Thursday, October 20, 2005

The plague of the media mindset: Re-making the world in TV's image

Reality requires heavy modification to work on TV. People have to be skinnier, talk more concisely, and look more impressive than they ever would in any other medium. Ever seen public access television? Local cable broadcasts of council proceedings? Boring as they may be, without editing for television, they are a sure-fire way to cure insomnia.

Remember the song Video Killed the Radio Star? They weren't kidding. Artists that didn't look like the consumate pop icon just didn't make it. (Good thing Meatloaf got his fame in before all that hit.) In order to feed the public's appetite for sensationalism and vicarious hedonism, every detail of the artist's life must be created and managed by a team of marketeers and image consultants.

Since I don't go in much for the pop culture scene, the Jessica Simpson phenomena doesn't bother me too much. Every aspect of her life since she stepped into the music scene a few years ago has been carefully formed into the multi-million dollar industry that is Jessica Simpson. TV has remade her, and the public is consuming at record rates--at least for now.

But when people start thinking real life needs editing for television, then the red flag goes up. When people's TV expectations start warping important pillars of our society, such as the legal system, my level of concern increases. According to a recent article on Reuters, the hit C.S.I. family of shows has begun causing problems in criminal court cases:
Jurors schooled in crime investigations through watching TV dramas expect prosecutors to show them sophisticated forensic evidence -- even in white-collar trials -- making it tough for the government to prove cases, two federal prosecutors said on Friday.
Now jurors want everything dumbed down for them just like it is on TV. Much like the soundbyte has destroyed any semblance of meaningful political discussion in the American public square, the short-attention-span, lowest-common-denominator effect has come to the American courtroom. Unless it looks like it does on C.S.I., I'm too bored to be bothered. As if the courts didn't have enough difficulty prosecuting difficult white-collar cases to begin with. And in light of these kind of changes, can we ever expect anyone without a rich, media-trained lawyer to ever prevail through *gasp* actual jurisprudence again?

Gotta love T.V.

1 comment:

Tony Myles said...

Good questions... I feel like there definitely is a formula to TV these days (which perhaps is why some shows like Lost are breaking out).