The response rationale is to persuade the audience that the perspectives and stereotypes portrayed on TV influence the way people think, not only through the content on television but through the medium of television itself as well as the contributions from writers, producers and actors. I intend to do this through expanding upon thoughts in the BUZZFEED article. The nature of the written task chosen is a blog post responding to an article that argues the content on television can lead to changes in public opinion. I chose to use a blog format because it catches the readers’ attention while getting the point across to audiences who largely get information online and via postings. The blog format is aimed at a similar audience as that in the BUZZFEED article and the modern communication mechanism will hopefully attract a broad readership. The intended audience is American TV viewers who are interested in the way TV shows are changing public opinion. The purpose of the response is to acknowledge progress in diversity on television while also arguing to continue reduction of stereotyping of particular populations that are newer and less known to the American public. The response is set in modern times and the cultural and social context is for many TV viewers who specifically watch American TV shows and have a wide range of knowledge of television stories. I chose to emulate the short and concise paragraphs that provide newsworthiness and appeal. This method of writing relates to the aims of the task because it emulates the type of text of the initial argument.
Since being introduced to Americans, television has influenced public perception. For decades the majority of shows have represented the white, often male, population. The singular focus on a particular population has been a constant until the past few years, when television became more representative of the mix of characters who make up the United States now. The racial diversity in television roles has allowed more people to relate to televised stories. The increase in Black, Asian, and Latin leads indicates progress. Television has also become more interesting to a broader audience because it connects more easily to the experiences on the screen. However, while the faces and characters on television reflect progress, static stereotyping still exists. The representation of Middle Eastern characters is the latest example. Hopefully, the trend to utilize television to influence public perception by developing characters beyond stereotypes will help overcome this barrier. The medium of television and the people who write and produce shows that are more representative of the total population are gradually changing public opinion. However, which came first, the medium or the content?
Kate Aurthur’s BUZZFEED article, how The “Scandal” Effect Has Changed Television, argues that show content alone has changed television. She calls this “The Scandal Effect.” Aurthur discusses how television has been changed through the actors’ representations of different characters, but also how the writers, producers, and actors had to work together to bring us the racially diverse television shows of today, but that the influence is purely in the story. Aurthur’s article is an analysis of how the story has influenced the shows and public perception of diversity. Shonda Rhimes, a black producer and writer who created Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, among others, which have included racially diverse actors in lead roles, is influencing how the general population perceive Blacks, Asians and Latinos beyond the stereotypical waiter, maid and bell boy roles. Individuals of mixed race likely find that increased racial and cultural diversity on television allows for more enjoyment. Fresh Off the Boat is about a Taiwanese couple who raise their children in America and highlights the perception of America from the view of the parents as immigrants and those of their boys. It is likely that many people in the United States will relate to the show because of the number of first generation immigrants raising families.
Fresh Off the Boat (2015-present)
While there has been progress in more balanced representation through entertainment for several minorities in the United States, traditional stereotyping remains. Although more people now understand that not every Black person is a doorman or a bellboy, the risk is that the population thinks every Middle Easterner is a terrorist because of television portrayals. Since the beginning of television, dramas and comedies have perpetuated stereotypes that presented non-White Anglo Saxon Protestant (WASP) characters poorly, similarly to how Middle Easterners are portrayed negatively today on American television. For example, in Hawaii Five 0, the contemporary remake of the original show, there is an episode where an Arabic man is being accused of being a terrorist. The show portrays the man as only a terrorist and nothing else, continuing a wrong and hurtful stereotype of Arabic men. These stereotypes may not have been necessarily created by television, but are reinforced by many television shows. In this case, the events in the United States in the recent past have contributed to how Middle Eastern characters are portrayed on television, which can be argued to support the argument that the content came before the medium. Alternatively, a more holistic view can be taken.
Hawaii Five 0 (2010-present) (Remake)
The ultimate product produced based upon writers’ content and the actors’ portrayals has the power to manipulate reality, but also the power to change opinion. Although television shows still misrepresent many people’s realities, the curtain has been raised for non-WASP actors to be portrayed as individual human beings with complex, and often funny, lives. PJ Sidney, an African American who acted from the 1930s to the early 1990s, fought for improved roles for Black actors in television and movies. He wanted to bring awareness of the racial prejudice against Black actors in the television and movie industries. If he were alive today, PJ Sidney would likely appreciate the more complex and leading roles in television for Black actors, and would fight for continued growth for those races and cultures not being fairly represented through the medium of television. From this perspective, it is arguable that while the content drives public perception, the medium of television first provided the opportunity to change perspectives, and that writers and producers have taken advantage of this to influence public opinion. It continues to be important to encourage writers, producers, and actors to tell a story and show it on television to allow for diversity and public opinion.
The Scandal Effect has influenced the representation of diverse races and cultures on television and has reinforced the idea that stereotypes are valid only to a degree. Although there are some races and cultures that are still portrayed negatively on television, the progress to date will hopefully influence the writing, production and decisions regarding which shows are brought to television. The medium of television itself has provided the avenue for stereotypes to be both perpetuated and corrected; in some cases to perpetuate negative perceptions and in other cases to shape a new view of society that includes all different kinds of people who live in the United States. So, to answer the question, “Which was first in changing the public perception of race through entertainment?” both the medium and the content have contributed to the transformation. It is not sufficient to only identify content as the driver of change, but rather to acknowledge the reality that major societal changes are not influenced by one factor alone, but by a combination of factors. The writers, producers and actors, along with the medium of television and the story contents coalesce into a powerful driver of social progress.
Asakawa, Gil. ““Hawaii Five-0”.” NIKKEI VIEW The Asian American Blog. Nikkei, 10 Dec. 2013. Web. 27 Jan. 2016.
Aurthur, Kate. “How The “Scandal” Effect Has Changed Television.”BuzzFeed. Buzzfeed, 14 May 2014. Web. 27 Jan. 2016.
Nussbaum, Emily. “One Man’s Crusade to Integrate TV.” The New Yorker. The New Yorker, 7 Dec. 2015. Web. 27 Jan. 2016.