An Alternative Form of Media?
Television shows about current issues and relatable topics used to be few and far between. We see shows these days about a fairy tale world filled with money, publicity, and excess. Normal people can’t afford to keep up with the indulgence on shows like Gossip Girl and 90210, but for some reason this seemed to be filling the airwaves… until Girls came along. The HBO hit series has transcended all the boundaries that surround taboos and “hushed” topics that just were not making it onto mainstream television today. You know! Topics on the horrible state of the economy, almost nonexistent amount of jobs available for recent college grads, and everyday struggles of twenty-something’s finding their place in the real world after college. These are major topics that are affecting a huge chunk of the population. Why hadn’t someone tapped into the gold mine that is relatable characters before? There was a real audience waiting out there for a show to come along that they could watch and think afterwards, “this is my life.”
The creator and star, Lena Dunham, was one of these people waiting for a show to come along that really portrayed the life of average Americans. Finally she got tired of waiting and decided to create her own show. Lena managed to take her personal experiences and turn them into a hit television show. With the success of this show, it wasn’t long before other major television companies wanted in on the pie. More and more shows about real life struggles and displays of our current economic state were popping up everywhere.
- After being shunned from the Upper East Side crowd because her father’s wrongdoings, Caroline Forbes is banished to Brooklyn without even a cent to her name. She struggles to works as a waitress, and is trying to save up money to start a cupcake business with her best friend Max in 2 Broke Girls.
- Emily Thorne, secretly Amanda Clark, returns to the Hamptons to get payback on an elite family, who framed her father for a terrorist act when their company was in financial trouble in Revenge.
You could not flip through the channels without seeing a show with a similar theme, and it was making shows like Gossip Girl feel ever more obsolete. People were gravitating towards a more real-life story line on television, where the characters they watched on screen could be people they actually knew.
One story that still has not been told in my eyes is one about the effects of trying to start a life after college with extreme amounts of debt following you. It would be interesting to see how this concept would fit on the small screen, but I have to imagine there is an audience for a show like that because of the almost $1 trillion in student debt in this country. This is an economic burden faced by many recent college grads and many older generations still in the process of paying off their loans. An interesting story line would be the comparison of life with college debt just after college, and another story about having lived with this debt for a majority of adult life. I don’t know many advertising companies that would want to pay for this kind of programming, so maybe this could be a government funded program or get funding completely through private interests with the hopes of educating American citizens on the risks and effects of living with enormous amounts of student loans.
An ideal form of mainstream television media, in my opinion, would be one that is fair and true. The majority of funding for television programming comes from advertising, which is reflected in the content of shows. Shows glamorizing a life of luxury and excess were made for a reason, to cause people to want to live similarly, and go out and BUY. Advertisers aren’t worried if the programming put out is helpful to the American society or culture. They are focused on the dollars and cents, and if certain shows aren’t making the cut…they get cut. Advertisers look at number of bodies that are sitting in front of the television, and that is what is being sold to them from television networks, human consciousness. So, whatever was getting the most butts in front of the television is what the programmers were putting out.
An alternative form would be a system more like the BBC, or government funded television programming. When the people producing programming is completely driven by profits, it makes the whole system corrupt. Government funded programming would allow for the consideration of how the programming will affect the society as a whole. Although there has been a shift in the programming appearing on primetime television, the industry is still not producing an accurate or well-rounded view of everyday Americans. There are still high amounts of non-realities even in these new types of shows. The circumstances of the characters don’t always add up in the shift to more realistic programming, such as apartment size, clothing, and vehicles of the characters that are supposed to be struggling financially. This could be because of complete ignorance on the part of the producers, or it could be because of the funding needed from product placement to still include these name brands in television shows. Overall, corporate and advertising funding for these programming is just not the best form of media if Americans want a TRUE picture of the current economic situation.
BY: ALI WYNN