Tabloid Nation

This week on “Boston Legal,” a sleazy legal show, Alan Shore, the star attorney, went on a ten-minute rant about the lack of standards for tabloid TV.  He made some pointed remarks about how we parade mentally unstable people before the cameras so more mentally unstable people can feed off them and the networks can increase profits.  While some people consider this a spoof, I do think the writers use the platform of a sleazy show to get audiences to think about serious issues, usually through Alan’s impassioned speeches.  It’s why I sometimes tune in (though I’m tired of Denny Crane’s one-note sex addiction).  Alan once went on a rant about the caretakers in New orleans who apparently assisted the deaths of patients rather than leave them behind, which was really quite philosophically impressive.  But I liked his rant on tabloid culture because he’s correct that we’ve become a culture driven by profit and “embedded lies,” and that the lowest common moral denominator usually rules, because that’s what audiences tune in to see.  The film, “Untraceable,” poor as it was in many ways, had a similar thing to say, in terms of group greed for seeing the worst images and the worst aspects of another human being.  We think it’s fun.  I’d go so far as to say we’ve become a culture of mean, making a spectacle of winners and losers.   It’s not as if the winners are anything special or the losers are worthless, but we’ve arrived at the point where we’ve endowed them with that aura.  One of my associates, a forensic psychologist, likened our culture to a school playground where the bullies rule and there’s no teacher to step in and say, “That’s enough.”
 
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2 Responses to “Tabloid Nation”

  1. frankenduf Says:

    the republicans often bring up the need for standards to be enforced on hollywood, presumably through the FCC- the democrats are often silent because they’re in bed with the industry (ok, pun intended)- that would leave the court of public opinion to help mold what is acceptable over the airwaves (so you get activists helping to oust Imus off the air)- of course the profit motive is behind the low denominator content, which is why public TV has high standards, and the networks are whores (ok, this is a Cranesque analysis)- so I only disagree with your apparent pessimism that the public likes the drivel- I say, build another Seinfeld, and the people (ratings, $, etc) will come- the fact that people, myself included, will always stop to watch a fire doesn’t mean we find it “fun”- it’s just a titillating distraction away from the act of quality creation that we also are inexorably apt to admire in a more fulfilling way

  2. indianni Says:

    It’s not just Hollywood, it’s a pervasive cultural momentum. I do think a lot of people like the drivel – I certainly hear that from my students – but there’s also an audience like yourself that is getting neglected, as if it doesn’t exist. It does, but research has shown that such viewership is more discriminating and perhaps spends less in the marketplace on junk. So, there’s that. We’ll get TV shows like Seinfeld and The West Wing, but not very often.

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