Sitcoms Shaping the Image of Race and Class
Nowadays, the world has reached the point where media has become one of the central and most influential sources of spreading information. It is true that people, both children, and adults, spend more time with media rather than in any other activity. With the presence of television and computers in the bedroom, the presence of media in everyday life becomes more evident, increasing its impact significantly. Media affects people not only by displacing time they spend doing some worth and important things but also by influencing behavior and beliefs. As a rule, people learn and get some experience by imitating and observing what they see on the Internet, on the screen, or what they read about. The paper deals with the role American sitcoms play in forming the image of race and class. It is claimed that only a few sitcoms aim at teaching moral principles and good behavioral patterns while others aim at catching ones attention in order to involve as many viewers as possible simultaneously propagandizing racism, cruelty, prejudice, and injustice.
American Sitcom and its Impact on Race and Class
The researchers claim that the behavior of the characters people observe on the screens affects their way of accepting life. Any sitcom is regarded as a kind of art that represents not only artistic, but also ideological and mind-forming function. Many series create a story that exclude any kind of interpretation and alternative. The plot weaves with the emotions, therefore the viewers begin to identify themselves with the main characters. Such sitcom mixture firmly fixes in the public consciousness and subconsciousness. As a result, sitcoms impact peoples minds very effectively. For instance, in USSR at some period the films about miners were very popular. As a result, the profession of minor became of great popularity and demand.
If one accepts some information daily for not weeks, or months, but years, the behavior of the viewer can considerably change. In other words, the mass consciousness becomes the object of the influence. The most striking is the fact that sitcoms affect peoples minds in a relaxed, unobtrusive, insensible, and exciting manner.
The specialists who deal with the issue of public and social behavior have known about the possibilities of cinematography for a long period. These specialists aim at determining the beginning and end of the psychological impact on the target audience. Moreover, their task is to change the behavioral factors using sitcoms as soft power. It can be easily observed that the amount of sitcoms increases every year, touching diverse issues every time.
Unfortunately, nowadays sitcoms have replaced such sources of human interaction as friends, school, university, or family. Today, more and more young people prefer searching advice in media sources rather than asking live people. As a result, sitcoms, and media, in general, have incredible power in controlling the development of values and formation of ideas about the surrounding world. Such attitude influences not only the lives of the target public, it influences every person from other cultural, racial, social, or ethnic class. Starting from 1940s sitcoms affected peoples way of thinking concerning such significant issues as gender, race, and class. The majority of people appearing on American television during 1970s were mainly whites. It was considered that whites are ordinary, normal people to appear in any kind of program, including sitcoms. If there appeared any representatives of the minority group, they were presented in a negative way, therefore creating a particular stereotype about the whole group, race, or class. For example, African Americans usually played the roles of servants while white native Americans played the roles of officers, warriors, cowboys. As a result, even nowadays some people treat blacks as the race whose main task is to serve whites.
As it was found out, the problem of sitcoms influence on the creating the image of race and class take its roots back in twentieth century. There are many discussions and arguments concerning the minorities appearance in sitcoms. One of the most common and widespread opinions is that the minorities presence on TV is so rare because the representatives of majority groups treat them in an unfair and abusive way. However, the representatives of TV industry have other explanations of this phenomenon. They do not directly admit that minorities were discriminated because of their race, gender, or class. On the contrary, they claim that sitcoms aim at attracting as much audience as possible. In 1960s and 1970s, the majority of the audience were the representatives of whites who were not interested in watching programs about minorities. Although, aiming at meeting the needs of the majority, television industry ignored the needs and concerns of Americas racial and class minorities.
As well as dictating the new beauty standards, fashion trends, sitcoms dictate the way people have to treat one another. Sitcoms focus their attention mainly on wealthy and the privileged. The main characters of the most popular sitcoms tend to possess luxury cars, expensive jewelry, astonishing vacations, and other things that only rich people can afford. People are surrounded by a propaganda of extremely expensive designer clothes, home d?cor, luxury restaurants they cannot afford. If one thinks where all this comes from, one can easily answer the media. As a result, children grow up in a society divided into poor and rich, into those who can afford to live well, visit restaurants, expensive vacation spots, and those who die from starvation.
