America Through The Small Screen: Television And Its Transformations

“America On Television: Television On America” by Christopher Bigsby

In his speech “America On Television: Television on America” Christopher Bigsby, a British literary analyst and novelist, debates media consumption, demonstrates how television has changed in the past years and distinguishes between theater and movies.

He starts off by subtly pointing out how TV viewing is akin to taking drugs, insinuating all similarities like symptoms and consequences. He also states that, compared to the past, television has become quite easy to access, instancing the famous website called Netflix, which helps to clear the last burden keeping people from over-consuming – namely accessibility – and leads to binge-watching. Moreover, people can now watch anything they want, anywhere they want, anytime they want. The secret behind this spectacle is a device every human being seems to own – the smartphone. Even though the resolution quality leaves much to be desired and the screen is too small to recognize any action happening, the majority of the audience seems to prefer watching on a smartphone to watching on a full screen HD surround sound television. I think the reason for that is because when watching on a smartphone you feel more productive since the device is not stationary, making it possible to multitask. Plus, the apps are more user friendly than their TV counterparts and also, there are so many possibilities on a phone that reality becomes secondary. People stop looking around. Instead, their stares are glued to the little device in front of them. They can’t live without it anymore.

Additionally, everything is monitored and millions of videos are uploaded to the internet every day, broadening the range of options for every taste, but, in my opinion, also turning it into mass media. It is no longer separated between professional works and amateur videos, but the border is blurring. Everyone can upload everything, and whilst that offers many opportunities, it also contains risks, since the internet is growing too fast and not every part can be checked.

Bigsby also mentions how you can now see everything on screen and people choose videos over reality; they rather watch something live on TV than see it live in front of them. ThiscausesTelevision and reality to fuse.

“American TV is a window on the country.”  To me this means that people trust what they see on TV more than what they see with their own eyes, even though the media is never completely impartial, making it a lot easier for anyone to project their opinion on the mass. Hence the whole Trump issue makes more sense. If you can express yourself and convey your ideas and thoughts efficiently, you win; no matter how absurd your positions are. Even more so since speeches are now, compared to the past, viewable by the majority on screen. Literature and television are one of the main influencing aspects for social and political views.

Another thing Bigsby talks about is how the popularity of different series increased proportional to their predictability and how novelists and play-writers who first restrained from writing for TV were suddenly drawn to it. As a result, television was changed. “Television was changed by different kinds of writings. Writers were changed by different kinds of television. “.

Nowadays the writer is central and the language is less relevant, leading to the main character often being almost mute, since the action itself is fundamental.

What I found most interesting is how Bigsby explained the difference between movies and theaters. He asserts that television offers something completely different than theaters since TV takes place directly at home, without extraneous influence. You, yourself decide how to react and what to think. Whereas theater functions as collective. You respond to theater as individual but also as unity. Everything is shared and because of that, actors get the opportunity to adjust to the audience, since they can perceive their reactions. The players and the watchers all exist in the same moment.

The last thing Bigsby comments on is how movies were adapted to the German movie industry in world war two because the German market played such an important role in the film industry that movie titles and even the content was often changed to meet the German requirements, such as Jewish titles and Jew-supporting actions. He claims that this was done in order to “avoid the truth”. I feel like these days this might still be an issue, it’s just not as common and obvious as it used to be. “Fiction may be lies but their lies may tell an essential truth.”

He ends his speech with the quote “Through TV we understand what the hell America is all about.”; stressing that TV predominately shows the ugly truth about America, if you dare to look behind the scenes.

The Proliferation of Violence on TV, in Films and Computer Games Has Resulted in the Public Becoming Desensitised to Violence

The belief that violence in the media is contributing to inuerment concerning real violence is widely controversial and often debated. Frequently, scientists give equal weight to the arguments on both sides, claiming that constant exposure to media violence is either closely linked to habituation of brutality and, as a result, leads to actual violent behavior or has no evident impact on actions at all.

It is time we set out the facts.

In the 20th century, a mass media explosion occurred, which forever altered the way information was acquired and initialized the spread of media violence. Due to this change, the influence of media violence is much more effective since it’s so present in our daily lives. As a result, media presenting violence is currently pervasive; therefore, evading exposure is almost impossible. (Anderson and Bushman 2001)

Additionally, despite the fact that violence does not sell as much as it used to anymore, it is still present in commercials. It was shown to attract viewers due to its emotional arousal in the past and even if it does not particularly persuade viewers to buy a product anymore, it definitely drew large audiences. The widespread belief that this is still the case currently dominates. (Lull and Bushman 2015) Moreover, the language of violence is easy to grasp. It does not need translation and requires little context in order to be comprehensible. (Anon. (Media Smarts), n.d.) As a consequence, brutality is still universally promoted.

Furthermore, the internet has an immense effect on desensitization, as it grants direct access to violent media perpetually. Due to the availability, a major amount of people is excessively exposed to violent content every day; therefore, the influence it has on their unconsciousness is even more powerful. For instance, even though fear is an innate reaction, studies prove that habitual exposure to media violence may reduce anxious arousal in response to depictions of cruelty, so natural instincts that have the purpose of inducing feelings like sympathy for other beings cease to exist. (Krahé, et al.  2011) (Anderson and Bushman 2001)

The question is whether the media simply desensitizes or if it additionally causes aggressive behavior. Despite the common notion that emotional numbness includes hostile attributes, violent behavior is not necessarily associated to violent media. According to Freedman, there is a lack of scientific support of the prevailing belief that media violence has a causal effect on brutal acts. (Freedman 2002)

Research has shown that it does not affect every person equally but is determined by the environment in which a child grows up and stimulated by educational traits it obtains during its youth.

Children with predominant aggressive features are prone to a delinquent nature and are consequently drawn to violent media. Their behavior, however, is not predicted by it. (Anon. (Massachusetts general hospital), 2012) Their absorption with violence reflects their personality. Those who are exposed to the same media are not necessarily tempted to enact what they see and the small number that does imitate the behavior is insufficient to form a general concept. Media is not influential enough to simply alter the personality of every inherently peaceful being. It will only leave marks and may unconsciously lead to actual brutal behavior if the child already possesses a touch of belligerence. (Samenow 2012)

In conclusion, even if the belief that perpetual viewing of violent media has Impacts on behavior and is correlated to aggressive actions is very contemporary, one should not neglect the fact that desensitization and violent acts are two exceedingly different outcomes of media violence exposure; however, this does not imply that they are mutually exclusive either.