I remember once telling some people that the media is an extremely powerful tool, as it has the ability to influence daily life in a very surprising ways. The discussion was going around television and reality shows.
Of course there were many reactions such as “I don’t watch those, I don’t care”, but my claim was that reality shows can influence your life even if you don’t watch them. To support my idea, I offered as an example the concept of divorce. If in the 1970s divorce was still quite a taboo thing around the world, after the year 2000, it has become less of a taboo. As reality shows appeared like mushrooms after the rain (hallucinogenic mushrooms?), that what was once considered “side show” became the main show. In every sense of the word. Basically, scenes that would get cut from a TV show, which included fights and hair pulling, have become with reality shows the norm. The same has happened with discussing one’s private affairs in public. And that is not entirely a bad thing. If you think about it, the great merit of 21st century media is that it has lifted many taboos and people can have more free experiences as a result. Of course, this also has perverse effects, such as trivialization of emotions and important things and desensitizing of people.
I’ve always described reality shows as some sort of meta-reality. For me, they are “real” in the sense that they take things that exist in real life – real people, places, etc., but they are fictional in the sense that that reality is cut into many small pieces and built into a new reality. This new, fictional reality has the power to shape real reality, if that makes any sense.
Therefore, the fact that one can live a certain way and that certain things are no longer taboo is a result of the media, regardless of whether you watch it or not.
Modern society has been greatly influenced by the media. A fantastic example is the recent election of Donald Trump as the president of the USA. People who knew him did not know him from his work in public office or due to his legislative or other type of works, they knew him from his reality show and from previous media stardom. Yes, America has chosen its first president reality show personality. Also, the fact that Kanye West, a reality star was talked about as being the next president gives you a sense of how powerful the media really is.
I’m not saying that is a good thing or a bad thing, that is something we’ll see in the long run, but it goes to show two things:
One, that reality television and the media at large have a great effect on society, regardless of whether you follow it or not and
Two, that there is a trickle down effect from culture to politics. Culture and the arts influence politics, not the other way around. Of course, once in power, someone can use culture and arts to continue their domination. People find their values in the things that provoke emotion. Therefore, music, magazines, talk shows and so on have a greater power on people than political discourses. Not to be understood that this is referring to news media only, it applies to fiction as well. In the end, isn’t fiction a way of communicating things that are untrue to talk about things that are true?
In my humble opinion, this is a good argument of why media studies and analyzing culture is important: once we understand where we’re coming from, we can understand the future.