Moreover, media devotes a considerable amount of time to such questions that are not ordinary for working class people. There is too much information concerning stock market questions, trade agreements that has nothing common with ordinary people. The main characters of the sitcoms are usually the individuals who have achieved extreme success. Accordingly, people believe that having such lifestyle is not something desirable, but a normal thing. Therefore, they borrow millions of dollars to buy luxury cars, designer clothes, fascinating mansions in order to prove others that they are not losers.
Media has a particular purpose in portraying wealthy characters in its sitcoms. Functioning as an advertisement, they evoke the desire to possess expensive things. However, everyone should keep in mind that the sitcom world is considerably different than the real world in which people actually live. Regardless of some minor differences, the wealthy have always been of great interest for viewers. For instance, the popular sitcom Gossip Girl concentrates on the lives of New York elite, who visit expensive private schools, wear designer clothes, live in astonishing apartments. Simultaneously, those who are not lucky enough to be born in a rich family are being prejudiced and humiliated. Moreover, there appear almost no representatives of the minority groups. Almost all of the characters are native Americans. If there appear any minority representative, he/she is either a whore or an outlaw. Sitcoms such as Seinfeld and Friends never incorporate characters of other races. Such sitcoms are extremely dangerous for forming a society with high moral principles while describing the life of youth they aim at attracting the attention of young people. As a result, their acceptance and understanding of the real world is distorted and spoilt by a fictional world of the sitcom.
Even though most working adults have unskilled or manual jobs, working class and poor people are typically described in minor roles. Less than in 12% of the series working class people hold the occupations as clerical, semiskilled, or blue-collar service workers. Moreover, working class and poor people are usually depicted as immature, uneducated, and irresponsible.
As a rule, media is more interested in attracting audience rather than covering the important issues and providing solid solutions (Bates). Moreover, it is clear that American sitcoms cannot represent their own race from some negative point of view. Portraying Americans as successful, wealthy educated people, they have to describe some race or class in a negative way. This is one of the ways all stereotypes appear.
Read also: "Academic Book Review: How to Complete It"
It is considered that the absolute power of the media generates the possibility of the emergence of a new kind of world dictatorship the informational dictatorship. With the flow of history, the role of the media as a form of government has a tendency to increase. In the informational society, it can be a core factor in the acceptance and regulation of not only political, but also psychological solutions. Nowadays, the policy is understood as something that has passed through the TV screen or print media. No ideas, events, loud scandals, marketing, and advertisement tricks could exist without it. The media, especially TV, not only reflect and interpret the reality but also construct it by its rules and the customers directives.
With all the opportunities to influence people, their mentality, TV media could potentially capture all other governmental branches, and make them dependent on its own interests. This poses a serious threat to the sustainable development of the modern society, where the principle of the separation of power is one of the main principles. The situation could be controlled through the strengthening of the regulation and social control of the media, as well as through the breeding of a critical attitude towards it. To conclude, believing everything sitcoms advocate can cause more harm than good while mostly they are interested in the profit and benefit they could get rather than in the persons moral principles and beliefs.
Unfortunately, nowadays people pay more attention to what you are dressed in, what car you possess, what house you live in rather than to what book you read, what features you possess, and what is hidden underneath the body the soul. In order to avoid prejudice and unjustified stereotypes about particular races, genders, or classes, people have to remember that all people are equal. The things that make them different are not the cars, jewelry, or clothes, the thing that makes them different is the individuality of every person.
In order to bring up a healthy and highly moral society media, sitcoms, in particular, have to focus on the significant for society development issues and possible solutions to the problems. Moreover, the interests of all races and classes have to be mentioned and taken into account. There has to be no division between races and classes, no stereotypes, and unjustified prejudice. On the contrary, sitcoms should describe the positive, or at least, neutral features of the minorities mentioned. In such case, people will have the opportunity to form the image about a particular minority or majority group without the propaganda spread by sitcoms. Moreover, it is a truth universally acknowledged that there exist no rule that can be applied to every person, situation, or thing. Therefore, it is incorrect to judge people by some generalized patterns.