RealityTV and fictional TV on popular culture
Popularculture or pop culture is the modern way of life expressed in variousicons of modernity. There are different genres and subgenres of popculture that impact society and also reflect society. Two mainsubgenres of television, sitcoms and reality shows, attract hugefollowing and thus have a greater relative impact on society. One ofthe common methods that these shows influence society is by how theyportray sensitive social themes such as gender, sexuality and race inAmerica. Given the developments that have taken place in these socialthemes, it is important to assess how reality TV and sitcoms as someof the major genres, have adapted to these changes or how they haveactually influenced these changes. Thus this paper takes a narrowscope and assesses the portrayal of sexuality, gender and race inreality TV shows in comparison to sitcoms in the US and theAnglophone world.
TVshows mirror societies and also influence societies (Laughey 2007).This symbiotic relationship however, is influenced by characters andthe mindset of the show producers and directors and most importantlytelevision network ownership as some networks have resisted to airLGBT themes shows (Hegedus, 2014). On other shows the idea has beento reaffirm certain stereotypes on sexuality. The sitcom Everybodyhates Chrisrepeatedly explores the sexual fantasies of the lead actor, Chris, inhis puberty. The show is actually a narration of the life of anAfrican American boy in the 80’s as narrated by Chris Rock. As ayoung adolescent kid, Chris has sexual fantasies with nearly all thegirls he admires including his class teacher. This concept exploresthe common perception that men think about sex on numerous occasionsin the course of the day.
Onthe topic of LGBT’s, the show Everybodyhates Chrisstays clear off the topic but makes some comments on the same. In thesecond season of the show, Chris seeks to clarify his relationship ofhis friendship with his best friend Greg. He says “Hey, this ain’tBrokeback!” This is a direct reference to the gay themed filmBrokebackMountain.The character thus dismisses a gay relationship as something he wouldnot entertain. It is also very obvious that the show makes no attemptto create a LGBT character in an attempt to create sexual diversityas is the case with modern society.
Anumber of reality shows have explored this issue. However, there aresentiments that reality TV shows do not adequately cover sexualityissues very well in reference to LGBT. Reality shows have been morecautious in addressing sexuality matters (Laughey, 2007). A number ofcontestants in reality TV such as BigBrother arejust allowed to mention their sexually but deeper issues are notexplored as is the case in other families and relationships. BigbrotherAmerica and its sister shows such as BigBrotherUK is notorious for airing sometimes explicit content involvingmale-female relationships but there is no LBGT content explored todepths. However, the 16thseason of the show has showed the harmony between LGBTS and otherpeople as portrayed by the bond between males friends Zach Rance andFrankie Grande, but Zach is straight while Frankie is gay. In theshow, Zach even goes ahead to say that he loves gay people. The otherreality show, TheBachelor,the only sexuality issues covered pertains to straight people only.In fact, several people questioned why the show does not cover aBachelors edition for gays. In response, one of the contestants, thebachelor in the current season, indicated that such a show would bebad for kids. This ignited a harsh response forcing him to apologizefor such homophobic comments (Grindley, 2014)
Bothreality TV and sitcom address gender in the same way generally. Overthe years the place of women in society has changed and these twogenres acknowledge and actively promote this change. Reality TV haspromoted gender equality and offered the same opportunities to menand women. Ideally, men have been depicted to play a certain roleassociated with being male such as chivalrous and respectful towardswomen. While courting, men are depicted to play certain roles such asopening doors, pulling out a chair or even holding a lady’s hand.In the show, TheBachelor, theman gets to choose from a number of women over a number of days andsettle for a date with one lady. The show reiterates the upper handof men in deciding relationships and even choosing partners whilewomen are basically reduced to objects to be admired with manyoptions to choose from. For women, their role is impress men.
Thesame gender roles are repeated in Everybodyhates Chris.In the show, Chris’s dad gets to work three jobs just to providefor his family. This depicts the man as the breadwinner of thefamily. He is also depicted as the dominant character in arelationship repeatedly imposing rules on the family and alsotreating the wife well. Furthermore, the man plays his gender role ofman offering manly advice to his two sons. He does this by takingthem on treats such as to watch baseball games and offers advice onhow to treat girls. On the other hand, Chris’ mum is involved inmost of the household chores and even planning meals. This portraysthe idea that a woman career is running the house and taking care ofhis man and children.
Realityshows on the other hand have made attempts to break down this genderstereotypes in various ways. The Bachelor show introduced a sistershow named Bachelorette to counter this concept of men as thechoosers by reversing the roles. In the show, a woman is given thechance to choose a date from several men. Furthermore, in the BigBrothershow, assignment of house duties and chores are not gendered based.Both males and females are assigned chores such as cooking andwashing dishes irrespective of their gender.
Racehas remained one of the most sensitive issues in America politically,economically and even socially. As a country founded on immigrants,the huge immigrant population in the country has not had a fairrepresentation in sitcoms and reality show for a long time. Forsitcoms, as scripted shows where the directors and producers have ahuge control on the race and identity of characters to keep in linewith the story, racial diversity and themes depicted is closelycontrolled. For reality shows, this is different because directorsand producers have minimal control on the racial themes and racialbackgrounds of contestants depending on the nature of the show. As aresult the two genres cover racial issues differently. In a bid togenerate humor, sitcoms explore racial jokes and racial differencesgreatly. In Everybodyhates Chris,the show clearly portrays racial animosity between African Americansand whites. Chris, as the only black kid in his school is bullied andalso unfairly targeted by his school teacher. The teacher actuallysees him as less capable academically because of his race. Chris’sand Greg friendship is resisted by both set of parents from the verybeginning simply because Greg is white and Chris is white. However,their friendship withstands this pressure.
Onthe contrary, reality shows are keen to portray racial harmony. TheBigBrotherhas emerged as major talking point on racism issues. The showhowever, has sought racial inclusion by having contestants fromdifferent backgrounds and even being hosted by persons from differentbackgrounds. Unfortunately, some contestants have often madeunsuitable racial jokes and comments that have angered sections ofthe public. A recent case is 15thseason of BigBrother wherethe show’s host, Julie Chen, criticized racial comments made by oneof the contestants (Lombardi, 2014). This racial insensitivity ofsome contestants in these shows aired live sometimes reveals theinner issues ailing society (Hsu, 2014).
Fromthe discussion above, it is clear that pop culture has had aninfluence on society and at the same time influenced by society. Itcan be deduced that both sitcoms and reality shows are designed andproduced in manner that will attract higher viewership hence drivenby the needs of society but the same time popularize and promotecertain social aspects. In the discussion, it has been shown that howsitcom portray sexuality have changed over the years in response tochanges in society. As for reality, being more recent than comedyshows, they seek to celebrate gender equity and celebrate racial andcultural differences in a different way. However, the greatestdifference in the two genres is on how sexuality is addressed.Sitcoms are more receptive to growing sexual diversity in society andeven promote it while reality shows are very cautious about thistopic.
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