I want to start this post by saying that the media and individual celebrities and artists owe us (and therefore, me) absolutely nothing. They have their own lives to lead, their own families and friends to love, their own paths and dreams to follow and should not inherently be worried about me or you. The fact that they're entertaining us for little to no cost is already doing more than they're indebted to do for us. If you're sensing a big however coming up, you're right, cause here it is. HOWEVER, I do think that it is surprising that the media at large and more celebrities and culture-makers aren't concerned with the greater good of people and how their actions and their professional work affects the worldview of those who consume their creative output.
In order to understand where I'm coming from on this, allow me to elaborate a bit about what I mean when I say greater good. When I say greater good, I'm not talking about charities and humanitarian efforts, plenty of celebrities/artists give a lot of their money towards those efforts and I'm not here to praise/deride those who do/don't. What I mean when I say 'greater good' is more of an abstract good, the good that happens when people have a realistic view of the world, the crap that goes on in it, the fact that not everything goes right in life but thats okay, and the fact that through that all, we still need to find ways to enjoy life, enjoy family, enjoy simple pleasures and all that.
I say this because a trend that I've noticed is the tendency of most tv shows and movies to basically sedate the viewer. I watched Parks and Recreation all the way through and was onboard for the whole run of the series, for a sitcom that didn't shy away from some tough issues (feminism, gay marriage, etc.) the way the show ended left me ultimately unsatisfied. A bunch of friends all splitting paths and heading in different directions SUCKS, it's not fun, no amount of montages and memories makes it a fun enjoyable thing to go through. I do understand that sitcoms traditionally act as escape, and I'm not saying that sitcoms all need to try to hit us over the head with the fact that life can be rough, because we all need a place we can go 30 minutes a week and not think about tough issues. That's just one example though, I also think of Breaking Bad, a show that more than any other popular show in the last few years had a dark subject matter. For a show whose main characters were a bunch of lying, betraying, overall bad people, why was everybody okay with the show ending in a way where every single people got exactly what they wanted out of life? Even the people who died, died in a happy fulfilling way (minus maybe Gus), why is this acceptable out of the things that shape people's worldview in a huge way?
Americans spend hours a day in front of televisions, absorbing the programming that culture makers put on the various channels. Whether knowingly or not, these things shape the way we think about the world and what we expect out of life (especially so in an age where many kids are raised by TV). So many of these shows don't even try to deal with the issues that should be dealt with in society. Where are the characters in a TV drama who volunteer at homeless shelters in addition to having a 9-to-5? Protest unjust laws in addition to raising a family? By and large characters are absorbed with their own problems in TV shows, the characters we love (and in a weird way admire) are ultimately self-absorbed, so is it really a surprise that the majority of Americans are too?
So yes, maybe Americans shouldn't take so many cues from TV, but I think the onus is more on those who produce TV to make a higher level of show, more multi-dimensional characters who are concerned with bigger social issues on top of their personal ones and scripts that aren't afraid to end in a way which leaves characters confused, scared and not sure of the answers to life's big questions. Ask yourself a question, wouldn't that show be the most realistic show on TV? Instead, we get an escape from the real world when we watch TV, which is fine in small doses, the problem is that we are escaping the real world for 6 hours a day, which leaves no time to actually participate in the real world.
Tomorrow: Religion in the Workplace