Christopher Turner at Cabinet Magazine:
In Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel, Brave New World (1932), the Bureau of Propaganda has invented the “feelies,” which bring tactile effects to popular entertainment. By holding special knobs on their chairs, audience members could enjoy titillating experiences such as “a love scene on a bearskin rug” between “a gigantic negro and a golden-haired young brachycephalic Beta-Plus female,” almost as if they were there. In 1929, Huxley had seen his first talkie, The Jazz Singer (1927), which he described as “the latest and most frightful creation-saving device for the production of standardized amusement.” He was dismissive of the movies, believing cinemas were great factories of political distraction, where crowds soaked in “the tepid bath of nonsense. No mental effort is demanded of them, no participation; they need only sit and keep their eyes open.”
In the novel, Huxley’s central character attends a screening of the feely Three Weeks in a Helicopter, billed as: “AN ALL-SUPER-SINGING, SYNTHETIC-TALKING, COLOURED, STEREOSCOPIC FEELY WITH SYNCHRONISED SCENT-ORGAN ACCOMPANIMENT.” This introduction of smell into theater was not without precedent.