non-print media. (Will all due respect and reverence, The Blog heartily recommends replaying this with the sound turned down, substituting some classic Led Zeppelin instead. It's sort of like watching Wizard of Oz and listenting to Pink Floyd, only better).

Wikipedia schools on the origin of those famous words of disaster commentary:
The disaster is well recorded because of an extraordinary amount of newsreel coverage and photographs, as well as Herbert Morrison's recorded, on-the-scene, eyewitness radio report from the landing field. Heavy publicity about the first transatlantic passenger flight of the year by Zeppelin to the US attracted a large number of journalists to the landing. Morrison's recording was not broadcast until the next day. Parts of his report were later dubbed onto the newsreel footage, giving a false impression to many modern viewers, more accustomed to live television reporting, that the words and film were recorded together. Morrison's broadcast remains one of the most famous in history. His plaintive words, "Oh, the humanity!" resonate with the impact of the disaster.


As with subsequent mass media events, we have the Hindenburg disaster to thank for numerous cultural references, perhaps the most obvious being the name of the English rock band, Led Zeppelin. The group's eponymous first album has a picture of the Hindenburg disaster on the front cover (left). The band's name is a reference to Keith Moon's quotation that the band would "go over like a lead zeppelin." The album cover is in fact an illustration of the famous UPI photograph, drawn with a Rapidograph pen and ink by graphic artist George Hardie.


The Blog's favorite cultural reference to the Hindenburg crash though, has to be the Family Guy episode, "The Cleveland-Loretta Quagmire," Peter refers to numerous aviation inventions including the "Hindenpeter," a play on the Hindenburg. The scene featuring the "Hindenpeter" ends in a similar fashion, with it landing on his neighbor Joe's house, and exploding.

And of course there's classic gems like these:

In the Simpsons episode "Lisa the Beauty Queen", Barney is in control of the Duff Blimp (a parody of the Hindenburg) and makes a severe turn after being given permission to steer it. The blimp explodes and Kent Brockman echoes Morrison's words: "Oh, the humanity!", before returning to reporting on the opening of the Danish superchain, Shop, in Springfield.


In the WKRP episode "Turkeys Away" live turkeys are thrown out of a helicopter in a Thanksgiving Day promotion. The turkeys are unable to fly and crash to the ground. Les Nessman, with tears in his eyes, exclaims "Oh, the humanity" in his rattled imitation of the Hindenburg radio broadcast.

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1 Comments:

Blogger MattE. said...

YES!!! Peter Griffin has made The Blog! I knew it was only a matter of time! Now, where's Stewie? Good post, SLD!

Saturday, May 05, 2007 11:30:00 AM  

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